Crooked tree Celebrates 30th Annual Cashew Fest
The thirtieth annual Crooked Tree Cashew Festival was held this weekend and as always, it was a spectacular showcase of that much loved fruit. But while the focus is on the cashew, over the years the event has expanded to include other seasonal fruits, local food, drinks and products which have served to attract visitors from all over the country to this small but vibrant community. Mike Rudon was in Crooked Tree on Saturday and has the story.
Mike Rudon, Reporting
“Everything Cashew” could have been the theme of this year’s Crooked Tree Cashew Fest, the thirtieth in the life of this community. The cashew is the only fruit that has its seed on the outside, and while everybody knows about the very popular cashew seed and maybe too popular cashew wine…innovative and enterprising vendors have found a way to tap into every facet of this rich fruit.
Verna Samuels, Vendor
“We have black and white cashew fruit cake. We have cashew fudge. We have cashew oatmeal cookies and right over here we have cashew jam rolls and these are cashew granola bars. And then we have dried cashew for the first time. That’s one new for the market for us. And then we have cashew nuts, we have cashew jams, stew cashew, cashew wine, cashew syrup and then cashew juice over there.”
Miss Verna has been coming out to the Cashew Fest for about ten years, selling an ever increasing line of products under the Bird’s Eye View Brand. It’s a lot of work…really hard work, but if the response of the crowd on Saturday was any indication, it’s paying off.
“I guess because we make it with a lot of love, lots of love. And we put our everything into it. I mean when cashew festival is coming around, we can’t say we drop everything else, but that takes priority.”
Charles Belgrove understands that priority. He’s been making wine for over fifty-five years and is one of the long-time favourites at the Cashew Fest. He does the ever popular cashew wine, of course, but he’s gone far beyond that.
Charles Belgrove, Vendor
“I have several different qualities of homemade wine. I have cashew, cassava, blackberry, ginger, I have tonic, bitters, I have sorrel, I have some stew cashew and I have some very old fifteen and twenty year old berry wine to sell.”
In terms of what is required to make the wine, Belgrove says it’s only sugar and yeast. But the difference lies in the process itself. And he should know, since every year he brings out forty cases of wine and sells every bottle.
“It depends on what they are doing, and how they ferment their wines, how long they ferment it, how they purify it…I do still purification, meaning my wine is made and then sits to purify itself. I do not use a purifier, and this is my result.”
Anna Quiroz came all the way from Burrell Boom, and brought a couple new products to try out, including sea-grape and Malay apple wine.
Anna Quiroz, Vendor
“These are all from Burrell Boom. They are all local fruit wines. I try to make my wines from all fruits that are in season so that we have a variety, not just one thing. Right now we have the blackberry, the cashew, Malay apple, we have sea grape. Seagrape wine is a nice wine, but it’s difficult to get the fruit because it’s not in Belize…you have to go out-district so I had to go way to Manattee to get this seagrape last year. And then we have guava, we have blackberry, the sirosi with herbs…the men love that. We have mango which is the seller today…a lot of people buying the mango.”
The mango was certainly a popular item, since we only managed to grab the last two before they sold out.
“Right now we are having a lot of mango in Boom, so instead of wasting it you could make money out of it. I stew it, but you have to use certain spices in it to make it nice. I use cinnamon stick with cinnamon seed and ginger to stew it with and it gives it a nice flavour.”
But back to the namesake of the festival…cashew nuts, or cashew seed to us locals, is found on every supermarket shelf and commands very high prices. So we couldn’t leave the cashew fest without a lesson in making it from the master. Carl Westby has been roasting, breaking and baking cashew nuts for about thirty years.
(show some of the natural…him throwing it into the bucket, stirring it because his audio is short)
Carl Westby, Cashew Seed Expert
“You have to use the pine wood. And you see how I do it right there, you have to wait until the pan get hot. So you take it off after it catches in the pan, then you out it with this bush, then you put some ashes or flour on it so that the grease doesn’t bother your hand a lot, so after that you start to break them and after that you put it in the oven and bake it. Then you peel it off and it comes out just like the ones I gave you guys to eat just now. That’s the way it comes out.”
There was a lot more to the Crooked Tree Cashew Fest, including dancing, horse-back riding, arts and craft and even rice-beating. Belizeans from every corner of the country anticipate this festival every year, and so do the vendors who say that even when the preparation gets overwhelming, they do it for the people.
“The response from the people is great. Sometimes when you’re working so hard and you say wow, am I going to get through all this? And then you think about the people and all your customers and as soon as the festival is coming around you start getting phone calls asking…are you going to be there…? And so the people really have a lot to do with the efforts that we are making, because they look forward to seeing us out here.”
Mike Rudon reporting for News Five.