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, acaje.
It is now widely grown in tropical climates for its cashew
nuts (see below) and cashew apples.
History of the Name
Anacardium refers to the shape of the fruit, which looks
like an inverted heart (cardium means heart).
Habitat and growth
It is a small
evergreen tree growing to 32 foot tall, with a short,
often irregularly shaped trunk. The leaves are spirally
arranged, leathery textured, elliptic to obovate with a
smooth margin. The flowers are produced in a panicle or
corymb, each flower small, pale green at first then
turning reddish, with five slender, acute petals.
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
Cashews are a staple in vegan diets. They are used as a
base in sauces and gravies. It also can take on sweet
properties for frostings and cookies. Raw cashews can also
be made into a vegan milk (in a manner similar to almond
milk) known as nut milk. They are an excellent source of
protein and a raw, natural source of energy.
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 Malaysia, 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
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 wafer.
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