There are so many things you likely don’t know about the cashew nut and fruit. They’re good for you. They’re used in so many things we use every day. They go through a huge process from the plant to your kitchen. And they are very strange looking.
Cashew nuts are widely celebrated for its phenomenal nutritional qualities. They have been known to help:
- diminish migraines
- improve cognitive ability
- lower blood pressure
- protect against heart disease and cancer
- strengthen bones
- protect skin from UV damage
- improve joint flexibility, and much more
Add to that the fact that it contains zero cholesterol and primarily the “good” kind of fat – oleic acid, also found in olive oil – and you have yourself a nut that stands out amongst the rest.
Originally native to northeastern Brazil and introduced to the rest of the world by way of Goa, India, by the Portuguese in the 16th century, the cashew tree is now widely grown in tropical regions especially India, Vietnam and the Philippines amongst others.
Cashews can be harvested before they’re ripe, but at this point the toxic shell is also quite corrosive. This means gloves are required to cut the soft shell with a knife to extract the still-green kernel, with the kernel then soaked in turmeric to get rid of the corrosive material before use.
In fact, the nuts themselves must be roasted with extreme care before packaging because the resultant smoke can be life-threatening. In fact, an amazing amount of work goes into the production, as you can see in the video.
Why so toxic and corrosive? Well, to ward off animals, of course. In fact, the shell has also been used to develop insecticides, fungicides, varnish and even as an additive to brake fluid in cars.
The cashew nut is also a common staple in many countries’ cuisine – including as a nut paste in Indian curry dishes such as korma, in Filipino desserts such as torrones de casuy, salted and roasted nuts in Indonesia’s kacang mete, and as powdered nuts with mashed potatoes in the Mozambique specialty bolo polana.
Likewise, the cashew fruit – which in most places is just an accessory to the nut itself – is popularly processed into many different products. It’s been made into a liqueur called feni which is exclusively made in Goa, India, and as a sweetener in Indian curries. It is also the main ingredient in the very popular Brazilian cashew fruit juice. Mostly, though, it’s fed to livestock and can easily stain clothing.
It’s likely that on a Nezasa trip, you’ll see or at least drive past a cashew nut farm especially in India, the Philippines or Vietnam. Now that you know much more about cashews than you did 10 minutes ago, you’ll certainly appreciate seeing these remarkable trees in their natural habitat.