Read Part I here.
I think it’s time to interrupt my story, to show you the nut harvest, collection, and processing steps… start to finish. What’s so remarkable about Fair Trade is that it gives us such an amazing opportunity to tie so many threads together: history, economics, politics, individual stories, relationships, and the product itself. I want to share all these aspects and how they connect to each other through my last trip to El Salvador. But since we are fortunate enough to have such beautiful photos; and since the cashews will be arriving at our warehouse any day now; I’m going to focus today’s post on a photo essay of the product… yes, it’s finally time for cashews!
We arrived at Aprainores just in time to see the last of the season’s cashews getting sorted, bagged, boxed, and prepared to be sent to the port to be shipped to Equal Exchange’s west coast warehouse in Portland. Although it was early for the next harvest , we were able to see a few cashew nut fruits beginning to bloom. Click on any photo for a better look.
On the Farms
Cashew nut tree farms on the Isle of Montecristo where 15 members of Aprainores live. The trees are 80 – 100 years old.
These trees were all planted by a german landowner, Luz Draico, who owned the island, a neighboring island, Tasajera, and what is now two communities on the mainland, La Canoa and El Naranjo.
The harvest typically begins in late December.
First, little purple flowers bloom. About a week later, the nut appears.
Next, what appears to be a brown stem, is actually the fruit beginning to grow.
The fruit ripens approximately six weeks after the flowers come out.
Cashew fruit can by yellow or red.
Once ripe, the fruit falls to the ground. (It’s very important not to pick the fruit off the tree or it will damage the following year’s harvest.) The farmers pick the fruit up off the ground, remove the cashew nuts and bring them back to their houses where they dry them in the sun for three days before sending them in motor boats to Aprainores for further processing. The farmers keep the fruit to make a refreshing drink for their own consumption.
Leopoldo Rafael Abrego, on his farm in El Naranjo.
At the Processing Plant
The boxes have been packed up, inspected, and are waiting to be put on the container and taken to port. Our first shipment!
On Monday, read about the producers and their organization!
Photos courtesy of Equal Exchange. Photographer: Julia Hechtman