Cashew apple juice might be the next hot item in the food world

Goa’s most famous drink, Feni has the potential of going places thanks to its heritage value, finds out Bhiva P Parab

It is almost end of the cashew season however due to the good cashew crop this year some of the cashew farmers can be seen still seen doing work in the plantations these days. Cashew which was introduced by the Portuguese in Goa some five centuries back has become a commercial crop of Goa. One of the most famous drink of Goa is the Feni which is a product obtained after processing the cashew apple juice.

Containers nowadays mostly plastic are used for storage and the juice collected into the containers is stored for few days before preparing the Feni and those who don’t prepare Feni sell this juice.

The juice is then transferred to the copper pots and distilled and the juice in the pots is heated and the vapours are collected in a cooling condenser and it may be noted that the first distilled juice that is obtained is of low strength and not too heady and it is known as Urrack and the final juice that comes out after distillation process is powerful and is known as Feni. A pipe used to for connecting the two pots is made from a particular tree.

“This season the climate was normal and there was chill in the air in the beginning and so we were expecting good cashew yield. Fortunately the cashew season turned out to be good as expected and the climatic conditions remained favorable giving us good yield till date,” said, Sainath P, a cashew farmer.

The production of cashews in the state of Goa during the year 2012-13 was 23804 tons while estimated area under cashew cultivation was 55747 hectares. In 2013-14 the production increased to 24332 tons while  the estimated area under the cashew cultivation also increased to 55936 hectares. In 2014 – 15  production further increased to 25011tons and the  estimated area under the cashew cultivation also further increased to 56079 hectares, according to the information available from the agricultural department sources.

The cashew farmers in the beginning of the season clear the bushes as it makes easy for them to go around the cashew plantation.

“The cashew fruit which is collected by moving around the cashew plantations which are mostly on the hills are gathered into a Kolambi. A Kolambi is a natural rock having shape of a basin selected for crushing cashew apples after separating the nuts and the Kolambi has a narrow channel to allow the juice to flow into a container. However nowadays some build artificial Kolambi and few even use machines for crushing. It is mostly the commercial manufacturers who use artificial Kolambi as they produce in large quantity and preparing Feni requires hard work and it is a tedious job,” said Nandkishore Nhanji, a cashew farmer.

This season there being good cashew yield, plenty of cashew apples were available. As the cashew apples are crushed the juice begins to flow into a container and  once the quota of collected cashew is crushed after around half hour pure juice trickles down from the Kolambi called as ‘Niro’.

There is good demand for Niro and people come even to the cashew plantations to buy Niro.  These days at many places you can see Niro in the bottles kept for sale mostly along roadside and the price of a bottle of Niro varies according to the place and it is priced at around Rs 100 to 200 for one litre bottle.

Every cashew apple is of not the same quality and the quality of the Feni depends on the cashew apples and from quite a distance one can smell Feni as it is being distilled, however preparing Feni is not an easy job and it requires hard work and expertise too.  and this Feni has good demand in the state market and both local and tourists buy Feni.