Goa’s wonder fruit.
The cashew is vital to Goa‘s identity and cultural lore. Known locally as cazu, it was first introduced in Goa (and later elsewhere in India and Asia) by the Portuguese in the 16th century. Roasted cashew nut has for long been Goa‘s most well-known export, and feni, distilled from the fermented juice of the cashew apple, a much beloved local beverage.
Earlier in March we went on a lark through a cashew orchard in the village of Narve, where we found the locals busy tending to the wonder fruit.
Note: What is commonly thought of as the fruit of the cashew tree (the cashew apple) is actually a pseudo-fruit. The real fruit of the cashew tree is the nut. See this for more. In this post, by “fruit” we mean the cashew apple.
Every cashew orchard in Goa is equipped with an outdoor station where the fruit is separated from the nut and laid out on a stone bed with a corner conduit (known as kolmi). The apples are crushed and the first gush of juice is collected and allowed to ferment for a couple of days. The pulped apples are then bound and weighted. The next run of thicker ooze is highly prized, the supremely refreshing non-alcoholic drink called niro.
The fermented juice is processed at the distillation station known as bhatti. The first iteration yields urrack, the second distillate is the potent feni.
Meanwhile, in another corner of the forest, my niece Saraswati was enjoying herself.
The extraction of cashew juice begins.
After a hard day’s work, farmer Sudhakar Vengurlekar poses for a portrait.