Goa celebrates glory & mystery of Cashew

Cashew apple

Cashew apple

“April is the cruelest month, breeding lilacs out of the dead land.” Poet TS Eliot opened his famous poem The Wasteland with vitriol on April. Had Eliot spent an April in Goa, he would have never tagged the month cruel. In April, the Goan air is redolent with the whiff of ripened cashew apples. Red. Orange. Yellow. Apples with a sole nut hanging precariously at the end of the swollen stalk.

The cashew apples stomped and the sweet juice fermented into alcoholic feni and urak; the nuts roasted as snack; the kernels used in the paint industry; its unsaturated oils rubbed on skin for moisture and smoothness. A white bean-shaped nut capable of doing a million things.

Nearly 500 years ago, the Portuguese first brought the cashew tree to Goa. A tree that originated in Brazil and has pistachio and poison ivy as distant cousins. Over years, cashew became Goa’s main cash crop and the state is now one of the world’s largest exporters of cashew. In April, cashew lords over the country’s smallest state. And there is no better way to know all about cashew than Park Hyatt Goa’s annual Cashew Trail, a week-long event that coincides with the cashew apple harvesting season.

Feni, an alcoholic beverage made of cashew apples, was listed by Time magazine as one of the world's Top 10 Ridiculously Strong Drinks

Feni, an alcoholic beverage made of cashew apples, was listed by Time magazine as one of the world’s Top 10 Ridiculously Strong Drinks

The annual Cashew Trail is not a dreary jaunt into history, a mere mishmash of facts. It rediscovers cashew in a million methods – cooking classes with Executive Chef Saulo Bacchilega; cocktails lessons with mixologist Shatbi Basu; feni appreciation class where one learns to pour and nose the drink that was once listed by Time magazine as one of the world’s Top 10 Ridiculously Strong Drinks; a Harley Davidson ride starting from the Madame Rosa Cashew Farm in Valpoi and ending with barbecue and feni-infused cocktails at the Palms restaurant; cocktail-making clash; visit to a cashew factory to learn how cashew nuts are steamed, peeled, butter/salt-roasted as a snack; and a cashew-themed brunch as the grand finale.

At the Cashew Trail, time seems caught in a ritual of reenacting the glory and mystery of cashew and feni. For those 7 days, cashew and feni are dominant as deities. Everything else remains redundant. Obsolete.

Almost everyone knows cashew’s efficiency in the kitchen. Not many know of its role as a beauty ingredient. During the Cashew Trail, one can get a Cashew Ritual spa treatment wherein the cashew kernels are used to slough off tan and dead skin; cashew paste slathered on skin and cling-wrapped; the session concluding with cashew oil massage and a swig of cashew nectar.

Cashew Trail 2016 began with a Harley Davidson ride from  Madame Rosa Cashew Farm in Valpoi, Goa

Cashew Trail 2016 began with a Harley Davidson ride from Madame Rosa Cashew Farm in Valpoi, Goa

If Sereno seems too far from home, just crush cashew nuts and almonds for the Cleopatra-esque face mask. If you pay heed to the wisdom of old-timers, they’ll tell you that cashew nut oil is the perfect antidote for cracked heels and fungal infections.

At the Cashew Trail, one can overdose on cashew and defy TS Eliot. No, April is not the cruellest month. April brings along the goodness of cashew. April can never be cruel. Certainly not during Park Hyatt’s Cashew Trail in Goa.

Preeti Verma Lal

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