Cashews: Journey to the Table

Cashews: Journey to the Table

As people who love to cook, it's easy to focus on food's transformation in the kitchen. But living in Haiti, and working alongside farmers, reminds us that the vast majority of the risk, effort, and artistry that goes into food's journey happens long before it reaches us in the kitchen. Take cashews, a nut I've always found delicious. You can find a thousand recipes for what to 'do' with cashews in the kitchen, in fact we have a few on our blog, but today I want to focus instead on their journey to the kitchen -- from fragile seedlings in mountain-top nurseries, to the freshly roasted cashew nuts for sale in market stalls.   

About half our work here in Haiti is focused on agriculture, and helping farmers and their families develop sustainable food systems and markets, providing the income they need in the short-term while protecting and improving their land for longterm food security. We work with vulnerable families to capitalize on their own hard work, skills, and resources to secure a future for themselves and their families. When it comes to cashews, a very valuable crop, this work starts by developing self-sustaining tree nurseries to help communities re-forest their corner of Haiti, one garden at a time. To ensure these valuable seedlings thrive, we also support the spread of multi-cropping and soil protection techniques, and assist with fencing to protect the fragile new trees from roaming animals. One of our longstanding partners working in Haiti's north, PDL (Partenariat pour le Développement Local), works with farmer's cooperatives to add value to their cashew harvest by shelling, cleaning, and roasting cashew nuts. Below are pictures of this remarkable journey from a cashew seedling taking root in the mountains overlooking the Artibonite river, to the final stages of value-added-processing with a community cooperative in Mombin Crochu.

If you'd like to learn more about our work here in Haiti, check out our MCC Haiti blog. We are also currently recruiting for two 3-year positions on our team. One is a Monitoring & Evaluation Advisor in Agricultural Development, working full-time with our partner PDL, not far from the community of Mombin Crochu where these pictures were taken. The other is a Designer for a Haitian Artisanal Fair Trade Organization, working to build capacity and support Haiti's oldest fair trade artists cooperative.

 A young cashew tree in the mountains overlooking the Artibonite river -- Rondo, Haiti

A young cashew tree in the mountains overlooking the Artibonite river -- Rondo, Haiti

 Raw, unprocessed cashew nuts -- Mombin Crochu, Haiti

Raw, unprocessed cashew nuts -- Mombin Crochu, Haiti

 Jean Estanne -- Cooperative member and farmer in Mombin Crochu who helped in the group's cashew processing

Jean Estanne -- Cooperative member and farmer in Mombin Crochu who helped in the group's cashew processing

 Deymen Elfare  -- Cooperative member and farmer in Mombin Crochu who helped in the group's cashew processing

Deymen Elfare  -- Cooperative member and farmer in Mombin Crochu who helped in the group's cashew processing

 Osis Charle  -- Cooperative member and farmer in Mombin Crochu who helped in the group's cashew processing

Osis Charle  -- Cooperative member and farmer in Mombin Crochu who helped in the group's cashew processing

 Cashew nuts, cleaned and beginning to roast -- Mombin Crochu, Haiti

Cashew nuts, cleaned and beginning to roast -- Mombin Crochu, Haiti

 The traditional high-heat roasting causes the cashew shells to burst into flames over the fire, leading to a unique smokey flavor in the finished nut -- Mombin Crochu, Haiti

The traditional high-heat roasting causes the cashew shells to burst into flames over the fire, leading to a unique smokey flavor in the finished nut -- Mombin Crochu, Haiti

 The roasted nuts are then hand-shelled and cleaned once again -- Mombin Crochu, Haiti

The roasted nuts are then hand-shelled and cleaned once again -- Mombin Crochu, Haiti

 Cooperative members then re-roast the shelled and cleaned nuts a final time before they are ready to sell -- Mombin Crochu, Haiti

Cooperative members then re-roast the shelled and cleaned nuts a final time before they are ready to sell -- Mombin Crochu, Haiti