cashew apple

What do You Really Know About Cashews?

The cashew nut grows far differently from most other nuts. Rather than a nut encased in an inedible fruit, cashews grow outside of an edible fruit called a cashew apple. This fruit is actually not a fruit at all, making it quite confusing.

The cashew tree, Anacardium occidentale L, can grow to 40 feet tall in tropical climates. It will not tolerate temperatures approaching freezing. The trees are native to tropical America from Mexico and the West Indies to Brazil and Peru.  They are quite attractive, with broad leaves and little pink flowers. The fruits begin to appear when the trees are around 3 years but come into full production at around 8 to 10 years. The trees are now grown in Africa, Vietnam and India for nut crops.

In English, the fruits are called Cashew Apples, though there is no resemblance to an apple. The part that looks like a fruit is actually an accessory fruit, and not a true fruit at all. The real fruit is the kidney shaped protuberance containing the cashew nut that grows from the bottom end of the cashew apple. The fleshy cashew apple resembles a pear in shape with yellow, orange or reddish skin. The skin and inner flesh are very soft, making the fruits unsuitable for shipping.

The cashew nut is surrounded by a very hard double shell casing. Inside this shell is contained a highly toxic oil that can cause severe burns to the skin. If one is very allergic to this oil, ingestion could be fatal. It will at least cause a skin reaction in most people. Because of the toxicity of this oil, it makes removal of the cashew nut difficult. Mechanizing this process has been unsuccessful, and must be done by hand. The seed casing must be heated by proper roasting which will destroy the oil toxins. This process must be done outdoors, as the toxic oils in the shell can squirt out onto the skin or be released into the air and cause severe lung damage, as when burning poison ivy. In fact the oils are chemically related to the urushiols in poison ivy. Anyone allergic to poison ivy has the possibility of allergy to parts of the cashew. If done properly, the extraction of the cashew nut leaves them perfectly edible. If one wonders at the cost of cashews, this is the reason why.

Cashew apples are quite mouth puckering and leave behind an odd feeling on the tongue. They are used to make refreshing beverages. They contain up to five times more vitamin C than oranges, plus a high amount of mineral salts. In countries where cashew apples are common, another use is making wine or other liquor from the fleshy accessory fruits. In Guatemala, maranon wine is made and used. One of the applications is its addition to the popular marinade called Chinichurri. In Goa, India, there is a liquor made from these fruits. These fleshy fruits can also be made into jam or other sweets, or dried.

Cashews are delicious. They are great as a snack on their own, either raw or roasted and salted. In many countries, ground cashews are used as a thickening agent, such as in some Indian curries. Soaked and ground raw cashews are used to make cheese or sour cream substitutes in raw food or vegan diets. Cashew butter is made like peanut butter, and is delicious on toast. It can be used to make cashew butter cookies. Add a handful to any stir fry or curry. Top elegant saffron rice with a handful of toasted cashew nuts. Cashew Chicken gets its name from the addition of these nuts.

Cashew nuts are less high in calories than most nuts, and packed with soluble dietary fiber, vitamins and minerals. They are rich in heart friendly monounsaturated fats and pack 5 grams of protein per ounce. They are a rich source of essential minerals such as manganese, potassium, copper, iron, magnesium, zinc and selenium and are also high in B vitamins.

My name is Chris Rawstern and I have been on a cooking and baking journey for 42 years. Many people have asked what A Harmony of Flavors means. Have you ever had a meal where the visual presentation was stunning, the smells were incredible, the taste was so remarkable that you ate slowly savoring every bite, wishing the experience would never end? Then you have experienced what a truly harmonious meal can be like.

My passion is to teach people how to create a Harmony of Flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Sign up for my Newsletter to follow all of our events.

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Raw Vegan Bliss Balls

Put into your blender two handfuls of dates and one of sultanas; add another handful of your favorite nuts and dried fruit, as well as a good amount of healthy seeds and some raw cacao and/or spices (I love using cinnamon in pretty much everything). Blend until you have a sticky texture (you may want to add some melted coconut oil if it turns out too dry). With your hands form little balls and roll them through some shredded coconut, cacao, matcha, cinnamon or what ever you feel like. Store in fridge to keep fresh and enjoy these blissful bundles of energy! 

I used dates, sultanas, dried apples, almonds, cashew nuts, pumpkin seeds, goji berries, sesame seeds, chia seeds, raw cacao and some virgin coconut oil for these ones.