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  • Cashews: The new cash crop for Hawaii

    Nov 25th, 2015

    You could say Scott Neuman's curiosity about cashews got the better of him. Seven years and 200 trees later, he’s paving the way for what some hope will be a new cash crop for the islands.

    "The nut market is really strong. Cashews are a high value crop, and to me, it was worth the long-term effort to in to them," said Neuman.

    The cashew is the one fruit where the seed is outside. We all know about the seed. With the fruit, you can make all kinds of things like wine and juice. The cashew apple is a cousin to the mango and tastes like a milky star fruit. From there, the products range from cashew cheese to butter.

    Neuman's 10-acre Anahola farm boasts trees from Brazil, Africa and India. Trial plantings of cashews are showing promise. There's even some talk of cashews on Lanai even though Neuman is years ahead of the game.

    They grow to approximately 25 feet high and they spread to a natural width of 25 feet, and the largest one is in Brazil and it takes up an area the size of Central Park – one tree,” said Neuman.

    Once harvested, the cashew nut needs a long drying time before they are roasted. Neuman can't produce enough to meet the local demand.

    “Generally when we package them, we put them in five to ten pound bags and split them in smaller marketable quantities,” he said.

    Neuman has invested in new equipment to cut the seed to get to the prized nuts, which are then roasted a second time. The nut oil can burn – besides mango it’s related to poison ivy – but it along with the fruit and nut can be used.

    "The experienced guys can listen to them and how they crack together to know what the moisture content is,” said Neuman. “I don't claim to be one of them yet, so I trial and error them at different times and different batches to what works so I don't ruin a whole crop."

    Neuman has been working with the state and Ames International, a distributor of gourmet nuts. They are hoping to bring in a new shipment of plants from India. A prior shipment of 3,000 seedlings, which was held up by red tape and hurricane related delays, didn't survive the long voyage.

    While Neuman waits for the ship to come in, he's working on his farm – turning to vanilla, bee hives, and farm fresh eggs to keep afloat. And that means working what he calls his "chicken tractor" to keep his prized cashews trees nurtured. His mobile contraptions are a product of "trial and error" too.

    "They can be on fresh ground as often as possible. Therefore, they eat the grass as you can see, and they fertilize the trees because the chicken tractor is raised on the wheels. All of their poop drops out," said Neuman. "You just open up the back and you can see you have a couple nesting bins and you have farm fresh free range eggs.”

    Sold under the Neuman Farms moniker, it's part of the picture as the cashew business gets launched and on its way. Cashews are a tough nut to crack, but Neuman's toughing it out to see where it grows