Cashews are one of the crops grown in our Forest Gardens that truly fascinate us. Many people are unaware that cashews grow on trees, none the less, ripen on top of a fruit, often referred to as a cashew “apple”. The amazing cashew nut, and the tree it grows on, are key players in our Forest Garden model because of the countless ways they are benefiting the environment and our farming families.
In his new book One Shot: Trees as Our Last Chance for Survival, Author and Executive Director of Trees for the Future, John Leary, explains how Cashew trees are changing lives. He tells us the story of how one farmer, Keba Mbengue’s, “life has improved tenfold.”
The Tree Itself
The Cashew tree (Anacardium occidentale) itself has been strategically planted in our Forest Gardens as a part of our climate-smart agroforestry initiative. Aside from sequestering carbon from the atmosphere, this super tree exhibits many other environmental benefits:
- It has an incredible ability to stand strong against drought and other severe climate change-related weather changes
- The tree holds water in the ground very well, which helps the other plants in the Forest Garden thrive
- Its leaves help revitalize the land by building up organic matter in the soil
“As we walk in Keba’s Forest Garden, massive cashew trees with thick green leaves tower above and bees hum among their flowers. I can see Keba’s pride as he carefully searches the branches for the first fruit of the season.”
The Nutritious Cashew Apple
“When I asked I asked Keba how much he sells the cashew apples for, his solemn, chiseled face breaks into a smile that stretches ear to ear. ‘I give away more then 150 pounds of the cashew apples every season to the kids in the village.”
The cashew apple is a bright, sweet, and tart fruit grown in the dry season in Senegal. The apple is typically not sold and consumed in Western countries but it provides an incredible amount of Vitamin C, Calcium, Potassium, and antioxidants for those who eat it.
Many of our farming families and others in their villages love the fruit and its juicy, soft texture. This is good news as it is providing nutrients that our farming families once lacked.
The Money Maker Fruit
“He also fills a quarter-ton barrel with cashew nuts twice a year.”
Not only is the Cashew tree good for the environment and family health but it is also an amazing income generator. People are most familiar with the cashew nut, and because of its popularity, farmers like Keba are selling a lot of them – for high dollar. This timing is especially helpful as the apples and nuts are ripe during the “hungry season”, or the time when farmers often lack other nutritious foods to eat and sell.
“Pride, generosity, compassion and hope all beamed forth from the face of a man who once couldn’t feed his own family. A man who now stands grounded and solid, flourishing and nurturing – a mirror image of his trees.”
The Cashew tree, fruit, and nut have proven to be a game-changer for our farmers and the environment. We are always proud of the hard work our Forest Garden farmers do to care and grow their trees so they can help themselves and others for generations to come.
Get your copy of One Shot to learn more about other fascinating trees and how they are the solution to improving lives, our food systems, and our ecosystems. Available now at Amazon or Barnes and Noble and trees.org/oneshot.