Can we take a moment to celebrate the 100th post of My Munchable Musings? So exciting! Thank you to those who have been following my ramblings for the past year (ehem, mom and dad), it's been an wonderful ride. And thank you and welcome to any recent readers...I hope to continue to capture your interest!
On that note, let's move on to tonight's topic - and one about which I have been meaning to write for a while now - Tropical Nuts. The one we will focus on currently resides in my pantry: the cashew. Other nuts I love can be grown domestically - almonds and pistachios in CA, walnuts in WA, pecans in the South, hazelnuts in OR - but sadly I can't get my cashews from anywhere but the tropics (or a select few growing regions in the southernmost tip of the Eastern US)!
Cashews, those rich and luscious crescents, are actually native to Brazilian savannah, scrubland, and dry forest. During the late 16th century, the nuts were introduced to western India and East Africa, where they grow spectacularly. Vietnam currently holds the title of leading cashew producer in the world, followed by India and Nigeria - Africa (holds 40% of exports) and Asia taking over the global market.
As a sun-loving crop, cashew production is a driver of tropical deforestation. However, like coffee, cocoa, and many other commodity crops, fair trade and organic versions are starting to emerge. World Wildlife Fund examined cashew production, primarily in Brazil, and I am left feeling slightly less concerned with eating cashews (although, Umbra made me nervous about eating conventionally-grown nuts). A few years back, the World Bank implemented the first fair trade cashew program in SE Sulawesi, Indonesia. Like other fairly traded commodities, this means that more stringent standards on environmental practices and worker rights and wages. There are other examples in Africa and Latin America.
Well, it looks like I'm not going to stop consuming cashews any time soon ... and sadly, on my small food budget, I can't readily afford organic nuts. But, it's good that these options are beginning to be made available and that more resources are going into educating farmers about sustainable practices. Whew.