These pictures are scattered throughout my Vietnam trip posts. I thought it would be cool to put them together to visually show the full process, from growing to retail, of creating high quality cashews. Without further adieu…
Cashew trees in Vietnam thrive in the climate. I spotted a lot of mini groves like this one as we drove through the southern countryside. They are usually next to rubber tree plantations and are owned by small farmers throughout the region.
The cashew nut grows off of the bottom of a fruit produced by the tree. These nuts have a shell and skin on them that irritate the skin significantly. The farmers handle with care while picking.
The harvested nuts are then sent to the first step of processing – steaming. The hard shells are steamed at high temperatures to ease the de-shelling process.
De-shelling cashews is hard work. I tried. The workers use a machine to pry open one nut at a time. Grab a cashew – put into small sharp vice – use a foot pedal to pop open shell – put new cashew into basket – repeat. The process is done by hand to ensure quality, as most machinery tends to break or destroy the cashews.
More on how to grade high quality cashews.
Next comes the sorting. The de-shelled cashews are sent to these sorting warehouses, where workers divide the cashews into separate grades by hand. Note the cashews in the picture have been de-skinned – they will be sold as raw cashews, as cooked cashews are roasted with the skin still on.
When the cashews are sorted by grade – they are either sold as raw or sent to a roastery. This picture shows baskets of cashews waiting to be dry roasted in wood fire fueled ovens.
Since the cashews still have their skin on while being roasted, the natural sea salt does not stick to them – therefore it enhances flavors rather than overpowers them. Here the salt is being removed from a batch that has been cooking. They are also dry roasted, in other words, roasted without using any oils or additives which is a standard practice for mass production. Extra oils break down the nutrients in the cashews and alter the taste.
Right out of the ovens, the roasted cashews are delicious but extremely hot and still with skin, so they are put back in their baskets and set to cool.
A final quality assurance sort is done and the best cashews are packaged up for retail shelves. The ones in the picture are sold with the skin still on, which is more common in the Asia’s. Other batches are deskinned before packaging.
The final product – some deskinned some not. You can clearly see the quality of size and coloring.
A comparison of an average brand’s cashews versus properly hand roasted cashews. Can you tell which are better (and better for you)?