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León, Nicaragua
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So THAT's how they grow... León  Nicaragua

So THAT's how they grow...

Our neighbors and friends in Nicaragua must have been bemused as my wife and I took note of every plant, flower, and fruit; imagine someone oohing and aahing over apples, right? But we SHOULD ooh and ahh when we learn the origin of things--THIS is how cashews grow. See the comma-shaped appendage dangling on the end of the bell-pepper-like fruit? Inside that shell (which is toxic, by the way), is one raw cashew.

Late March in Central America, red, orange, or yellow 'cashew-apples' (called 'marañón' in Nicaragua) hang like ornaments on these evergreen trees. You can eat the fruit--juicy and astringent--but the treasure is in the hard end-piece: one nut per fruit, and it must be roasted to de-toxify it... (Botanically, cashew-trees are related to poison-ivy!)

[Brief Spanish-language lesson--where to say what: in Spain, these nuts are called "anacardos," in northern Mexico, "nuez de la India," and in some parts of South America, "castaña de cajú." From southern Mexico through most of Central America on into the northern Andean countries: "marañón.")