CASHEW NUT FRUIT of the tropical tree Anacardium occidentale,
generally eaten roasted and salted. The nut hangs from the true fruit,
a large fleshy but sour apple-like fruit, which is very rich in vitamin
C. A 30-g portion of roasted salted nuts (30 nuts) is a source of protein,
niacin, iron, and zinc; contains 15?g of fat, of which 20% is saturated
and 60% mono-unsaturated; provides 180?kcal (755?kJ).
© A Dictionary of Food and Nutrition 2005, originally published
by Oxford University Press 2005.
The cashew tree is a curious plant with multiple uses, yet
we are only familiar with one of its fruits, the cashew nut. The cashew
tree also produces an edible, pear-shaped fruit called the cashew apple.
The cashew apple, extremely rich in vitamin C, is eaten raw, as well
as made into jam, marmalade, candy, and juices. In Brazil, one of the
areas where the cashew tree grows indigenously, cashew apple juice has
become one of the most popular beverages. The juice can also be fermented
to make an alcoholic beverage. Because the cashew apple spoils quickly,
it cannot be exported; we can only enjoy it on a visit to Brazil.
The cashew tree is native to South America where it flourishes in Brazil
and Peru. In the sixteenth century, Portuguese traders introduced the
tree to India where it has more recently become an important export
crop equal to that of Brazil. Other countries that grow and export cashews
include Sri Lanka, China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, Colombia,
Guatemala, Venezuela, the West Indies, Nigeria, Mozambique, Tanzania,
and Kenya. The United States is the largest importer of cashew nuts.
In addition to being an excellent food source, the nut yields
an oil used in flavoring and cooking foods. The tree produces a sap
or gum sometimes used in bookbinding and often incorporated into a varnish
used to protect woodwork from insect damage. The cashew nut shell produces
an oil used in the manufacture of brake linings and is sometimes applied
to metals as an anti-corrosive agent. The shell oil is also used for
waterproofing and as an adhesive. Natives in South America used cashew
nut shell oil in the treatment of scurvy, sores, warts, ringworm and
psoriasis. The oil is found to have potent antibacterial properties.
Not many plants can claim to provide so many benefits.
Many people avoid cashews because of their high fat content,
though they are lower in total fat than almonds, peanuts, pecans, and
walnuts. Cashew provide essential fatty acids, B vitamins, fiber, protein,
carbohydrate potassium, iron, and zinc. Like other nuts, cashews are
high in saturated fat; however, eaten in small quantities cashews are
a highly nutritious food.
Cashews can be enjoyed raw or roasted. Sprinkle them into salads
and grains, use them on top of breakfast cereals, and enjoy cashew butter
on your favorite whole grain breads.
How important is it that the nuts I eat are raw? This is an
important question to consider, as quite frankly, some raw fooders are
excessively concerned with being "100% raw", i.e., with dietary
purity and the quality of the food they eat. Note that nuts are a concentrated
food, and the standard recommendation is to eat nuts in small or modest
The cashew (Anacardium occidentale; syn. Anacardium curatellifolium
A.St.-Hil.) is a tree in the flowering plant family Anacardiaceae. The
plant is native to northeastern Brazil, where it is called by its Portuguese
name Caju (the fruit) or Cajueiro (the tree). It is now widely grown
in tropical climates for its cashew "nuts" (see below) and
It is a small evergreen tree growing to 10-12m (~32 ft) tall,
with a short, often irregularly-shaped trunk. The leaves are spirally
arranged, leathery textured, elliptic to obovate, 4 to 22 cm long and
2 to 15 cm broad, with a smooth margin. The flowers are produced in
a panicle or corymb up to 26 cm long, each flower small, pale green
at first then turning reddish, with five slender, acute petals 7 to
15 mm long.
What appears to be the fruit of the cashew tree is an oval or pear-shaped
accessory fruit or false fruit that develops from 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 long. It is edible, and has
a strong "sweet" smell and a sweet taste. The pulp of the
cashew apple is very juicy, and the skin is fragile, thus making it
unsuitable for transport.
The true fruit of the cashew tree is a kidney or boxing-glove shaped
drupe that grows at the end of the pseudofruit. Actually, the drupe
develops first on the tree, and then the peduncle expands into the pseudofruit.
Within the true fruit is a single seed, the cashew nut. Although a nut
in the culinary sense, in the botanical sense the fruit of the cashew
is a seed. The seed is surrounded by a double shell containing a dermatogenic
phenolic resin, urushiol, a potent skin irritant toxin also found in
the related poison ivy. Some people are allergic to cashew nuts, but
cashews are a less frequent allergen than some nuts.
Other vernacular names include cajueiro, cashu, casho, acajuiba, caju,
acajou, acaju, acajaiba, alcayoiba, anacarde, anacardier, anacardo,
Andi parippu (in Malayalam), cacajuil, cajou, gajus, godambi (in Kannada),
jeedi pappu (in Telugu), jocote maranon, maranon, merey, Mundhiri paruppu
(Tamil), noix d’acajou, pomme cajou, pomme, jambu, jambu golok,
jambu mete, jambu monyet, jambu terong, kasoy. In the Antilles, in Puerto
Rico, it is known as pajuil and in the Dominican Republic as the cajuil.
The pseudofruit is the main part used as raw fruit.
Cashew nut output in 2005
Originally spread from Brazil by the Portuguese, the cashew tree is
now cultivated in all regions with a sufficiently warm and humid climate.
Cashew is produced in around 32 countries of the world. The world production
figures of cashew crop, published by the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization
(FAO), was around 3.1 million tons per annum. The major raw cashew producing
countries with their production figures in 2006 (as per the FAO) are
Vietnam (941,600 tons), Nigeria (636,000 tons), India (573,000 tons),
Brazil (236,140 tons) and Indonesia (122,000 tons).
World’s total area under the cultivation of cashew is around 33,900
km². India ranks first in area utilized for cashew production,
though its yields are relatively low. The world’s average yield
is 817 pounds per acre (916 kg/hectare) of land
Collectively, Vietnam, Nigeria, India and Brazil account for more than
90% of all cashew kernel exports. Some varieties of cashews come from
Kollam or Quilon in Kerala, Southern India which alone produces 4,000
tons of cashews per annum. The major trading centers of cashew in India
are Palasa, Kollam or Quilon Mangalore and Kochi.
The cashew apple is used for its juicy but acidic pulp, which
can be eaten raw or used in the production of jam, chutney, or various
beverages. Depending on local customs, its juice is also processed and
distilled into liquor or consumed diluted and sugared as a refreshing
drink, Cajuína. Ripe cashew apples also make good caipirinha.
In Goa, India, the cashew apple is the source of juicy pulp used to
prepare feni, a locally popular distilled liquor. In Nicaragua the cashew
apple has many uses, it is often eaten or made into juice and also processed
to create sweets and jellies. Other uses in Nicaragua include fermentation
to produce wine and home-vinegar. The cashew apple contains much
tannin and is very perishable. For this reason, in many parts of the
world, the false fruit is simply discarded after removal of the cashew
The urushiol must be removed from the dark green nut shells before the
seed inside is processed for consumption; this is done by shelling the
nuts, a somewhat hazardous process, and exceedingly painful skin rashes
(similar to poison-ivy rashes) among processing workers are common.
In India urushiol is traditionally used to control tamed elephants by
their mahouts (riders or keepers). The so-called "raw cashews"
available in health food shops have been cooked but not roasted or browned.
Cashew nuts are a common ingredient in Asian cooking. They can also
be ground into a spread called cashew butter similar to peanut butter.
Cashews have a very high oil content, and they are used in some other
nut butters to add extra oil. Cashews contain 180 calories per ounce
(6 calories per gram), 70% of which are from fat.
The liquid contained within the shell casing of the cashew, known as
Cashew Nut Shell Liquid (CNSL), has a variety of industrial uses which
were first developed in the 1930s. CNSL is fractionated in a process
similar to the distillation of petroleum, and has two primary end products:
solids that are pulverized and used as friction particle for brake linings,
and an amber-colored liquid that is aminated to create phenalkamine
curing agents and resin modifiers. Phenalkamines are primarily used
in epoxy coatings for the marine and flooring markets, as they have
intense hydrophobic properties and are capable of remaining chemically
active at low temperatures.
Anacardic acids found in cashews have been used effectively in vivo
against tooth abcesses due to their lethality to gram positive bacteria.
They are also active against a wide range of other gram positive bacteria.
Many parts of the plant are used by the Patamona of Guyana medicinally.
The bark is scraped and soaked overnight or boiled as an antidiarrheal.
Seeds are ground up into powders used for antivenom for snake bites.
The nut oil is used topically as an antifungal and for healing cracked
Botanical: Anacardium occidentale (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Anacardiaceae
---Habitat---Jamaica, West Indies, and other parts of tropical America.
---Description---A medium-sized tree, beautiful, and not unlike
in appearance the walnut tree, with oval blunt alternate leaves
and scented rose-coloured panicles of bloom - the tree produces
a fleshy receptacle, commonly called an apple, at the end of which
the kidney-shaped nut is borne; the end of it which is attached
to the apple, is much bigger than the other. The outer shell is
ashy colour, very smooth, the kernel is covered with an inner shell,
and between the two shells is found a thick inflammable caustic
oil, which will raise blisters on the skin and be dangerously painful
if the nuts are cracked with the teeth.
---Constituents---Two peculiar principles have been found: Anacardic
Acid and a yellow oleaginous liquid Cardol.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---The oil must be used with great caution,
but has been successfully applied to corns, warts, ringworms, cancerous
ulcers and even elephantiasis, and has been used in beauty culture
to remove the skin of the face in order to grow a new one. The nuts
are eaten either fresh or roasted, and contain a milky juice which
is used in puddings. The older nuts are roasted and salted and the
dried and broken kernels are sometimes imported to mix with old
Madeira as they greatly improve its flavour. In roasting great care
must be taken not to let the fumes cover the face or hands etc.,
as they cause acute inflammation an external poisoning. Ground and
mixed with cocoa the nuts make a good chocolate. The fruit is a
reddy yellow and has a pleasant sub-acid stringent taste, the expressed
juice of the fruit makes a good wine, and if distilled, a spirit
much better than arrack or rum. The fruit itself is edible, and
its juice has been found of service in uterine complaints and dropsy.
It is a powerful diuretic. The black juice of the nut and the milky
juice from the tree after incision are made into an indelible marking-ink-
the stems of the flowers also give a milky juice which when dried
is hard and black and is used as a varnish. A gum is also found
in the plant having the same qualities as gumarabic; it is imported
from South America under the name of Cadjii gum, and used by South
American bookbinders, who wash their books with it to keep away
moths and ants. The caustic oil found in the layers of the fruit
is sometimes rubbed into the floors of houses in India to keep white
The Oriental Anacardium or Cashew Nut (Semecarpus anacardium), a
native of India, has similar qualities to the West Indian Cashew,
and is said to contain an alkaloid called Chuchunine.
Ammonium anarcadate. This is the Ammonium compound of beta and delta
resinous acids of A. occidentale (Cashew Nut), and is used as a
hair-dye, but cannot be used with acids, acid salts, or acetate
It got its name Anacardium because of its heartlike shape. The
actual nut is attached to the lower end of the fruit (the cashew
apple). Locally, this fruit is used in beverages, jams, and jellies.
After the fruit is picked (by hand), the nut is detached and sun-dried.
Before the nut can be eaten, there are 2 shells and a skin that
must be removed. The outer shell contains a poisonous oil that
can blister the skin; it was once believed that uncooked cashew
nuts were also poisonous. However, the shell oil does not in any
way contaminate the raw nut. To remove this shell, and to get
rid of this oil, the nuts are either placed among burning logs
until the oil catches fire (the fumes of which are injurious to
the eyes and skin) or put in modern roasting cylinders. Later,
the inner shells are cracked open, also by hand, and the kernels
heated to remove the skins. The cashew tree grows in Central and
South America, the West Indies, East Africa, and India (from which
the U.S. imports 64% of its supply). A delicious and nutritious
drink can be made by blending 1 cup cashews, 1 quart water, 1
tbs. soy oil, 2 tbs. raw honey, and 1/4 tsp. salt.
Cashews The cashew nut tree is a tropical tree in the
plant family Anacardiacae. Other plants in the same family include
the mango, the pistachio, and some less pleasant plants: poison
ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac.
The raw cashew nut is enclosed in a tough, leathery shell
that contains caustic, toxic substances including cardol and anacardic
acid (similar to the active ingredients of poison ivy). Despite
their caustic nature, these compounds have economic value and
are used in industry. Together they are extracted in processing,
as cashew nut shell liquid, referred to as CNSL.
Thus the challenge in cashew processing is to separate
the edible nut from the toxic CNSL. Because of this, cashews require
more extensive processing than other nuts. From the raw-fooder
perspective, the important points in processing are as follows.
1) Pre-conditioning: the in-shell nuts are piled in heaps and
kept wet with water for 1-2 days, -or- the in-shell nuts are steamed
for 8-10 minutes. 2) Pre-treatment: the in-shell nuts are then
immersed in a hot oil bath, kept at 170-200 deg C, for about 90
seconds. The oil bath removes some of the CNSL, and conditions
the nut for shelling. Following the oil bath, the nuts may be
placed in a heated centrifuge for further CNSL extraction. 3)
Shelling: mechanical or manual (Indian factories use mostly manual
labor) 4) Drying: the kernels are dried to a moisture content
of 3%, in special chambers, at 70 degrees C, for about 6 hours.
5) Peeling - manual (as needed), or other process. One process
calls for freezing the kernels, then peeling them automatically
in a revolving drum.
Note that Orkos, the well-known supplier for instinctive
eaters in France, sells shelled cashews that are apparently truly
raw. Also, if you live in or visit certain tropical countries,
you may be able to obtain raw, in-shell cashews (but then you
face the difficult, potentially dangerous, problem of how to shell
Remarks: not sproutable; cashews ferment quickly if you
try to sprout them. Recommendations: the "raw" cashew
may be steamed, deep-fried, and partially baked. They are devitalized.
Citation for USADA Data: USDA National Nutrient Database
for Standard Reference, Release 17; 2004.
USDA Food Composition Data: http://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/foodcomp/Data/
*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet.
Nuts and seeds are rich in unsaturated fat and other nutrients
that may reduce inflammation. Frequent nut consumption is associated
with lower levels of inflammatory markers, and lower risk of cardiovascular
disease and type 2 diabetes. In most cases, it is healthier to
consume nuts in the raw state as opposed to roasted. Nuts have
many nutritional benefits: they are high in monounsaturated and
polyunsaturated fats, fiber, vitamin, minerals, and phytonutrients.
Most nuts contain many minerals, including magnesium. Population
studies indicate that individuals who regularly consume nuts have
reduced risk for cardiovascular disease and diabetes. In clinical
trials, nuts appear to have a neutral effect on glucose and insulin,
and a beneficial effect on lipid profile. Thus, nuts can be a
healthy dietary component for individuals with diabetes or those
at risk for diabetes, providing overall caloric intake is regulated
to maintain a healthy body weight.
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