Cashew tree is not a native of our country but belongs to Brazil. Between the years 1560 and 1565, the then Portuguese colonialists brought and sowed its seeds in Goa. Locally, a tree of cashew is called ‘Caz’. It is a beautiful tree with plenty of leaves and evergreen all the year round. The size of the tree varies in different geographical regions. The cashew trees of breeded variety are shorter in height but bear earlier and their yield is more. In Goa, cashew tree produces fruit in the months of March, April and May. The fruit or cashew apple has one peculiarity. The seed does not lie inside it but hangs outside and is called cashew nut. Juice is extracted by mashing the ripe cashew apple. After obtaining the juice, the smashed fruits are kept under weight for some time so that a final thin liquid that oozes underneath is collected at the bottom. This thin liquid is called ‘niro’ in Konkani. ‘Niro’ is tasty and a delightful drink. In Goa, the extracted juice is kept for fermentation for few days. Fermented juice then undergoes a double distillation process and the resulting beverage is called Feni, which has about 40-42 per cent alcohol. The single distilled version is called Urrak, which is about 15 per cent alcohol. A cashew nut comprises of tasty kernel within it, which, in turn, is surrounded by a hard crust. For removing of kernels, cashew nuts undergo various processes inside a factory. There is huge demand for all grades of cashew kernels in our country. Kernel pieces are used in different kinds of sweets, chocolates and ice creams. Cashew kernels are exported too and USA is our main buyer. Besides, kernels are exported to Gulf countries, Japan, Korea and many European countries. In our country, Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Odisha are the leading cashew producers and processors. The outer hard crust of cashew is called shell. Oil is extracted from these shells. This oil is an excellent wood preservative. It is also a raw material for multiple uses in developing drugs, antioxidants, fungicides and biomaterials. The residue of these shells after obtaining oil is used as fuel. The husk of cashew kernels has usage in leather industries. Discarded cashew nuts, unfit for human consumption, can be used to feed livestock. The wood of cashew tree makes excellent charcoal. Cashew tree is income generative. Therefore, the tree can rightly be called as ‘kalptaru’, meaning a tree that fulfils desires.
PRADEEP R LAWANDE, HARVALEM