On of the things I’m looking forward to on the upcoming Liberia is checking off a longstanding item on my life list. You keep a life list? That list of entirely unreasonable things you want to do before you die? Climb Kilimanjaro? See an eclipse? That sort of stuff.
Well, I’ve got a vaguely rambling life list with all sorts of categories. Yeah, I’ll post it some day. Under the ‘food’ category, I’ve got some variations on rather mundane items. You know marshmallows? Why do you suppose we call them that? Turns out that, in another time, folks apparently used to harvest the spongy, sweet roots of a particular kind of mallow that grew in (wait for it…) marshes. It was after the root of the marsh mallow that the inflated synthetic sugar confection was designed and collided with Rice Krispies, graham crackers (another interesting story) and Hershey’s chocolate to practically define the uppermost pinnacle of our hallowed food food pyramid.
So I want to, somewhere, somehow, find some authentic marsh mallow root to eat. But I’m not going to get to do that on this trip – I’m just wasting your time on that one. What it looks like I may be able to check off is cashews. Yeah, you know cashews – those little banana-shaped sweet chewy nuts. Except that they’re not nuts. They’re seeds. And weird ones, at that. It’s a minor technical distinction, but the seed isn’t protected by a hard shell that you have to crack open to eat (it’s actually protected by a thin skin sheathing a layer of stuff that’s as closely-related to poison ivy as you can get). And, in an odd twist for the plant world, it grows outside the cashew fruit, protruding from it like a peanut stuck on the end of a pear.
And there’s my quarry: the cashew fruit. It’s the byproduct of cashew farming, and apparently quite tasty – but it’s not sold anywhere, because it’s impractical to market. Doesn’t store or travel well, and gets damaged when you separate the oh-so-lucrative seed from it. So you just can’t buy it. But after Liberia, on our way back through Ghana, we may be spending an afternoon looking at agriculture projects on a cacao plantation (yes! more about that later) and… a cashew farm. One more down, uh, about 150 to go.