Where do cashews come from?

If you ask most people where sugar comes from, they would probably know, sugar comes from sugar cane, fairly straightforward. But the origins of much of what we eat, are probably a complete mystery.

It sounds odd, how can we eat something when we don’t even know what it is? But we do, take couscous for example, a relatively common foodstuff which can be bought ‘raw’ or ‘cooked’ such as the ever-popular ‘Moroccan couscous’. But if you asked most people what couscous actually is, I doubt many people would know, I certainly didn’t until I looked it up. Couscous hails from North Africa and is made from crushed durum, a type of wheat which is also used to make pasta.

Another type of food that has baffling origins is nuts. Although they are grouped together, they often grow in very different ways and some require bizarre processing methods. All nuts come from shells though right? Wrong! For example, peanuts grown underground in shells, whilst cashews grow on trees as an exterior part of a fruit called a ‘cashew apple’ or ‘drupe’ which are toxic until roasted and are not technically nuts at all!

Cashew ‘apple’ and ‘nut’

Peanut plant showing the nuts which grow underground

 

There are so many examples of foods we eat every day without really knowing much about where they come from, how they grow or how they are processed. We have become so detached from nature that we do not even know where most of our food comes from. How then can we expect to adequately protect our supply for the future? We can’t.

With so much pollution, deforestation, species loss and climate change we are loosing vital habitat every year and most people do not even realise how much this will affect us on a day to day basis. Many foods we eat come from all over the world, different climates and habitats, with complex relationships with other species, plants, mammals and insects and if we continue at this rate of destruction we will loose parts of these ecosystems which are integral to our food supply.

We have a real supermarket culture in much of the developed world, many people make a weekly trip to a supermarket once per week and blithely buy whatever they fancy the look of. But supermarkets seem to have absolutely no sense of social responsibility, whether it is compounding the national obesity process by adding vast quantities of sugar to readymade products, or selling unsustainably harvested fish. We need to learn for ourselves so we can make educated choices.

So next time you make a trip to the shops, have a look at what you buy and see how much you know about what is in your basket. If you are anything like me, once you start questioning where things come from you will be hooked!

Thanks for reading,

Lucy

@lucylloydslater

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