Did You Know? (Cashew Edition)

That cashews grow on the bottom of a cashew apple, and are related to poison ivy?

Cashew nuts are actually the seeds of the ‘cashew apple’ – a Brazilian evergreen tree with bright orange fruit. I found this on page 405 of 1900 Ingredients by Christine Ingram. Cashews are never sold in the shell because they have to undergo extensive heating to remove them from their shells.

Wikipedia tells us that “the seed (drupe) is surrounded by a double shell containing an allergenic phenolic resin, anacardic acid, a potent skin irritant chemically related to the better-known allergenic oil urushiol which is also a toxin found in the related poison ivy.”

Fancy Nancy: Poison Ivy Expert by Jane O’Connor is a darling story about poor Nancy getting into poison ivy while picking flowers. Nancy’s neighbor gives her a cream made from jewelweed to help soothe her itch. Jewelweed has long been used for this as a natural cure.

The Quick Guide to Wild Edible Plants by Lytton John Musselman and Harold J. Wiggins has a chapter about identifying poison oak, ivy and sumac along with pictures so you DON’T end up eating or touching them! It also tells us that mangoes and pistachios are related to cashews.

Nuts to You by Lynne Rae Perkins is a fun tale told to a man in the park (eating a peanut butter sandwich: chunky peanut butter, by the way) by a very old squirrel that can speak! He tells the stories of squirrels travelling on the buzz paths, and having great adventures. He states that ‘nuts to you’ is a classic squirrel greeting, meaning all manner of things, but mostly good luck.

As vegetarianism and veganism are on the rise, cooking with cashews and other nuts is getting more and more popular. VBQ the Ultimate Vegan Barbecue by Nadine Horn and Jorg Mayer has recipes using cashews for a pesto, sour cream and an aioli spread. This Cheese is Nuts by Julie Piatt has lots of cashew cheese choices. So, go nuts with these recipes, and “nuts to you!”

Weed of Deceit

ivyCertain events make you question some of the basic things you take for granted in life. While it might not seem so at first, ivy removal is one of them. In my innocence I thought that when you uprooted a plant it was gone. Not so the Class C noxious weed English ivy which seems to regenerate in a matter of minutes. As I found myself devoting a soggy November afternoon to making yet another attempt to eradicate the endless vine, I began to wonder what weeds are exactly and why we devote so much time and effort trying to get rid of them.

If you want to delve a little deeper into the ambivalent nature of weeds, A weed by any other namethere are two new books that will help you explore the topic. In A Weed by Any Other Name by Nancy Gift, who is a weed scientist, the author argues that it is best to learn to accept weeds rather than waste your time fighting them. She does this by exonerating several weeds and showing how useful they are.

wicked plantsIf you prefer your weeds on the dark side, however, definitely check out Wicked Plants by Amy Stewart. She details a rogue’s gallery of botany with chapter titles such as “Killer Algae” and “Weeds of Mass Destruction.” In her book each weed is a possible murder suspect.

Whether you consider them good or ill, weeds have to be dealt with in one weed'em and reapway or the other. Perhaps it is best to adopt author Roger Welsch’s attitude in his book Weed’em and Reap: A weed eater reader and get those weeds on your plate. You may lose the battle to keep your lawn respectable in the eyes of your neighbors, but you will have a steady source of nutrition.

Richard