Staying with a dear friend near São Paulo, I noticed a sound like crickets or cicadas coming from the front of the house. I’ve never actually seen a cicada in action (they go quiet when you find them) so I rushed outside with my camera, only to find it wasn’t insects.
The sound was actually made by squirrels gnawing through the leathery shells of the palm nuts that had fallen to the ground from the tree just outside the house. This video shows you how the squirrels do it – they gnaw a ring around the nut, pausing regularly as they get the opening started and then munching away at the kernel once they get through the shell.
This is a fruit stand in São Paulo central market, selling what’s probably my favourite fruit – caju. It’s soft, sweet, has a hint of the strange mouth-furring sharpness you find in persimmon and it has a wonderful fragrant flavour that I adore. It’s especially wonderful as a caju caipirinha or capifruta, blended with cachaça and ice.
It’s amazingly perishable – a caju left in my hotel room for me one morning had already spoiled by the evening when I got back from work – and I have never seen caju on sale anywhere outside Brazil. I know they grow in many sub-tropical countries and there must be tons of the pulp around.
Why? Well, if the name “caju” sounds like “cashew”, that’s no accident. The green “stalk” on the top is actually the real fruit, and its kernel is the cashew nut that graces tables worldwide. They spoil so fast because that’s how they propogate. The fruit falls from the tree, nut first (they are attached by a stalk at the other end), and the flesh squashes around it on the ground to create the ideal germination environment. Now you can see why cashews are so expensive compared with most other nuts – each one had to be harvested from a caju.