or, “Don’t handle cashew nut pods, and whatever you do don’t put them in your mouth!”
or, “I’m nuts!”
When we went to the village of Gunnampalli for Sankranthi, I had a new experience. We were looking around exploring all the many trees. Starfruit, jackfruit, mango, gooseberry, coconut, tamarind, etc. Kavi and I were quite intrigued by the cashew tree. We wanted to discover where the nut was located. Here is what cashew looks like:
The top, red part is called the “cashew apple” and you can make a juice of it. Below that is the seed pod. That’s what I was trying and trying to open. Kavi pounded on one with a stick, but it was really hard.
So finally, out of curiosity, I put the pod in my mouth and bit down on it. When my molar pierced the tough skin, an acid juice filled my mouth. It burned and lingered no matter how much I spit or rinsed with water. When our hosts found out what I’d done, they said, “You shouldn’t have done that! Even handling those pods can peel off the skin of your hand.”
Anyway, the burning eventually went away. After say, more than an hour. Then two days later, after having been fine, I had a new round of sores in my mouth. Really painful. Then itchy rashes on my neck and fingers. And finally, seven days after the original exposure, I woke up with a swollen left eye. This continued for three mornings–worse upon waking and getting slightly less swollen through the day. However, at the same time, the Internet went out for about 30 hours. Gopal kept claiming the swelling was from the cashew pod, but I insisted no. Finally, on day three, we got back to Internet territory, and I looked it up. I found a hilarious post called “You’ve got to be nuts to eat a cashew nut shell!” by Matthew C. Evans which you can read here if you like. I was like, “Oh my god that’s exactly what’s happening to me!” It turns out that the reaction is pretty severe–the pod is full of a toxin that they have to bake off before opening. Here are some gory pictures. Granted, I used the fish eye lens for the first two, which I needn’t have done. I am much better now, so you all can go ahead and have a laugh at my expense. If I was Inno I would have taken better photographic records.