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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 Brazilmarker. Its English name derives from the Portuguese name for the fruit of the cashew tree, caju, which in turn derives from the indigenous Tupi name, acajú. It is now widely grown in tropical climates for its cashew "nuts" (see below) and cashew apples.

'Anacardium occidentale', from Koehler's 'Medicinal-Plants' (1887)
Cashew tree
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, but the skin is fragile, 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. 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, anacardic acid, a potent skin irritant chemically related to the more well known allergenic oil urushiol which is also a toxin found in the related poison ivy. Some people are allergic to cashew nuts, but cashews are a less frequent allergen than nuts or peanuts.


Medicine and industry

Cashew nuts, salted

The cashew nutshell liquid (CNSL), a by-product of processing cashew, is mostly composed of anacardic acids. These acids have been used effectively against tooth abscesses 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 Guyanamarker 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 heels.

Anacardic acid is also used in the chemical industry for the production of cardanol, which is used for resins, coatings, and frictional materials.


Cashew nuts, roasted and salted
The cashew nut is a popular snack, and its rich flavor means that it is often eaten on its own, lightly salted or sugared. Cashew nuts are sold covered in chocolate, but due to their higher price compared to peanuts and almonds, cashews are not as common in candy except from higher quality manufacturers.

Cashew nuts also factor in Thai cuisine and Chinese cuisine, generally in whole form, and in Indian cuisine, often ground into sauces such as shahi korma, and also used as garnish in Indian sweets and desserts.The cashew nut can also be used in cheese alternatives for vegans, typically in homemade cheese recipes.

In Malaysiamarker, the young leaves are often eaten raw as salad or with sambal belacan (shrimp paste mixed with chili and lime).

In Brazil, the cashew fruit juice is popular all across the country. Additionally, visitors to northeastern areas such as Fortaleza will often find cashew nut vendors selling the nuts for low cost, salted in a plastic bag upon purchase.

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


In Goamarker, India, the pseudofruit is mashed and mixed with water and sugar and used to make Feni (a popular liquor) by fermentation.

In the southern region of Mtwaramarker, Tanzania, the pseudofruit (bibo in Kiswahili) 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.

Common names

Acajaiba, acajou, acajé (Tupi), kaju (Urdu, Hindi, Gujarati), acajuiba, alcayoiba, anacarde, anacardier, anacardo, andi parippu (Malayalam), cacajuil, cajou, caju (Portuguese), anacardo, cajueiro, cajuilcasho, cashu, castaña de cajú (Spanish), gajus (Malay),kajjubee (Konkani) godambi (Kannada), hạt điều (Vietnamese), jambu, jambu golok, jambu mente, jambu monyet, jambu terong, jigaboo (Indonesian), jeedi pappu (Telugu), jocote de marañón, kadju (Sinhala), kasoy (Tagalog), marañón, merey, mundhiri paruppu, sarsgorilla (Tamil), noix d’acajou, pajuil, pomme, pomme cajou, mamuang himmaphan (มะม่วงหิมพานต์) (Thai), korosho (Kiswahili), indijski orah (Serbian), indijski orešček and akažu (Slovenian).

See also


Cashew Fruit- Stages of DevelopmentImage:Inflor_young_fruit.JPG|Cashew Inflorescence with developing fruitImage:Mature_cashew.JPG|A mature cashew apple ready to be harvestedImage:Harvested_cashew.JPG| Harvested Cashew ready to be processed- Goa India

Further reading

  • Morton, Julia F. Fruits of Warm Climates. ISBN 978-0961018412
  • Pillai, Rajmohan and Santha, P. The World Cashew Industry (Rajan Pillai Foundation, Kollam, 2008).


External links

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