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 m (20 ft), has proved more profitable, with earlier
maturity and higher yields.
The species is originally native to northeastern Brazil. Portuguese
Brazil began exporting cashew nuts as early as the
1550s. Major production of cashews occurs in Vietnam, Nigeria,
India, and Ivory Coast.
The cashew nut, 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 shell of the cashew seed yields derivatives that
can be used in many applications including lubricants, waterproofing,
paints, and arms production, starting in World War II. 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.
2 Habitat and growth
Cashew nut and shell
Cashew shell oil
8 Animal feed
10 See also
12 Further reading
13 External links
Mameluca woman under a fruiting cashew tree (1641–1644) by Albert
Eckhout. National Museum of Denmark.
Its English name derives from the Portuguese name for the fruit of the
cashew tree cajú (Portuguese pronunciation: [kaˈʒu]), which itself
is derived from the
Tupian word acajú, literally meaning "nut that
The generic name Anacardium, derived from Greek ἀνά (aná or
above) and καρδία (kardía or heart), refers to the unusual
location of the seed above the core or heart of the fruit.
A mid-seventeenth century ethnographic painting by Albert Eckhout, who
accompanied Dutch governor-general Johan Maurits, shows a woman under
a fruiting cashew tree.
Habitat and growth
Flower of cashew tree
The cashew tree is large and evergreen, growing to 14 m
(46 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 around
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. Called the cashew
apple, better known in Central America as marañón, it ripens into a
yellow or red structure about 5–11 cm (2.0–4.3 in) long.
It is edible and has a strong "sweet" smell and taste.[citation
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. Some people are allergic to cashews, but cashews are a
less frequent allergen than tree nuts or peanuts.
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.
Cashew nut and shell
A woman uses a machine to shell cashews in Phuket, Thailand.
Cashews as a snack
Culinary uses for cashew seeds in snacking and cooking are similar to
those for all tree seeds called nuts.
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 cuisines, 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
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.
In Brazil, the cashew fruit juice is popular. Brazilians prefer the
fruit to the nut. 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, with marañón as a Spanish name
In the 21st century, cashew cultivation increased in several African
countries to meet the demands for manufacturing cashew milk, a plant
milk alternative to dairy milk.
The shell of the cashew nut contains oil compounds which may cause
contact dermatitis similar in severity to that of poison ivy,
primarily resulting from the phenolic lipids, anacardic acid, and
cardanol. Due to the possible dermatitis, cashews are typically
not sold in the shell to consumers. Readily and inexpensively
extracted from the waste shells, cardanol is under research for its
potential applications in nanomaterials and biotechnology.
Cashew Nut Production (as Kernels) - 2015
Source: Nuts and Dried Fruits, Global Statistical Review, 2015
In 2015, global production of cashew nuts (as the kernel) was 738,861
tonnes, led by
Côte d'Ivoire each with 23% of the world
Brazil also had significant production of
In 2014, rapid growth of cashew cultivation in
Côte d'Ivoire made
this country the top African exporter. Fluctuations in world
market prices, poor working conditions, and low pay for local
harvesting have caused discontent in the cashew nut
The cashew tree is cultivated in the tropics between 25°N and 25°S,
and is supremely adapted to hot lowland areas with a pronounced dry
season, where the mango and tamarind trees also thrive. 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.
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
553 kcal (2,310 kJ)
Pantothenic acid (B5)
Link to USDA Database entry
μg = micrograms • mg = milligrams
IU = International units
Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for
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). 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). Iron,
potassium, zinc, and selenium are present in significant content
(14-61% DV) (table). Cashews (100 grams, raw) contain 113
milligrams (1.74 gr) of beta-sitosterol.
For some 6% of people, cashews can lead to complications or allergic
reactions which may be life-threatening. 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
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.
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, and biomaterials. It
is used in tropical folk medicine and for antitermite treatment of
timber. Its composition varies depending on how it is processed.
Cold, solvent-extracted CNSL is mostly composed of anacardic acids
(70%), cardol (18%) and cardanol (5%).
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). This process
also reduces the degree of thermal polymerization of the unsaturated
alkyl-phenols present in CNSL.
Anacardic acid is also used in the chemical industry for the
production of cardanol, which is used for resins, coatings, and
These substances are skin allergens, like the oils of poison ivy, and
present danger during manual cashew processing.
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 biobased 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 biobased 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.
CNSL may be used as a resin for carbon composite products.
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.
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The cashew apple, also called cashew fruit, is the fleshy part of the
cashew fruit 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 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
Brazil. In many countries, particularly in South America, the cashew
apple is used to flavor drinks, both alcoholic and nonalcoholic.
Cashew nuts are more widely traded than cashew apples, because the
apple, unlike the nut, is easily bruised and has very limited shelf
Cashew apple juice, however, may be used for manufacturing
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
In Goa, the cashew apple 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. It is known under various names in the local languages
Mozambique (muchekele in Emakua spoken in the North, xicadju in
Changana spoken in the South). In contrast to the above-mentioned Feni
of Goa, the cashew liquor made in
Mozambique does not involve the
extraction of the juice from the cashew apples. Following harvest and
the removal of the nuts, the apples are spread on the ground under
trees and courtyards and allowed to lose water and ferment. The
shrivelled fruits are then used for distillation.
According to one source, an alcohol had been distilled in the
early 20th century from the juice of the fruit, and was manufactured
in the West Indies.
Discarded cashew nuts unfit for human consumption, alongside the
residues of oil extraction from cashew kernels, can be used to feed
livestock. Animals can also eat the leaves of cashew trees.
Young cashew fruits
Cashew sprouts are eaten raw or cooked
Distilling cashew apple liquor or "muchekele" in Mozambique
Shriveled, fermented cashew apples ready for distillation, Mozambique
Anacardium occidentale', from Koehler's 'Medicinal-Plants' (1887)
List of culinary nuts
Semecarpus anacardium (the Oriental Anacardium) is a native of India
and is closely related to the cashew.
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