From cashew nut to cashew kernel: How is the processing going?
The cashew tree has often been planted to fix dunes and desert advances. It also serves as a windbreak for crops. The tree which grows up to a height of 4 to 5 meters must benefit from a good sunshine to ensure good fruiting. The cashew tree is often recognizable by its “ball” shape since the tree does not have to be pruned .
1. The fruit
Today, different farms have specialized in the production of “cashew nuts”. These nuts mature around May and production will continue until July or August. The first rains of “wintering” will stop pollination and therefore fruiting.
The fruit should be harvested when it has fallen to the ground, a sign of maturity for the nut. This nut is attached to an “apple” called “false fruit”. The first job of the harvester will be to separate the nut from the apple in order to dry the nuts in the sun.
2. Sorting raw nuts
the nuts will then be transported to the village where the women will undertake to sort them by size in order to facilitate the following stages of shelling. This will make it possible to obtain the cashew kernel (improperly called cashew nut) that everyone can enjoy, most often, as an aperitif.
To break the shell of the nut it is necessary to “weaken” it. For this, cooking is necessary. Traditionally, the nuts are burnt (roasted) or cooked in an oil bath. These two methods, often dangerous, risk giving a bad taste to the almond.
in order to preserve all the natural flavor of the cashew kernel, approved producers and processors steam the nuts and then put them to dry in the sun on high racks for several hours.
Once dried, the nuts will be taken one by one to be opened in a sheller. .the raw nuts are shelled one by one with a small stylus, the operator will gently remove the almond still protected by a thin film which should be removed. These two operations are carried out with gloves in order to avoid the burns which can be caused by contact with “cashew balm”, a very corrosive product found in the walls of the hull.
To remove the bitter film which still protects the almond, it will be necessary to dry these almonds in an oven before taking again, one by one, the almonds to “peel them”. The almonds will then be sorted. This very meticulous work is often carried out by the women of the village.
6. Sorting almonds
The almond which is no longer protected by its skin is now very fragile. it risks breaking into pieces or “splits” (half almond) thus losing a lot of added value to processors. very quickly, the almonds will be re-sorted to separate, the bad almonds that could have been forgotten, the broken ones, the splits and the whole ones.
Internationally there are eight different “grades” or categories depending on the size of the kernels.
7. Vacuum packaging and traceability
Concerned about perfect hygiene, the processors will vacuum pack these almonds very quickly in order to allow satisfactory transport and good conservation. The label attached to each plate indicates the lot number, the date of packaging and the moisture content. This ensures traceability.
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