Cashew nuts are crisp, kidney-shaped nuts with a slightly sweet and buttery flavor.
The cashew, scientific name Anacardium occidentale, is a tree in the family Anacardiaceae which produces a seed that is harvested as the cashew nut. Its English name derives from the Portuguese name for the fruit of the cashew tree, caju (Portuguese pronunciation: [kɐˈʒu]), which itself is derived from the indigenous Tupi name, acajú. Originally native to northeastern Brazil, the tree is now widely grown in tropical climates for its cashew apples and nuts.
The cashew nut is a popular snack and food source. Nigeria was the world’s largest producer of cashew nuts with shell in 2010.
The cashew nut is a popular snack and food source. Cashews, unlike other oily tree nuts, contain starch to about 10% of their weight. This makes them more effective than other nuts in thickening water-based dishes such as soups, meat stews, and some Indian milk-based desserts. Many southeast Asian and south Asian cuisines use cashews for this unusual characteristic, rather than other nuts.
The shell of the cashew nut is toxic, which is why the shell is removed before it is sold to consumers.
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.
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 still 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. This is mostly found in Keralan cuisine, typically in avial, a dish that contains several vegetables, grated coconut, turmeric, and green chilies.
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 (literally means 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.
South American countries have developed their own specialities. 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.
To toast cashews:
Spread the nuts on a baking sheet and place in a preheated 325 degrees F. Cook until golden brown, about 10 minutes.