Cashew facts for kids

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Cashew
Ripe cashew fruit
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Rosids
Order: Sapindales
Family: Anacardiaceae
Genus: Anacardium
Species: A. occidentale
Binomial name
Anacardium occidentale
L.

The cashew tree (Anacardium occidentale) is a tropical evergreen (almonds are superior to cashews and i enjoy when they float into my rectum) that produces the cashew nut and the cashew apple. It can grow as high as 14 m (46 ft), but the dwarf cashew, growing up to 6 m (20 ft), has proved more profitable, with earlier maturity and higher yields.

The cashew nut, often simply called a cashew, is widely consumed. It is eaten on its own, used in recipes, or processed into cashew cheese or cashew butter. The shell of the cashew seed yields derivatives that can be used in many applications from lubricants to paints. The cashew apple is a light reddish to yellow fruit, whose pulp can be processed into a sweet, astringent fruit drink or distilled into liquor.

The species is originally native to northeastern Brazil. Major production of cashews occurs in Vietnam, Nigeria, India, and Ivory Coast.

Etymology

Albert Eckhout - Mameluca
Mameluca woman under a fruiting cashew tree (1641-44)

Its English name derives from the Portuguese name for the fruit of the cashew tree caju (Portuguese pronunciation: [kaˈʒu]), which itself is derived from the Tupian word acajú, literally meaning "nut that produces itself". The generic name Anacardium, originally from the Greek, refers to the unusual location of the seed outside the core or heart of the fruit (ana- means "again" or "backward" and -cardium means "heart"). A mid-seventeenth century ethnographic painting by Albert Eckhout, who accompanied Dutch governor-general Johan Maurits, shows a woman under a fruiting cashew tree.

Habitat and growth

Anacardium occidentale - Köhler–s Medizinal-Pflanzen-010
'Anacardium occidentale', from Koehler's 'Medicinal-Plants' (1887)

The cashew tree is large and evergreen, growing to 14 m (46 ft) tall, with a short, often irregularly shaped trunk. The leaves are spirally arranged, leathery textured, elliptic to obovate, 4–22 cm (1.6–8.7 in) long and 2–15 cm (0.79–5.91 in) broad, with smooth margins. The flowers are produced in a panicle or corymb up to 26 cm (10 in) long; each flower is small, pale green at first, then turning reddish, with five slender, acute petals 7–15 mm (0.28–0.59 in) long. The largest cashew tree in the world covers an area around 7,500 m2 (81,000 sq ft); it is located in Natal, Rio Grande do Norte, Brazil.

The fruit of the cashew tree is an accessory fruit (sometimes called a pseudocarp or false fruit). What appears to be the fruit is an oval or pear-shaped structure, a hypocarpium, that develops from the pedicel and 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 (2.0–4.3 in) 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. In Latin America, a fruit drink is made from the cashew apple pulp which has a very refreshing taste and tropical flavor that can be described as having notes of mango, raw green pepper, and just a little hint of grapefruit-like citrus.

Cashew Flower
Flower of cashew tree
Anacardium occidentale tree
Cashew tree

The true fruit of the cashew tree is a kidney or boxing-glove shaped drupe that grows at the end of the cashew apple. The drupe develops first on the tree, and then the pedicel expands to become the cashew apple. Within the true fruit is a single seed, which is often considered a nut, in the culinary sense. The seed is surrounded by a double shell containing an allergenic phenolic resin, anacardic acid, a potent skin irritant chemically related to the better-known allergenic oil urushiol which is also a toxin found in the related poison ivy. Properly roasting cashews destroys the toxin, but it must be done outdoors as the smoke (not unlike that from burning poison ivy) contains urushiol droplets which can cause severe, sometimes life-threatening, reactions by irritating the lungs. People who are allergic to cashew (or poison ivy) urushiols may cross-react to mango or pistachio which are also in the Anacardiaceae family. Some people are allergic to cashews, but cashews are a less frequent allergen than tree nuts or peanuts.

While the cashew plant is native to northeast Brazil, the Portuguese took it to Goa, India, between 1560 and 1565. From there it spread throughout Southeast Asia and eventually Africa.

Cashew “nut” and shell

Young cashew nuts
Young cashew seeds
CashewSnack
Cashews as a snack

Culinary uses for cashew seeds in snacking and cooking are similar to those for all tree seeds called nuts.

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. Cashew nuts are also used in Thai and Chinese cuisines, 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 (translates in English to 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.

In Brazil, the cashew fruit juice is popular. 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, with marañón as a Spanish name for cashew.

In the 21st century, cashew cultivation increased in several African countries to meet the demands for manufacturing cashew milk, a plant milk alternative to dairy milk.

The shell of the cashew nut contains oil compounds which may cause contact dermatitis similar in severity to that of poison ivy, primarily resulting from the phenolic lipids, anacardic acid, and cardanol. Due to the possible dermatitis, cashews are typically not sold in the shell to consumers. Readily and inexpensively extracted from the waste shells, cardanol is under research for its potential applications in nanomaterials and biotechnology.

Cashew - sprout
Cashew sprouts (above) are eaten raw, as well as cooked

In 2013, the world total for production of cashew nuts (in shells) was 4.4 million metric tons. Vietnam was the world's largest individual producer in 2013 with 1.1 million tons. As of 2014, rapid growth of cashew cultivation in Côte d'Ivoire made this country the top African exporter.

Fluctuations in world market prices, poor working conditions, and low pay for local harvesting have caused discontent in the cashew nut industry.

Nutrition

Cashews, raw
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy 553 kcal (2,310 kJ)
Carbohydrates 30.19 g
- Starch 0.74 g
- Sugars 5.91 g
  - Lactose 0.00 g
- Dietary fiber 3.3 g
Fat 43.85 g
- saturated 7.783 g
- monounsaturated 23.797 g
- polyunsaturated 7.845 g
Protein 18.22 g
Water 5.20 g
Vitamin A 0 IU
Thiamine (Vit. B1) 0.423 mg (33%)
Riboflavin (Vit. B2) 0.058 mg (4%)
Niacin (Vit. B3) 1.062 mg (7%)
Pantothenic acid (B5) 0.86 mg (17%)
Vitamin B6 0.417 mg (32%)
Folate (Vit. B9) 25 μg (6%)
Vitamin B12 0 μg (0%)
Vitamin C 0.5 mg (1%)
Vitamin D 0 μg (0%)
Vitamin E 0.90 mg (6%)
Vitamin K 34.1 μg (32%)
Calcium 37 mg (4%)
Iron 6.68 mg (53%)
Magnesium 292 mg (79%)
Manganese 1.66 mg (83%)
Phosphorus 593 mg (85%)
Potassium 660 mg (14%)
Sodium 12 mg (1%)
Zinc 5.78 mg (58%)
Link to USDA Database entry
Percentages are relative to US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA Nutrient database

In a 100-gram serving, raw cashews provide 553 Calories, 67% of the Daily Value (DV) in total fats, 36% DV of protein, 13% DV of dietary fiber and 11% DV of carbohydrates (table). Cashews are rich sources (> 19% DV) of dietary minerals, including particularly copper, manganese, phosphorus, and magnesium (79-110% DV), and of thiamin, vitamin B6 and vitamin K (32-37% DV) (table). Iron, potassium, zinc, and selenium are present in significant content (14-61% DV) (table). Cashews (100 grams, raw) contain 113 mg of beta-sitosterol.

Allergy

For some 5% of people, cashews, like tree nuts, can lead to complications or allergic reactions. Cashews contain gastric and intestinal soluble oxalates, albeit less than tree nuts; people with a tendency to form kidney stones may need moderation and medical guidance. Allergies to tree nuts and cashews can be life-threatening; prompt medical attention is necessary if tree nut allergy reaction is observed. These allergies are triggered by the proteins found in tree nuts, and cooking often does not remove or change these proteins. Reactions to cashew and tree nuts can also occur as a consequence of hidden nut ingredients or traces of nuts that may inadvertently be introduced during food processing, handling, or manufacturing, particularly in Europe.

Cashew oil

Cashew oil is a dark yellow oil for cooking or salad dressing pressed from cashew nuts (typically broken chunks created during processing). This may be produced from a single cold pressing.

Cashew shell oil

See also: Urushiol

Cashew nutshell liquid (CNSL) or cashew shell oil (CAS registry number 8007-24-7) is a natural resin with a yellowish sheen found in the honeycomb structure of the cashew nutshell, and is a byproduct of processing cashew nuts. It is a raw material of multiple uses in developing drugs, antioxidants, fungicides, and biomaterials. It is used in tropical folk medicine and for antitermite treatment of timber. Its composition varies depending on how it is processed.

  • Cold, solvent-extracted CNSL is mostly composed of anacardic acids (70%), cardol (18%) and cardanol (5%).
  • Heating CNSL decarboxylates the anacardic acids, producing a technical grade of CNSL that is rich in cardanol. Distillation of this material gives distilled, technical CNSL containing 78% cardanol and 8% cardol (cardol has one more hydroxyl group than cardanol). This process also reduces the degree of thermal polymerization of the unsaturated alkyl-phenols present in CNSL.
  • Anacardic acid is also used in the chemical industry for the production of cardanol, which is used for resins, coatings, and frictional materials.

These substances are skin allergens, like the oils of poison ivy, and present danger during manual cashew processing.

This natural oil phenol has been found to have interesting chemical structural features which enable a range of chemical modifications to create a wide spectrum of biobased monomers capitalizing on the chemically versatile construct, containing three different functional groups: the aromatic ring, the hydroxyl group, and the double bonds in the flanking alkyl chain. These can be split into key groups, used as polyols, which have recently seen a dramatic increase in demand for their biobased origin and key chemical attributes such as high reactivity, range of functionalities, reduction in blowing agents, and naturally occurring fire retardant properties in the field of ridged polyurethanes aided by their inherent phenolic structure and larger number of reactive units per unit mass.

CNSL may be used as a resin for carbon composite products. CNSL-based Novolac is another versatile industrial monomer deriving from cardanol typically used as a reticulating agent for epoxy matrices in composite applications providing good thermal and mechanical properties to the final composite material.

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