Peter Gostelow

Adventure Cyclist, Speaker, Photographer, Writer

Photo Story: The Gambia

Cashew nuts grow in a number of African countries, but I’d never actually seen how they grow until I spent time in Africa’s smallest country – The Gambia. I actually spent more time walking here than cycling, which was a more suitable speed to notice the bell-shaped red and yellow fruits hanging from trees at the roadside. Children often offered them to me after pulling away the kidney-shaped pod which grew from the base of the fruit. This I later realised contained the nut.

On one particularly hot day, well they were all like that, I sought shelter from the sun by resting within a cashew tree plantation. A group of women and their children were collecting up the fruit and separating it from the nuts. The fruit was then crushed in a hollowed out tree-trunk so that the juice could be later distilled to make a local spirt. I much preferred the juice itself, reportedly very high in Vitamin C. The women here were all from the Jola tribe, and their family had roots in Guinea Bissau further south.

Sorting nuts from fruit

Cashew fruit crushing

The cashew nut pods themselves would be heated over a fire on a metal tray. The oil from the outer shell would soon ignite and within seconds this tray would be kicked off the fire. Next would commence the slow and delicate procedure of tapping away the charcoaled shell to release the nut inside. Many times the nut would be broken. It was cashew nut production on a small-scale subsistence level. These nuts would later be bagged and sold on the roadside or at a nearby market. They were not for export, but having spent several hours watching this whole procedure I soon realised why cashew nuts are generally an expensive nut. Great energy for cycling by the way. I bought many during the months I spent in Tanzania and Mozambique.

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