Crooked Tree Cashew Festival
The namesake of this relaxed inland island village is the cashew tree, which grows prolifically throughout the area. The unique nut has always contributed to the community’s economy, especially for its women, who have been able to secure additional income for their households by selling cashew products. The situation is even better today, as the products are more often sold directly to local consumers and tourists than to distributors in Belize City, as they were in the past.
To celebrate the bent branches and their heavy fruit, the people of Crooked Tree Village throw a big cashew harvest festival the second weekend in May. It’s a lot of fun, a hometown fair with regional arts, music, folklore, dance, and crafts. And of course it’s a chance to sample cashew wine, cashew jellies, stewed cashews… you get the picture. Just make sure the “hometown fair” picture in your head includes punta music, fry jacks, and johnnycakes.
Seek out the demonstrations showing how the cashew nut is processed—interesting stuff. The fruit, or the cashew “apple,” is either red or yellow, with the seed hanging from the bottom of the apple. The meat of the apple can be stewed or made into jam or wine while the seedpod is roasted in an open fire on the ground. Roasting the cashew stabilizes the highly acidic oil and at the same time makes the pod brittle enough to crack. The nut is partially cooked during this step in the processing. The seeds are then raked so they cool evenly and quickly.
The cashews are then cracked by hand, one at a time. Those who handle the nuts wear gloves, as the shell contains a highly irritating poison that for most people causes blisters and inflammation. Processing removes all the poison.
© Joshua Berman and Avalon Travel from Moon Belize, 9th Edition