Today, I had a sudden urge to delight in Indian almond. Too bad I’m nowhere near one.
Indian almonds are one of my childhood delights, in addition to cocoa pulp, the jelly like sweet & tangy substance that surrounds each cocoa bean in the pod (see below), the previously described alasa, tiger nuts, fresh coconut flesh, and countless other fruits, nuts, and seeds whose names I do not know…and of course mangoes.
I took this picture of an Indian almond tree when I was in Half Assini in 2007. It’s called “nkatie brofo” which I translate into “white peoples groundnut” but I’ve always called it Indian almond and previously “cashew”. I didn’t get to eat Indian almond that glorious year of 2007and I actually haven’t in over a decade. It’s as if it’s no longer cool to eat these when we now have apples, grapes, and “Burger nuts” being imported into the country and being sold by hawkers on the street like it’s the latest fashion. Unfortunately, also I have been in Ghana at a time when the fruit is not ripe because trust that if I encountered a tree with ripe fruit, all grown-up and abrokyire me would be throwing stones or reaching with sticks in order to get at the fruit.
So instead I sit here in the middle of winter wonderland in a land far far away with a sudden craving for Indian almond. That urge to struggle to get fruit off the tree knowing that my efforts will be rewarded…eventually. To then eat the sweet fibrinous pulp surrounding the nut (don’t think I remember washing these things), or if not sweet enough rip it off with my teeth and spit it out while my heart is still pounding from all the aerobic exercise (or is it the anticipation of what is to come?)! Then, hunting for a nice sturdy stone with which I would carefully crack open the hard shell to expose the nut which tastes like an almond except it’s more delicious. Truthfully, sometimes I would pick up already fallen fruits up from the ground around the tree, skip the whole eat the pulp part, and just start banging away trying to get to the prize interior! I mean, one could spend hours of a lazy afternoon on a mission like this.
With the exception of the tropical fruits (mango, pineapples, soursop etc), coconuts and tigernut, these childhood delights were not things introduced to me by sensible adults. I probably learnt to eat these things from neighbourhood children, servants, or class-mates, however I’m sure the “sensible adults” had at one point or another eaten these too. Yet they always found one reason or another why I shouldn’t delight in them too much. The cocoa pulp will make you drunk, the tigernut is for male virility – don’t forget you are a woman, the Indian almond fruit will make you sick, blah blah blah. Adults are just no fun. In fact, my dad had an Indian almond tree planted in our backyard. We left before it started to bear fruit. But when I returned to Ghana (eagerly anticipating to be able to jump around under a tree within my own compound without shame), he had cut it down! Apparently, grandmother did not like it there because according to her it is the tree upon which witches gather for their nightly meetings. I suppose, one doesn’t want witches gathering in their backyard, but really?!
The cocoa tree. When the pod is ripe (yellowish-orange) you can grab one, crack it open quite easily by banging against a wall and scoop out the delicious jelly. We had a cocoa tree on our grounds and I remember many attempts to try and get drunk off the jelly. I didn’t even get a stomachache! After scraping each bean clean with my teeth, I would lay them out to dry with the intention of roasting them to make my own chocolate. Somehow I never got around to that. I haven’t had cocoa pulp since the early 1990s. What a shame!
Tigernuts. Now these I have had over and over again. My dad loves them and there always seems to be a stash at home when I return. Chufa is apparently it’s more popular name, and I’m surprised to hear it’s used to make a popular drink in Spain. I’m also surprised it’s as nutritious and has the health benefits as claimed. Makes me wonder what hidden powers the various other (forgotten) random fruits we eat have. At the same time though I’m confused as to why it’s not more widespread because it grows in parts of Europe and the USA but all they do with it is use it as fishing bait and feed for livestock. People don’t know what they are missing!