May 2008

Vegetation Profile: Cashew


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. 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” and cashew apples.

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. 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 nuts or peanuts.

I was at the Ho Tram Spa and Resort a few weeks back for work and snapped a shot of these cashew apples and nuts during a tour of the facilities. Since I was there on business rather than pleasure, I couldn’t snatch it down to taste. What a shame!

According to Vietnam News, Vietnam led the world in cashew export sales for the second time last year exporting 153,000 tons of nuts, up 20.6 percent over the previous year.

According to the FAO, Vietnam produced 941,600 tons of cashews in 2006, followed by Nigeria with 636,000 tons and India with 573,000 tons.

Although most people associate Vietnam with fish sauce and pho, there’s no denying that the world is nuts for Vietnam’s cashews!

Oh, god. I can’t believe I just wrote that.

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4 thoughts on “Vegetation Profile: Cashew

  1. As far as I remember those fruits don’t taste good though. One thing I find special about cashew nuts is the fact that they are not “inside” the fruits…

  2. I love cashews. My dad works in Vietnam and he does not fail to bring home several bags of it for us to enjoy. Btw, I love reading your blog. keep it up!

  3. wow what a nice place to visit for business! but the article says that there is a skin irritant similar to poison oak surrounding the nut, so maybe it’s better you didn’t grab it.

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