It’s the beginning of the harvest for the cashew, so the annual festival to celebrate the fruit, took place over the weekend at Crooked Tree. We took the trip north and drove into the village just off Mile thirty-three. There were enough nutty treats, from wines to roasted nuts to jams and jellies. The yellow and red fruits were in abundance in their natural splendor and its smells permeated the air. News Five Delahnie Bain also found the villagers more than welcoming.
Delahnie Bain, Reporting
Over the past weekend, Crooked Tree Village held its eighteenth annual cashew fest. It’s an event that features the cashew fruit, which grows in plentiful in the village and which can be had in a variety of ways.
George Guest, Chairman, Crooked Tree Village
“A lot of people have known about the cashew, they come for the wines, the cashew fudge, the cashew ice creams. They’ve never seen cashew ice cream; some of them haven’t seen cashew fudge. But they come here they see all the products that come from a cashew. There’s nothing left from the cashew that’s not used.”
Verna Gillett Samuels, Bird’s Eye View Jams & Jellies
“I brought Cashew jams, stew cashew, roasted cashew nuts, then I brought some cashew fudge, cashew oatmeal cookies, black and white cashew fruit cake and cupcakes. I brought some young coconut tableta and I’m doing some snow cones with cashew syrup and cashew topping.”
The cashew also makes some ‘fine wine’ which found a good market among local distillers.
Charles Belgrove, Charlie’s Wines
“I brought out various different wines; local wines—local fruit wines. And also I brought out some tonic and bitters that’s made locally. Everything here is made locally.”
Anna Quiros, Anna’s Wines
“I have all local fruit wines and I think it’s like eighteen varieties. We have some cashew fudge, stew cashew and cashew cake.”
While the adults indulged with the wines, the kids need something to do. J&A Go Cart Rentals is not a product of the cashew industry, but it has a following at the festival.
Ruth De La Fuente, J&A Go Cart Rentals
“This is our second year in Crooked Tree. The kids really love it; the like it because they get to drive. Most kids come up to us and tell us they know how to drive, but when they get in the car sometimes they take off and instead of pressing the brakes they would press more on the gas. We have remote control so we would shut them down to prevent accidents and so forth.”
The cashew fest draws patrons from all over the country and many Belizeans living head back home for the activities. Carla Gardener has lived in Maryland for the past thirty-five years and brought a friend from the US to sample the cashew products.
Carla Gardener, Cashew Fest Patron
“I’ve only tried dinner so far so I’m going around the stalls again to examine what they have. I just bought some cashew wine and cashew preserve and cashew seed. And this lovely young lady promised me to get some cashew fruit so I’m enjoying the whole thing.”
Rhonda Tucker, Cashew Fest Patron
“It’s nice. It’s different, but it’s nice.”
“Have you tried any of the products?”
“No I haven’t. I had some dinner; back home I wasn’t too familiar with rice and beans. I love rice but this is totally different for me. The food is different but it’s enjoyable.”
But outside of the celebrations, the cashew industry provides for many families in Crooked Tree Village.
“It puts the children through school; from early age to older age. When they go to high school, when they go to college; the cashew puts them through that. The wines put them through, that and the only other industry in Crooked Tree is fishing and right now the fishing stopped because the lagoon dried up. So the only other product now is the cashew.”
“It helps a lot because people move a lot of the cashew seeds, people that come from outside take a lot of seeds back and the wines.”
“So do you think that perhaps we need to see more of these cashew products in the city and around the country outside of the cashew fest?”
“Yes, they do. People from Crooked Tree take a lot of the seeds into the city to sell. I’m originally from Burrell Boom and a lot of tourists buy the seeds and the wines up there too.”
Verna Gillett Samuels
“I think it’s very important because a lot of the locals look forward to the cashew crop and you see them gathering cashews and making good use, economically of whatever they do. Some people just act as roasters, some harvest for you and you know everybody just does something; they fit in somewhere. So everybody just benefit and the cashew crop is always very welcoming.”
While it is dubbed the Cashew Festival, several other vendors took advantage of the numerous prospective customers that head out to the festival. Delahnie Bain for News Five.