Have you ever felt like cashew nuts are a bit over the top?
Of course, they look highly superior, are a bigger nibble size as compared to other nuts and that creamy-yumminess definitely sets them apart.
Have you ever felt like they were expensive?
Part of capitalism’s gimmicks to keep us diving deeper into our pockets, maybe?
Here’s an insider’s perspective to that thought. Cashew nuts go through a lot of processing.
Not the type of processing that negatively affects your keto, vegan and plant-based diet.
Cashew nuts go through processing that makes them an even better version of their natural selves. This is mostly because their natural selves can be very harmful to you. But just like with diamonds there’s a gem underneath.
To get a much deeper look into how raw cashew nuts are processed we need to look into 6 vital cashew nut processing steps. It’ll help you appreciate the value placed on cashew nuts, the health benefits and possibly the pricing too.
Let’s get straight into the 6 steps:
If you’re still stuck on the ‘natural’ cashew being harmful to you. It’s because the cashew starts as an apple. Shaped like pepper, each cashew apple falls on the ground before it is handpicked by farmers (usually women) to remove the single raw cashew that is attached to it. We’ve inserted an image below so that you can visualise what it looks like.
See the attachment hanging at the base of the apple? That’s the cashew nut in its raw form. The farmers collect it in buckets and send it to the village for drying.
During harvest time in Cote d’Ivoire, it’s pretty commonplace to find drying cashews in the middle of the village. The local chickens also play an important job of pecking away any insects that may have found their way to the raw cashews.
Drying is done to reduce the amount of moisture in cashew nuts to about 9%. This stops it from forming moulds which then cause rotting.
At Cashew Coast, we train our farmers in the best picking and drying techniques to produce the best quality raw nut.
A couple more steps are involved here. First, there’s calibration. It’s when the nuts are grouped by size. This is important for selecting the right blade for the shelling machines that comes later in the process. The more precise the blade, the lesser amount of breakages.
After this then it’s off to the warehouse. This just gives the cashew a safe place to be processed throughout the year. It’ll be safe from pathogens and insects. In other words, it just makes sure the cashews are in their best shape throughout the year before processing. Remember, all of the year’s cashews are bought between February to May and gradually processed until the next campaign.
Also on that note, at Cashew Coast, we give each cashew fruit a face. We do this by tracing back its origins from the village and the farmer it came from. We give the cashew a special code to remember it and it helps our customers to know where their food comes from exactly.
As processing kicks in, the raw cashews are taken out of the warehouse for heat treatment. Heat, generally steam, weakens the tough shell ahead of de-shelling. The steamed cashews are then left to air dry.
De-shelling is at the heart of cashew processing. It consists in breaking the raw cashew nutshell to free the kernel, without ever (well, almost ever) splitting the precious whole kernel. Once freed, the kernel makes its way to ovens, where it receives a thermal shock. This process is pivotal to loosening the testa around the kernel.
Once the kernel is deemed in a peelable state, it is put through peeling machines that use air pressure and friction to blow off the testa…again the utmost precaution is taken to break as little wholes as possible. As cashew kernels have this odd boomerang shape and depending on the peelability of the testa, human intervention becomes key to finish off peeling some kernels. At Cashew Coast, we call our peeling ladies the “undefeatables”!
Peeled cashews are then categorised by size, colour and shape using colour sorters and optical machinery. But there is no better sorter than the human eye and brain, hence a final round of eagle-eyed manual grading completes this process.
Grade classifications are important for compliance with the Association of Food Industries standards.
After the grading process, the final process involves cashews being packed in 50 lbs cubic vacuum sucked Flexi pouches by grades and labelled with a lot code for traceability. The moisture is kept at 4% so that they don’t break whilst in packaging.
So there! All 6 steps of the processing of raw cashew nuts.
At the Cashew Coast, we follow these steps religiously to ensure that all the cashews are safe for consumption, nutritious and are in perfect shape by the time they get into your local grocery store. Our team will tell you how much of a balancing act it is to keep cashews whole during the entire process. Were you aware of these steps? Share this article with a friend to create awareness around how cashew nuts are processed.