When we arrived at Devsar Farms near Bicholim in Goa I immediately felt relaxed. In front of me were rows of rubber trees. I could see green mangoes hanging nearby and a slender cashew tree added to the allure in the immediate vicinity. The parking spot for our vehicle was a giant banyan tree. My usual concrete filled vision found all this extremely soothing.
Farms and green places immediately remind me of home, in the small town of Gorakhpur. My father used to work in railways and I grew up among many trees. However, all of us now live in Gurgaon. When I was young having a green home was business as usual and now I hardly get time to I get nostalgic.
As we were attending Goa’s Coconut and Cashew Festival 2015 it was appropriate that the itinerary included a visit to a cashew farm. For me this was a first as well. We were there at the low season, most of the cashews were plucked but I still got to see a few. After picking up the fruit, the nut is separated from the apple. The nut goes for further processing and the cashew apple is used to make Feni, the famous local alcoholic drink!
Our guide for the day was Mr. Joshi who is the owner of the farm. He was quite happy to show us around, even though the day was hot. He encouraged us to try out any fruit that caught our fancy straight from the tree.
I was game to sip directly from the apple after the cashew nut was taken out. The juice is sweet with a slightly bitter aftertaste. Some find the smell of the fruit overbearing. For me it was not a problem. I was warned to be careful with the juice as its stains are permanent.
Mr. Joshi told us that representatives of cashew factories were happy to come to the farm and buy off the product. Even though the cashew was the main star of the visit there were other attractions too.
Before the visit to the Devsar Farm Kokum was a flavor for me on a packaged juice. And then I got to eat the fruit after plucking it straight off the tree! Kokum belongs to Mangostien family. I loved its tangy/sweet taste. Its skin can be dried and used to make juices and kadhi.
I am religiously collecting the skin of the fruits that I got to carry home. The generous Mr. Joshi gave us a bagful of Kokums to carry home as well. As I predicted there itself, my daughter is enjoying them a lot, she likes tangy things.
This fruit picking session so reminded me of my childhood when the only way I would eat Litchi was straight after plucking from the tree, nestled comfortably in a branch, with juice dripping down my elbows!
As we were walking back to our car, I asked Mr. Joshi if the farm was open to visitors? He said not yet but there were plans to open it later. We also talked about the possibility of letting the tourists get involved with cashew picking and he said they were quite open to the idea!
When we later regrouped for a late lunch at Calangute Beach, I did realize how hot the day actually was. But I was so enjoying myself at the farm that the heat never bothered me there. The visit to the Devsar Farm was one of the highlights of my trip.
PS. I was invited by Goa Tourism on this trip.
Where do you find good food, good music and handicrafts at one place? It is the Goa Coconut and Cashew Festival 2015 which is going on till 3rd May, 2015. I attended the first two days of the festival that started on 29th April. The venue is the Campal grounds. Before the start of the event we met the Goa Tourism MD Mr. Nikhil Desai.
He briefed us on the event. One of us told him that Goa anyway gets tourist, they don’t need to market it. He very reasonably said that the competition is hotting up hence they also need to be ever vigilant.
The venue was decked brightly in the festival theme, coconut and cashew being prominent everywhere! Even on a working day the venue was crowded.
The festival started with a show of fire crackers. Both the chief minister of the state Laxmikant Parsekar and the tourism minister Dilip Parulekar were at the venue.
I was surprised that I could walk right up to the chief minister while he was talking to Zee TV. A member of the Goa Tourism team gave me the thumbs up. He was not cordoned off from the public! I clicked this picture using 50mm prime lens, which means I got really close. I am sure he had security but it was not in your face.
One of the famous by-product of cashew is feni, the popular local Goan drink. The local distillers were present in numbers. I was told that you cannot take feni or other liquor out of Goa by road. Both Karnataka and Maharashtra have check-points and a strict policy against bringing outside liquor. I could take out a souvenir bottle of feni out through the airport.
This was the bottle of Lembranca home, with the label designed by the famous Mario Miranda. The bottle has been opened now.
You would have more choice of food if you were a non-vegetarian at festival. But vegetarians have some options too. I quite enjoyed peas and cashew pulao with vegetable xacuti.
It was a scintillating evening where local groups threw in great performances. Then there was Lorna.
Lorna is a very popular singer and known as ‘Nightingale of Goa’. She serenaded the audience with her songs for over an hour. I do not understand the finer nuances of music but it was a privilege to sit and listen to her, she has such a lovely voice.
These energetic dancers were part of Lorna’s troupee. It was fun to see them sway perfectly to the music.
I also loved the way this fan would dance to Lorna’s music in the lap of his mother. After about five minutes mom was just too tired to hold the dancing kid anymore!
On the second day I saw supercharged Rodney. He was singing the popular Bollywood numbers along with the local hits. I stood quite close to the stage and watched the performance for a while. The speakers would literally shake my eardrums. It was a revelation to me the way he engaged with the crowd and built the performance!
During the festival there was a poignant moment when the anchors brought a lost girl to the stage. The girl was so agitated that she would not tell her name to them. As Chhavi is almost the same age, I could feel the terror of losing your child.
There were handicrafts to carry home as well. Overall it was a fun festival. If you are in Goa till May 3rd 2015, do check out the Goa Coconut and Cashew Festival 2015. And enjoy Goa as well.
PS. I was invited by Goa Tourism to visit Goa and attend the festival.
I started my India travel blog, Travel Tales from India in 2005. In 2016 I realized Travel Tales from India and Abroad better reflected my writings. I love to walk and ride in metros around the world. I have not been everywhere, I am not even close, but it is on my list. I also quit my job as a professor in 2015, it was a happening year! I did a Ph.D. from IIT Kanpur ages ago!
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