Sunday, May 1, 2011

Costa Rica - Coffee Beans & Cashews!

Monte Verde Cloud Forest
I recently spent an amazing week in the Guanacaste province of Costa Rica.  While I mainly went for the eco-adventures and a little R and R, being the foodie I am I couldn't leave without a little foodie fix!  Costa Rica is not known for its gourmet food - although all the local food I ate was fresh and delicious.  The staples are rice, beans, plantains, beef, chicken, fish and tropical fruits including mango, pineapple, cantaloupe and avocado.   The country side is dotted with  farms growing many of these staples. Most families raise there own cattle, chickens and grow avocado, mango or cashew trees on their property.  Eating locally is the norm and typical junk food is very expensive.

Coffee Beans

Green Coffee Beans
Its no secret that Costa Rica has built much of its economy through the growing and exporting of coffee beans.  Its rich volcanic laden soil makes for perfect growing conditions. The variety that grows with the best success is Arabica beans. Most of us take our daily dose of Java for granted but when you see how labour intensive the farming, harvesting and producing of coffee is - you may become more appreciative.  The organic coffee farm we visited was at the beginning of its growing season, white jasmine scented flowers beginning the form on the green trees.

Fresh ground coffee is placed in silk bags and hot water
is poured on top - fresh coffee drips into waiting cups.
Tips for the perfect cup of coffee at home!
Start with Organic, Fair Trade Beans.
Store in a cool dry place in an airtight container - not in the freezer.
Grind beans just before you are ready to make your coffee.
Use a bodum (french press) or silk bag to get the most flavour from your coffee.
I use approximately 1 Tbsp ground beans/ cup of water.

Cashew Fruit with Nut attached
Cashew trees are in abundance in Costa Rica.  At first glance you may think that you are looking at yellow or red peppers.  Nature creates them that way so animals will take the fruit, eat the fleshy fruity portion and discard the seed elsewhere - allowing a  new tree to grow.  In fact cashews are part of the poison ivy family (so to are mango and pistachio).  If you try to bite into what looks like a leathery pouch encasing the cashew you would be burnt by the acrid oil that surrounds the nut.  It is for this reason that many say that cashews are poisonous!  In order to make them edible the cashews must be fire roasted.  Stay tuned for my fabulous Cashew & Artichoke dip!

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