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

It can grow as high as 14 m (46 ft), but the dwarf cashew, growing up to 6 metres (20 ft), has proved more profitable, with earlier maturity and higher yields.

The cashew seed, often simply called a cashew, is widely consumed. It is eaten on its own, used in recipes, or processed into cashew cheese or cashew butter. The cashew apple is a light reddish to yellow fruit, whose pulp can be processed into a sweet, astringent fruit drink or distilled into liquor.

The shell of the cashew seed yields derivatives that can be used in many applications from lubricants to paints.

Originally native to northeastern Brazil, the tree is now widely cultivated in Vietnam, Nigeria and India as major production countries.[1]

Etymology

Its English name derives from the Portuguese name for the fruit of the cashew tree caju (Portuguese pronunciation: [kaˈʒu]), which itself is derived from the indigenous Tupian name acajú, literally meaning “nut that produces itself”.[2] 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”[3]).

Habitat and growth

‘Anacardium occidentale’, from Koehler’s ‘Medicinal-Plants’ (1887)

The cashew tree is large and evergreen, growing to 10–12 m (33–39 ft) tall, with a short, often irregularly shaped trunk. 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 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 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.[4] 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. It 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. In Latin America, a fruit drink is made from the cashew apple pulp which has a very refreshing taste and tropical flavor that can be described as having notes of mango, raw green pepper, and just a little hint of grapefruit-like citrus.

Flower of cashew tree

Cashew tree

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 chemically related to the better-known allergenic oil urushiol which is also a toxin found in the related poison ivy. Properly roasting cashews destroys the toxin, but it must be done outdoors as the smoke (not unlike that from burning poison ivy) contains urushiol droplets which can cause severe, sometimes life-threatening, reactions by irritating the lungs. People who are allergic to cashew (or poison ivy) urushiols may cross-react to mango or pistachio which are also in the Anacardiaceae family. Some people are allergic to cashews, but cashews are a less frequent allergen than tree nuts or peanuts.[5]

While the cashew plant is native to northeast Brazil, the Portuguese took it to Goa, India, between 1560 and 1565. From there it spread throughout Southeast Asia and eventually Africa.[6]

Cashew “nut”

Young cashew seeds

Cashews as a snack

Botanically speaking, cashew are seeds, not nuts. Culinary uses for cashew seeds are similar to uses for nuts, however, and the seeds are frequently referred to as nuts. 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, explaining their use over true nuts in various cuisines.[7]

The shell of the cashew nut is toxic, containing urushiol, which is why the nut is never sold in the shell to consumers.[8][9][10][unreliable source?]

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 sprouts (above) are eaten raw as well as cooked

The cashew nut can also be harvested in its tender form, when the shell has not hardened and is green in color. The shell is soft and can be cut with a knife and the kernel extracted, but it is already corrosive at this stage, so gloves are required. The kernel can be soaked in turmeric water to get rid of the corrosive material before use. Cashew nuts are also used in Thai and Chinese cuisine, generally in whole form.

In the Philippines, cashew is a known product of Antipolo, and is eaten with suman. Pampanga also has a sweet dessert called turrones de casuy, which is cashew marzipan wrapped in white wafers.

In Indonesia, roasted and salted cashew nut is called kacang mete or kacang mede, while the cashew apple is called jambu monyet (translates in English to monkey rose apple).

In Mozambique, bolo polana is a cake prepared using powdered cashews and mashed potatoes as the main ingredients. This dessert is popular in South Africa, too.[11]

South American countries have developed their own specialties. In Brazil, the cashew fruit juice is popular all across the country. 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.

Production

Top 5 Countries for Production of Cashew Nuts (with shell) in 2013
Country Production
MT (metric tons)
 Vietnam 1,110,800
 Nigeria 950,000
 India 753,000
 Côte d’Ivoire 450,000
 Benin 180,000
World Total 4,439,960
Source: Food & Agriculture Organization[1]

Cashew nuts being inspected after harvest

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.[12] The traditional cashew tree is tall (up to 14 m) and takes three years from planting before it starts production, and eight years before economic harvests can begin. More recent breeds, such as the dwarf cashew trees, are up to 6 m tall, and start producing after the first year, with economic yields after three years. The cashew nut yields for the traditional tree are about 0.25 metric tons per hectare, in contrast to over a ton per hectare for the dwarf variety. Grafting and other modern tree management technologies are used to further improve and sustain cashew nut yields in commercial orchards.[6]

In 2013, the world total for production of cashew nuts (in shells) was 4.4 million metric tons.[1] Vietnam was the world’s largest individual producer in 2013 with 1.1 million tons.[1] As of 2014, rapid growth of cashew cultivation in Côte d’Ivoire made this country the top African exporter.[13]

Fluctuations in world market prices, poor working conditions and low pay for local harvesting have caused discontent in the cashew nut industry.[14][15][16]

Nutrition

Cashews, raw
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy 553 kcal (2,310 kJ)
30.19 g
Starch 0.74 g
Sugars

5.91 g

0.00 g
Dietary fiber 3.3 g
43.85 g
Saturated 7.783 g
Monounsaturated 23.797 g
Polyunsaturated 7.845 g
18.22 g
Vitamins
Vitamin A 0 IU
Thiamine (B1)
(37%)

0.423 mg

Riboflavin (B2)
(5%)

0.058 mg

Niacin (B3)
(7%)

1.062 mg

(17%)

0.86 mg

Vitamin B6
(32%)

0.417 mg

Folate (B9)
(6%)

25 μg

Vitamin B12
(0%)

0 μg

Vitamin C
(1%)

0.5 mg

Vitamin D
(0%)

0 μg

Vitamin E
(6%)

0.90 mg

Vitamin K
(32%)

34.1 μg

Minerals
Calcium
(4%)

37 mg

Iron
(51%)

6.68 mg

Magnesium
(82%)

292 mg

Manganese
(79%)

1.66 mg

Phosphorus
(85%)

593 mg

Potassium
(14%)

660 mg

Sodium
(1%)

12 mg

Zinc
(61%)

5.78 mg

Other constituents
Water 5.20 g

Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA Nutrient Database

In a 100 gram serving, raw cashews provide 553 calories, 67% of the Daily Value (DV) in total fats, 36% DV of protein, 13% DV of dietary fiber and 11% DV of carbohydrates (table).[17] Cashews are rich sources (> 19% DV) of dietary minerals, including particularly copper, manganese, phosphorus and magnesium (79-110% DV), and of thiamin, vitamin B6 and vitamin K (32-37% DV) (table).[17] Iron, potassium, zinc and selenium are present in significant content (14-61% DV) (table).[17] Cashews (100 grams, raw) contain 113 mg of beta-sitosterol.[17]

Allergy

For some 5% of people, cashews, like tree nuts, can lead to complications or allergic reactions.[18][19][20] Cashews contain gastric and intestinal soluble oxalates, albeit less than tree nuts; people with a tendency to form kidney stones may need moderation and medical guidance.[21] Allergies to tree nuts and cashews can be life-threatening; prompt medical attention is necessary if tree nut allergy reaction is observed.[19] These allergies are triggered by the proteins found in tree nuts, and cooking often does not remove or change these proteins. Reactions to cashew and tree nuts can also occur as a consequence of hidden nut ingredients or traces of nuts that may inadvertently be introduced during food processing, handling or manufacturing, particularly in Europe.[18][19]

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.[22]

Cashew shell oil

See also: Urushiol

Cashew nutshell liquid (CNSL) or cashew shell oil (CAS registry number 8007-24-7) is a natural resin with a yellowish sheen found in the honeycomb structure of the cashew nutshell, and is a byproduct of processing cashew nuts. It is a raw material of multiple uses in developing drugs, antioxidants, fungicides, etc. It is used in tropical folk medicine and for anti-termite treatment of timber.[23] Its composition varies depending on how it is processed.

  • Cold, solvent extracted CNSL is mostly composed of anacardic acids (70%),[24] cardol (18%) and cardanol (5%).[25]
  • Heating CNSL decarboxylates the anacardic acids, producing a technical grade of CNSL that is rich in cardanol. Distillation of this material gives distilled, technical CNSL containing 78% cardanol and 8% cardol (cardol has one more hydroxyl group than cardanol).[25] This process also reduces the degree of thermal polymerization of the unsaturated alkyl-phenols present in cashew nutshell liquid.
  • Anacardic acid is also used in the chemical industry for the production of cardanol, which is used for resins, coatings, and frictional materials.[24][25]

These substances are skin allergens, like the oils of poison ivy, and present danger during manual cashew processing.[23]

This natural oil phenol has been found to have interesting chemical structural features which enable a range of chemical modifications to create a wide spectrum of bio-based monomers capitalizing on the chemically versatile construct, containing three different functional groups: the aromatic ring, the hydroxyl group and the double bonds in the flanking alkyl chain. These can be split into key groups, used as polyols, which have recently seen a dramatic increase in demand for their bio-based origin and key chemical attributes such as high reactivity, range of functionalities, reduction in blowing agents and naturally occurring fire retardant properties in the field of ridged polyurethanes aided by their inherent phenolic structure and larger number of reactive units per unit mass.

Cashew shell oil may be used as a resin for carbon composite products.[26] CNSL-based Novolac is another versatile industrial monomer deriving from cardanol typically used as a reticulating agent for epoxy matrices in composite applications providing good thermal and mechanical properties to the final composite material.

Cashew apple

Cashew apple with nut

Cashew apples for sale

The cashew apple, also called cashew fruit, is the fleshy part of the cashew fruit that is attached to the cashew nut. The top end of the cashew apple is attached to the stem that comes off the tree. The bottom end of the cashew apple attaches to the cashew nut, which is encased in a shell. In botanical terms, the cashew apple is an accessory fruit that grows on the cashew seed (which is the nut).

The cashew apple is a soft fruit, 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. In many countries, particularly in South America, the cashew apple is used to flavor drinks, both alcoholic and nonalcoholic.

Cashew nuts are more popular than cashew apples in many parts of the world that do not grow cashews, because the fruit, unlike the nut, is difficult to transport.[27] Cashew apple juice, however, may be used for manufacturing blended juices.[27]

Cashew apples have a sweet but astringent taste traced to the waxy layer on the skin that contains a chemical, urushiol, which can cause minor skin irritation to areas that have had contact with it.[citation needed] In cultures that consume cashew apples, this astringency is sometimes removed by steaming the fruit for five minutes before washing it in cold water; alternatively, boiling the fruit in salt water for five minutes or soaking it in gelatin solution also reduces the astringency.[7][28]

Alcohol

In Goa, the cashew apple (the accessory fruit) is mashed and 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 dried and saved. Later it is reconstituted with water and fermented, then distilled to make a strong liquor often referred to by the generic name, gongo.

In Mozambique, cashew farmers commonly make a strong liquor from the cashew apple, agua ardente (burning water).

According to one source,[29] an alcohol had been distilled in the early 20th century from the juice of the fruit, and was manufactured in the West Indies.

 

The health benefits of cashews include a healthy heart, strong nerve and muscle function, improved bone and oral health, relief from diabetes, anemia and gallstones. By offering antioxidant defenses, they also aid in the formation of red blood cells and encourage a better immune system.

Cashews – these super nuts belong to the family of Anacardiaceae, which also includes mangoes and pistachios, and are originally native to the coastal areas of northeastern Brazil. They are kidney shaped seeds and are widely cultivated in places that have tropical climates. They are grown in countries such as India, Sri Lanka, Kenya, and Tanzania. They stick to the bottom of its fruit, known as a cashew apple, and have various diverse uses, particularly in Brazil and some parts of Asia and Africa.

Nutritional Value of Cashews

Cashews are very nutritious and a powerhouse of proteins and essential minerals including copper, calcium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, potassium, and zinc. Sodium is also present in very small quantities. Cashews also contains vitamins such as C, B1 (thiamin), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B-6, folate, E (alpha-tocopherol) and vitamin K (phylloquinone). Cashews are a source of oleic acid and provide a good quantity of monounsaturated fat and low amounts of polyunsaturated fats with no harmful cholesterol, if consumed appropriately.

cashewnutsHealth Benefits of Cashews

Monounsaturated Fats for the Heart: Cashews are a good source of healthy dietary fats, which are essential for our body to absorb the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K and produce fatty acids that are vital for the development of the brain and blood clotting. These healthy fats include Monounsaturated fats or MUFA and polyunsaturated fats or PUFA. They are good for the heart and help to reduce bad cholesterol (LDL cholesterol) if consumed in appropriate quantities, even in individuals with diabetes. LDL cholesterol can rise as a result of excessive consumption of saturated fats, posing a major threat for cardiovascular diseases like atherosclerosis or the hardening of arteries. Studies have demonstrated that choosing unsaturated fats over saturated fats enhances levels of HDL cholesterol, reduces triglyceride levels, and beneficially lowers the blood pressure as well. The inclusion of nuts such as cashews, fish, and vegetable oils including olive oil and canola oil in the diet can provide these healthy unsaturated fats to the body.

Healthy Muscles and Nerves: Cashews are a good source of magnesium, which is vital for the healthy development of bones, muscles, tissues, and organs of the body. Magnesium helps to maintain healthy blood pressure, sustain the immune system, maintain nerve function, and keep the bones strong. It also is involved in metabolic functions, influences the insulin activity and regulates the blood sugar levels of the body. A deficiency of magnesium alters the metabolism of calcium and the hormones responsible for its regulation.

Diabetes: The presence of very low amounts of sugar and no harmful cholesterol in cashews makes them safe for diabetic patients! It even helps in lowering the risk of type 2 diabetes.

Chemotherapy: Research has shown that the wealth of antioxidants like anacardic acids, cardanols and cardols in cashews make them effective for people undergoing treatments for tumors and cancer. Ground cashews are a comparatively simple absorbed form of protein and are advised to be safe for such patients as well.

Red Blood Cells: Cashews are rich in copper, which helps in the metabolism of iron, aids in the formation of red blood cells and helps in keeping bones and the immune system healthy. It is also vital for the nervous and skeletal system of the body. A deficiency of copper in the body may result in osteoporosis, irregular heartbeats, and anemia.

Bone and Oral Health: Cashews also provide phosphorous, which is essential for the healthy development of teeth and bones. Phosphorous also aids in protein synthesis, absorption of carbohydrates and fats and the maintenance of cellular health.

Anemia: Cashews are a source of dietary, iron which is vital for carrying oxygen around the body and aids in the functioning of enzymes and the immune system. A deficiency of iron in the diet can lead to body fatigue, anemia, and an increased susceptibility to infections.

Gallstones:Gallstones are stone-like deposits that usually consist of cholesterol that accumulates in the gall bladder. The regular inclusion of healthy nuts like cashews can help to lower the risk of formation of gallstones.

cashews02infoImmune System: Cashews contain zinc, which plays a vital role in the strengthening of the immune system against microbial infections, protein synthesis and the healing of wounds. It is extremely important during pregnancy for the growth of the baby and the developmental years of childhood to maintain a stable state of the body.

Culinary Usage: Cashew nuts are tasty and highly sought-after nuts. They can be enjoyed either roasted or plain, and with or without salt. They are added to a various vegetarian and non-vegetarian delicacies and a range of confectionery food items like cookies, biscuits, and ice cream.

Apart from the famous and delicious cashew nut, the cashew tree offers an immense treasure of medicinal and industrial uses as well. These applications are widely popular in Guyana and all over the Amazon.

Cashew Nut Shell Liquid– This is a byproduct obtained while processing cashews and is a versatile material in terms of industrial usage. It is one of the sources of naturally available phenols. It is a raw material that is used in the preparation of drugs, insecticides, paints, plastics, resins, and anti-termite treatments for timber. Due to its medicinal properties and the presence of anacardic acids, cashew nut shell liquid has an antibiotic effect and is used in the treatment of sore tooth, leprosy, ringworm, warts, scurvy, and elephantiasis.

Cashew Bark and Leaf – The bark and the leaf of the tree possess medicinal benefits and have been used as remedy for both diarrhea and colic. Cashews leaf extract is utilized to reduce blood sugar and blood pressure levels. Oils extracted from the seeds prove effective in the preparation of insecticides. The infusion of the bark of the cashew tree has astringent properties and is used as a mouthwash for treating oral ulcers and as a remedy for sore throat and influenza. Leaves of the cashew tree, when boiled with water, serve as an anti-pyretic and are used for the treatment of aches and pains throughout the body.

Cashew Fruit (Cashew Apple)Cashew apples possess anti-bacterial properties and have been proven to be effective in treating stomach ulcers and gastritis, which is usually caused by H. pylori bacteria. Its juice is rich in vitamin C and has an anti-scurvy effect. Cashew apple juice is widely utilized in the cosmetic industry due to the presence of antioxidants and is used in the preparation of various creams and shampoos.

Cashew extract contains anarcardic acid which is an antioxidant and has been shown to limit the pigmentation effects of aging and to eradicate the cancer cells. Fruit of the cashew tree is used to treat infant’s thrush and sore mouth. In the Amazon, people use the tea prepared from the bark and the cashew apple juice for chronic dysentery and as an anti-diarrheal remedy. It is also believed to possess sudorific or sweat-inducing properties. The juice extracted from the cashew apple can also serve as an ointment for aches of rheumatism and neuralgia.

In South America, it is used to prepare sauces, jams, and curries, and it is also fermented into vinegar and liquor. It is not very popular because of its acidic taste, owing to the presence of a layer on its skin that can lead to allergic reactions on the throat or tongue, making it non-palatable. It can be consumed only after steaming or boiling for a few minutes.

Cashew Seed – Oil extracted from cashew seeds are widely used in curing cracked heels. Powdered cashew seeds have anti-venom effects and are used for treating snake bites.

Cashew Stem – Gum extracted from the cashew stem is used as a varnish for wood works and books.

A Few Words of Caution Regarding Cashews

Kidney Stones: Cashews contains oxalate salts, which interfere with the absorption of calcium in the body. The accumulated calcium can result in the formation of kidney stones. Research conducted on this topic has made it clear that people who are prone to develop kidney stones should consider eating only small to moderate amounts of cashew nuts.

Cashew Allergy: Despite a number of health benefits, the consumption of cashews can cause health hazards to those who are allergic to tree nuts. It is informative to know that along with the changing national standards in food manufacturing, handling, and processing practices, such allergies also vary for different regions or countries.

Allergic reactions caused by tree nuts such as cashews, walnuts, and pistachios can be mild or severe. They can lead to one or more of the complications explained below.

Contact DermatitisContact dermatitis is an itchy skin ailment caused as a result of the skin coming in contact with the allergen. Hives and swelling can develop around the mouth or other parts that have come in contact with the nuts or their shells. The anacardic acid present in cashews, which is also the reason for the vesicative activity of the cashew nut shell liquid, can lead to acute skin rashes and allergies.

Gastrointestinal Discomfort– Some people might experience nausea, diarrhea, abdominal cramping, coughing, and vomiting if they have an allergy to cashews.

Breathing Difficulties– Runny nose, coughing, and shortness of breath can often be felt.

More severe reactions can result in a fatal condition like glottis edema or anaphylaxis.

AnaphylaxisAnaphylaxis is a fast progressive allergic reaction that can happen to the whole body due to some substance or chemical to which the body has developed sensitivity. It is most commonly triggered by food allergies.  As demonstrated by various research studies, cashew nuts can pose a high risk of anaphylaxis. It can lead to symptoms like noisy breathing, unconsciousness, pale appearance, swelling of the tongue or throat, and hoarseness in the voice. Anaphylaxis is a medical emergency and should be given the utmost attention.

It is advisable to consult doctors if one develops any allergies after consuming cashews.

Nuts – Barring a few exceptions, they are a healthy option to be included in the diet. If consumed in appropriate quantities, they can help maintain a robust and steady state of health. Especially for vegetarians or vegans who avoid meat, nuts can stand as a good alternative to compensate for their share of essential nutrients.

Get Set – Go Nuts!!!

This article is a combination of materials from two major sources:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cashew and https://www.organicfacts.net/health-benefits/seed-and-nut/health-benefits-of-cashews.html

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The cashew tree (Anacardium occidentale) is a tropical evergreen tree that produces the cashew seed and the cashew apple. It can grow as high as 14 m (46 ft), but the dwarf cashew, growing up to 6 metres (20 ft), has proved more profitable, with earlier maturity and higher yields. The cashew seed, often...