The village of Crooked Tree is famous for its annual Cashew Festival, so it was no surprise to see these huge trees growing here and there around the village, including this one trying to take over someone's house!
Originally found in northeastern Brazil, the Portugese colonizers of that part of South America exported it around the world to their various colonies that had similar tropical climates so they too could benefit from its many uses. The trees produce a double-whammy, a single oval seed fruit (the 'nut') with a large fleshy appendage about the size of a pear on one end of it (the 'apple').
The cashew apple can be eaten raw, but is more often used to make jams, chutneys or drinks because of it's acidic nature. Another fine use for this part of the tree is to crush the apple to produce the ingrediants necessary for 'cashew wine' - very good, based on the sample we had at one of our meals! Getting at the cashew nut is a more delicate act, because its skin has a potent toxin similar to that found in poison-ivy. A complex process of boiling the fruit and shelling it is carried out, often with the workers suffering from skin rashes (leftovers from this process have traditionally been used in India to make their working elephants 'toe the line'). However, if you have ever tasted cashew nuts, you know they are worth going through all this fuss!
The people of Crooked Tree have discovered a few extra uses for the Cashew tree: the light, water resistant bark is used to make canoes, the root makes a great bowel purgative, the gum from the fruit stems makes a natural insect repellent and, finally, the oil in the shell of the nut is used commercially for varnish, paints, shampoos and conditioners!
The second photo shows the simple sign at the end of the causeway that greets visitors to the village.
Our early morning boat tour along the southern shore of the lagoon in front of Bird's Eye View Lodge first took us to the left, as far as the causeway that was built in 1983 to join the island to the mainland. Very close to there, we were shown this Logwood tree by our tour guide.
It turns out that it was these trees that lured the English to settle in Belize in the 1700s, after it was discovered that the heartwood of these trees could produce various dyes (for wool) that were worth a fortune in Europe. English loggers made their first settlement at Crooked Tree in 1750 (so called because of the knarled nature of the bark and trunk of Logwood trees). Although Spain had tried to subdue this part of Central America since the mid-1500s, they had never been able to fully overcome Mayan resistance. However, they were not happy with the English presence in what they considered 'their territory' and made repeated attacks on the loggers. The 1763 Treaty of Paris was supposed to have shielded the loggers from further attacks but the issue was not fully settled until 1798 when a small British force defeated a large Spanish attacking force at St. George's Caye. The British presence in Belize, which had begun as a result of the Logwood trees, was finally formalized in 1861 when the colony of British Honduras was declared.
while strolling on the sanctuary trails, as my usual ;-) I tried to get into a possible mess approaching these... poachers or fishermen???... maybe an half way... could be it's allowed in certain period of the year...
looked like trawling... which maybe is more or less allowed during the low season, at the end of the dry season before the rain one begins...