Thursday, March 13, 2008

Marañónes

Spanish for "Cashews". The singular is marañón (mah-rah-NYON). It's a sure sign that semana santa (Easter week) is upon us when the pungent smell of cashew fruit permeates the air! Many people don't know that the roasted marañón is a fruit seed, not a nut. The fruit looks like a red bell pepper and is redish yellow in color. The cashew seed hangs in a pod on the outside of the fruit. You can eat both, but you have to remove the seed from the husk and roast it before eating. The fruit part is ready to go from the tree!

Pajaros (birds), loras (parrots), ardillas (squirrels), abejas (bees), avispas (wasps), garobos (iguanas) and pericos (parakeets) all go nuts (yes, it's a pun) this time of year when the marañón trees, branches heavily laden with ripened fruit, start emitting the irresistible smell that draws them all by the dozens. The fruit has a distinctive, pungent sweet/sour aroma that can be smelled for meters around the trees - especially when they fall to the ground and begin to rot and ferment. Many people don't really like the smell. But I do. I eat the fruit like an apple, though it's much softer, especially when it's really ripe. I usually need to take a shower after eating one, as the juice drips everywhere.

The smell of roasting marañónes (the seed part) is one of the richest, hunger inducing aromas in the tropics. It's pure Costa Rica for me. Vendors sell bags of them in different sizes on the beach and in town. Aproned, Nicaraguan women balance pallets of the neatly stacked and sorted bags on their heads as they walk the sand and streets selling them. They're everywhere right now and the prices are low.

To the marañón! One of the best "two-fers" nature has to offer!

¡Feliz Pascua! Happy Easter!

¡Pura vida!

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