kasoy / kasúy

512px-Anacardium_occidentalis_Blanco1.116 (1)

Illustration by Francisco Manuel Blanco [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Also known as cashews. In Tagalog, the cashew nut is also called balubad, and in Ilokano the nut is called balogo. Scientific name: Anacardium occidentale.

According to the Philippine Bureau of Agricultural Research, the cashew plant “is an evergreen tree that grows up to 12 meters tall, with a dome-shaped crown or canopy bearing its foliage on the outside, where flowers and fruits are found.”

Edible parts of the cashew can be broken down into the a) seed (nut) and b) fruit.

When most people talk about cashews, you’ll find them referring to the cashew nut — the mildly nutty, milky cousin of the almond, technically the kernel nestled inside the shell of a 3 cm long kidney-shaped nut that hugs the bottom of a tart, astringent cashew apple.

The cashew made its way into the Philippines via traders plying the Manila-Acapulco galleon route in the 17th century. Native to northeastern Brazil, the cashew tree has acclimated extremely well to the sandy, loamy soils of coastal Philippine forests, where they are primarily found. Cashew trees have proven an excellent intercrop (sown in between other tropical-fruit bearing trees such as mangoes and calamansi) for inland farmers, and also is a popular backyard tree in rural communities.

The island of Palawan in southwestern Luzon province has made its stake as the Philippines’ foremost cashew nut producer, accounting for between 95-100% of the country’s yearly commercial harvest — according to one report, up to 106, 256 metric tonnes annually. That’s a lot of cashews! (As an aside, I would love to visit Palawan, not just to embark on a farm visit but because it’s where my paternal grandfather was born and raised.)

I snack on roasted, unsalted cashews all the time. I usually have some in a plastic container filled from a bulk bin at home, and always have another sitting in my locker at work, ready for plucking on a five-minute nut binge. For my love of it, however, I knew very little about how the savoury, toothsome cashew nut made its way from a tree to my open palm.

Further reading:

• Lita Escarda’s Wonderful Cashew Nuts over at Market Manila. Marketman’s posts are a favourite of mine for the detail in his reporting! He shares photos of fresh kasoy here, as well.

• Nutritional Aspects of the Cashew Nut as reported by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization. Fun fact: glutamic acid comprises 28% of a cashew nut’s amino acids. No wonder it works so well for korma!

• A case study on small-scale farmers and how to process cashew fruit [pdf] in the town of Aborlan, Palawan. “Farmers increased their income from cashew production more than six-fold by selling the cashew fruit rather than [just] the cashew nut alone,” the report finds. Pages 15-17 give helpful insight to current cashew harvesting techniques (and hopefully, shellers like this, at the very least, become widely used soon).

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