Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Watch Out for Cashews

Do not touch!

Fresh cashews. It seemed like such a good idea. Vlad and I were walking to the little tienda the other day, and we passed by a woman and her grandson gathering fruit off of a tree. They said hello, and we stopped to ask them what the fruit was. As it turns out, it wasn't a fruit at all but cashews.

Cashews grow in pods under these bright red fruits, one cashew per fruit, which goes a long way toward explaining how expensive they are. Anyway, we picked one of the pods, and Vlad opened it up. It was filled with an oil that ran all over his hands. At this moment, one of the cruisers we were talking to said that the oil could bring on a similar reaction to poison ivy. Not thinking too much of it, we ate a bit of the fresh cashew, and then Vlad went and washed his hands.

Nothing happened for a full day. But the day after that is a different story. That evening Vlad said his earlobe was swollen. Then his back started itching. By the time we woke up, his eyes and nose had swollen up, and a rash was spreading on his back and down his legs and arms. It's been five days of Benedryl and cortizone cream, and it's still going strong. We even soaked in the swimming pool in the hopes that the chlorine would dry it out. Nothing seems to be helping.

Another one of our cruising friends down here also got a little cashew curious. She opened one up and was super excited about the fabulous fresh oil that she could rub into her skin. Wait a day. She then woke up with her eyes swollen shut, and she's still feeling the effects. This stuff is potent.

I entertained myself for an hour yesterday reading internet tales of cashew woe that all seemed to go a little something like this: "My wife and I were vacationing in the Philippines, and someone handed us a fresh cashew ...." And the guy would spend the rest of his vacation with his face swelled up. Evidently, mango skin can produce a similar reaction, which would explain the poison ivy like outbreak I got on my hands in Providencia after we spent days collecting and devouring mangos. Anyway, thanks to the internet, we now know a lot about cashews and their relatives, enough to never touch another one that isn't heavily roasted again.


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  2. Glad to hear things have cleared up! Apparently cashews and poison ivy are in the same family, so if you're sensitive to one you're likely to be sensitive to others as well.

    When in doubt, be wary of things with bright colors. :)

  3. Clearly you now see why you never see them in their 'shells' in stores like other nuts!

  4. Well my goodness! That's terrible! I hope it clears up soon. What a beautiful place. Anyplace with birds like that is okay by me.