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It's a Plant's Life too

It's Cashew Season
with Lisa Carne

Did you know cashew seeds grow on trees? These fruit trees, Anacardium occidentale, are native to Brazil and are abundant throughout Belize. Called Urui in Garifuna, Cashew trees can grow to 30 feet tall. The fruits themselves are around 3 inches long and can be either red or yellow. The skin is shiny and tight but inside the flesh is soft and juicy. The seed hangs from the bottom of the fruit.

The fruits are edible when ripe (March-June) and are sweet-tart. You can eat them right off the tree but avoid the skin around the stem and the seed; it can cause burns and blisters on your skin. A sweet wine is made from the fruit. Villagers often make it locally but the Traveler's brand liquors also bottles it. Ask for it in the grocery shops.

Cashew fruit growing in Belize
Cashew fruit
The seeds themselves are toxic until roasted. They are collected and dried on zinc over a three day period and then roasted in an aluminum pan over a fire made from coconut husks. A long stick is used for roasting because the seeds are very oily and pop in the pan. They are roasted until blackened and then thrown in the sand to stop the cooking process.

It is a special art to then crack the seeds: with the long arch side up you must gently tap the length of the seed to get to the nut. Cashew seeds can be found in stores under the Luna brand label or sold by vendors on the streets in the major towns.

The Ministry of Agriculture has recently been encouraging more cashew production for export. Crooked Tree Village, in Northern Belize, has started a weekend cashew fest every May, during harvest. Expect live punta music, games and of course cashew wine. This year it's May 7th-9th. Cashew trees have other uses: the leaves are sometimes used in a bath to treat fever and the oil in the nut can be used to remove warts.

If you are interested in more local plant information, check out Mangoes and More, a rough guide to Belize's fruits and flowers, on sale in most resorts and gift shops.

Spindrift Resort Hotel, Ambergris Caye
The Spindrift Resort Hotel
centrally located at the beach in San Pedro, Ambergris Caye


Grapefruit: The Other Citrus
Charigi in Garifuna
with Lisa Carne

Only half a grapefruit provides over 100% of our daily requirement of vitamin C. This same serving provides 6 grams of fiber (good for digestion) and is loaded with potassium and Vitamin A (good for your skin) and even has some calcium (good for your bones). Of course there's zero fat in a grapefruit and some even say this citrus helps burns fat: witness all the "grapefruit diets" of late.

Grapefruit growing in Belize
Grapefruit growing
Although all citrus trees (orange, lime, tangerine) originally came from the Malay Archipelago, citrus has been a major commercial crop in Belize for decades. Grapefruit trees grow 15-20 feet and take five years before they bear fruit. Each mature grapefruit tree can yield over 500 pounds of fruit.
The first grapefruit trees were planted in Pomona in 1926. Pomona is still the citrus capital of Belize, although the industry has spread west to the Cayo District and South to Stann Creek and Toledo. There are 1000 registered citrus growers in Belize, working 48,000 acres and supporting an estimated 10,000 workers. Most of the citrus (80%) is orange, then grapefruit, then lime and tangerines. Most of the product is concentrate for export, with a small amount of oils also manufactured.

Belize has duty-free access to the US, EEC and Caricom markets. 800,000 gallons of concentrate were exported in the 2000/2001 season which earned a whopping $37 million US. This makes citrus one of the most important agricultural products in Belize.
But you can enjoy Belize's pure (no sugar, no high fructose corn syrup added!) grapefruit juice from local brands like Big H and Caribbean Pride. Or eat them right so: grapefruit season is now through April. For the brave, there's grapefruit wine made locally in Dangriga and always available in time for Garifuna Settlement Day.

And for the creative: following is a recipe for "Tart Tart", an easy to make grapefruit dessert.

1 pie crust
4 egg yolks
1/2 c. sugar
3 tbs. flour
2 tsp. finely minced lime zest (from peel)
2 tsp. finely minced grapefruit zest
2/3 c. fresh grapefruit juice
1/2 c. fresh lime juice
1 tsp. butter
1 c. grapefruit sections

Pre-bake the piecrust. Let it cool completely. Combine the egg yolks, flour, sugar, and citrus zests in a heavy saucepan. Pour in the fruit juices, whisk thoroughly and bring to a boil over medium heat. Boil gently for 2 minutes, whisking frequently. Remove from heat and pour into the cooled pie shell. Immediately dot the top with the butter to prevent a skin from forming. Set aside to cool at room temperature, it will thicken as it cools. Decorate with the grapefruit wedges and chill in the refrigerator before serving. Serves 5-6.

If you want to learn more about Belize's fruits, look for Mangoes and More, a plant guide for Belize with color pictures, on sale at Angelus Press.


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