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Category: Food



Introduction and description


The cashew tree (Anacardium occidentale) is a tropical evergreen tree that produces the cashew seed and the cashew apple. 

Its English name derives from the Portuguese name for the fruit of the cashew tree, which itself is derived from the indigenous Tupian name acajú, literally meaning "nut that produces itself". The name Anacardium, originally from the Greek, refers to the unusual location of the seed outside the core or heart of the fruit (ana- means "again" or "backward" and -cardium means "heart").

Although we think of cashews as food, or even just a snack, medicinally they are extraordinarily useful.  We have not added a medicinal section to this description, because it is better to go straight to the healing observations to see just how many ailments cashews can help with.


Originally native to northeastern Brazil, the tree is now widely cultivated in Vietnam, Nigeria and India as major production countries.  The Portuguese took it to Goa, India, between 1560 and 1565. From there it spread throughout Southeast Asia and eventually Africa.

Cashew nuts are produced in tropical countries because the tree is frost sensitive, adapting to various climatic regions between the latitudes of 25°N and 25°S.  The top 5 Countries for production of Cashew Nuts (with shell) in 2013 were Vietnam, Nigeria, India, Côte d'Ivoire and Benin.



The cashew tree is large and evergreen, growing to 10–12 m (33–39 ft) tall, with a short, often irregularly shaped trunk. The largest cashew tree in the world covers an area of about 7,500 m2 (81,000 sq ft); it is located in Natal, Rio Grande do Norte, Brazil.

The leaves are spirally arranged, leathery textured, elliptic to obovate, 4–22 cm (1.6–8.7 in) long and 2–15 cm (0.79–5.91 in) broad, with smooth margins.

The flowers are produced in a panicle or corymb up to 26 cm (10 in) long; each flower is small, pale green at first, then turning reddish, with five slender, acute petals 7–15 mm (0.28–0.59 in) long.


The fruit of the cashew tree is an accessory fruit (sometimes called a pseudocarp or false fruit). What appears to be the fruit is an oval or pear-shaped structure, a hypocarpium, that develops from the pedicel and the receptacle of the cashew flower. Called the cashew apple, better known in Central America as marañón, it ripens into a yellow and/or red structure about 5–11 cm (2.0–4.3 in) long.

The true fruit of the cashew tree is a kidney or boxing-glove shaped drupe that grows at the end of the cashew apple. The drupe develops first on the tree, and then the pedicel expands to become the cashew apple. Within the true fruit is a single seed, which is often considered a nut, in the culinary sense. The seed is surrounded by a double shell containing an allergenic phenolic resin, anacardic acid, a potent skin irritant.  This is obviously removed before the seeds are sent for consumption.


The cashew apple


The cashew apple is rich in nutrients, and contains five times more vitamin C than an orange. It can be eaten fresh, cooked in curries, or fermented into vinegar, as well as an alcoholic drink.  It is also used to make preserves, chutneys, and jams in some countries such as India and Brazil.

  • Eating raw - The cashew apple is edible, and has a strong "sweet" smell and a sweet taste. The pulp of the cashew apple is very juicy, but the skin is fragile, making it unsuitable for transport.
  • Fruit drinks - In Latin America, a fruit drink is made from the cashew apple pulp which has a very refreshing taste and tropical flavour that can be described as having notes of mango, raw green pepper, and just a little hint of grapefruit-like citrus.  In many countries, particularly in South America, the cashew apple is used to flavour drinks, both alcoholic and nonalcoholic. 
  • Dulce - In Panama, the cashew fruit is cooked with water and sugar for a prolonged time to make a sweet, brown, paste-like dessert called dulce de marañón. Marañón is one of the Spanish names for cashew.
  • Alcohol - In Goa, the cashew apple is mashed , the juice extracted and kept for fermentation for a few days. Fermented juice then undergoes a double distillation process. The resulting beverage is called feni or fenny. Feni is about 40-42% alcohol. The single-distilled version is called urrac, which is about 15% alcohol.  In the southern region of Mtwara, Tanzania, the cashew apple (bibo in Swahili) is distilled to make a strong liquor often referred to by the generic name, gongo.

Cashew nuts


 The deshelled cashew seed, often simply called a cashew, is eaten on its own raw, roasted or toasted, used in recipes, or processed into cashew butter. Botanically speaking, cashew are seeds, not nuts, however, the culinary uses for cashew seeds are similar to uses for nuts. 

  • Thickening and flour substitutes - Cashews, unlike oily tree nuts, contain starch to about 10% of their weight. This makes them more effective than nuts in thickening water-based dishes such as soups, meat stews, and some Indian milk-based desserts.  For those intolerant to gluten, finely ground cashews thus provide a useful alternative thickener to wheat based flour.  In Mozambique, for example, powdered cashews and mashed potatoes are used as the main ingredients in bolo polana - a cake. 
  • Main meals - Cashew nuts are commonly used in Indian cuisine, whole for garnishing sweets or curries, or ground into a paste that forms a base of sauces for curries (e.g., korma), or some sweets (e.g., kaju barfi). It is also used in powdered form in the preparation of several Indian sweets and desserts. In Goan cuisine, both roasted and raw kernels are used whole for making curries and sweets.  Cashew nuts are also used in Thai and Chinese cuisine, generally in whole form.
  • Cashew oil - Cashew oil is a dark yellow oil for cooking or salad dressing pressed from cashew nuts (typically broken chunks created during processing). This may be produced from a single cold pressing.

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