Cashew Nuts are the kidney-shaped seeds that came from the cashew tree. This tropical tree is native to Central America, the Caribbean, and northern South America. Particularly, in northeastern Brazil. They’re also grown in other warm countries around the world.
Moreover, the word “cashew” came from the Portuguese word “Kazu,” which means “a nut that produces itself.” The tree made its way to India by the sailors of Portuguese between the years 1560 and 1565.
These nuts are an essential component in both Indian and Pakistani cuisines. They use the whole ones for garnishing curries and sweets, or they ground them into a paste to serve as a base for curries and other desserts.
Species: A. Occidentale
Binomial Name: Anacardium occidentale L.
Cashew Nut Trivia
- The United States consumes more than 90% of the world’s cashew crop.
- Cashews can be found in industrial products like brake liners and paints.
- The shell of cashews are also used in lubricants, arms production, and waterproofing.
- Cashews can be turned into cashew butter and cheese.
- In Goa, India, the cashew apple is commonly turned into alcohol. Its juice is extracted and fermented for a few days, then it goes under a double distillation process, resulting in an alcoholic beverage called feni or fenny.
Cashew Nut Buying Guide
Raw cashews can be hard to find in the market, but roasted ones are widely available. These roasted cashews can be purchased either salted or unsalted, and as whole or in pieces. If you see ‘dry-roasted’ cashews, that just means that the nuts were roasted without any oil. Thus, if you’re trying to lose weight or simply cutting down your fat intake, it’s best to choose dry-roasted cashews among any other nuts.
Moreover, it’s also good to know that a product that’s labeled “cashew kernels” is just the same as the cashew nut.
Cashew nuts may also be purchased in bulk or prepackaged bags or containers. When buying from bulk bins though, make sure that the cashews are covered and that the store you’re buying it from is reputable, trusted, and has a good turnover to assure the freshness of the product. On the other hand, when buying pre-packaged cashew nuts, choose the ones that are vacuum-packed over cellophane-packed as they can remain fresh for a longer period.
Regardless, make sure that there are no signs of moisture or insects. Plus, check the quality of cashews and avoid the ones that are shriveled, as this is an indication that the product has passed their optimum quality. Lastly, if possible, smell the cashew nuts to ensure that they are not rancid.
Cashew Nut Production & Farming in Texas
Cashew trees belong to the Anacardiaceae family, which is also known as the sumac family. They thrive in dry and wet tropical areas, with the ideal temperature of 77ºF during the day and 50ºF at night. They are hardy in USDA zones 10 through 11 and they’re sensitive to cold temperatures.
Unfortunately, only the areas near Brownsville, Texas fall into USDA zone 10. Thus, if you’re not from this area, cashew wouldn’t grow successfully. If you do live in this zone though, you may have some luck in growing cashews outdoors. While sandy soil is best for growing these trees, they don’t put up with saline oil. Thus, you can plant it wherever using either a backyard soil with a low salt content or import some soil into your yard. They prefer temperature from 63 to 100ºF, along with 65 to 80% humidity. During the dry winter season, the cashew trees will bloom and the seeds or nuts are ready for harvest after a couple of months. You’ll know that the nut is ready for harvest when the cashew apple turns into a nice red color, or at times, yellow or pink, as well as when the nutshell turns dark grey. When the fruit falls from a tree though, it’s definitely ready to be harvested.
Cashew nuts are always treated through steaming, boiling, or roasting before their shells are removed because they’re surrounded by a toxic oil, similar to urushiol or anacardic acid, which can irritate the skin.
Pesticides, Additives, and Chemicals:
Once the cashew nuts are treated, some additives are also added to the products before they’re sold in markets. While it’s possible to find pure cashew nuts, most of them are roasted in oil such as peanut, cottonseed, palm, and sunflower oil. They’re commonly seasoned with salt for a more flavorful product. Thus, also consider checking out their sodium content and buy the ones that are low-sodium or with less salt. Better yet, purchase the unsalted ones and season them yourself.
Cashews are tropical trees native to the Americas, ranging from Peru and Brazil through Mexico and the West Indies. However, the world’s biggest producer of cashew nuts, as of 2010, is Vietnam, which is closely followed by it’s nearest rival, India. Nigeria came in third.
Cashew nuts are packaged in many ways. They usually come in either resealable or non-resealable bags, plastic jars, mason jars, and foil-lined cans.
Enjoying Cashew Nuts
Cashew nuts are not only delicious and nutritious, but they’re also exceptionally versatile. They’re used in many culinary applications from savory butter spreads to cashew-based desserts. Some popular desserts include cashew blondies, cashew caramels, and cashew-coated chocolates.
It’s also a great dairy-free substitute for cheeses, milk, and other dairy products. With its mild and unique flavor, they make a great cheese dip or a block of cashew cheese.
Nevertheless, if you love sweet snacks, honey-roasted cashews are guaranteed to please your tastebuds.
Or, you can simply add the unsalted ones to salads and stir-fries!
Cashew nuts contain high amounts of oleic acid and oil. The oleic acid increases the shelf life of nuts and that’s why cashews last longer than some other nuts like peanuts and almonds. However, just like any other nuts, the high oil content makes them highly perishable; they can turn rancid easily and quickly.
Thus, it’s best to keep cashew nuts in a dry, airtight container and store them in a dark, cool, and dry place. Keep them in the refrigerator, where they can last for up to 6 months, or in the freezer, where they can last for up to 1 year.
Honey-roasted cashews are one of the famous recipes to enjoy these nuts. They’re also great in salads and stir-fries; however, when adding cashew nuts to these specialties, it’s best to add them towards the end of the cooking. More importantly, use the unsalted version of cashew nuts so that it will not overpower your main dish.
Cashews are 44% fat, 30% carbohydrates, 18% protein, and 5% water. Unlike almonds, its carbohydrates are mainly composed of sugar, along with some fiber.
Moreover, cashews provide many nutritional benefits. In fact, a 100g serving of cashews can give 37% of vitamin B1 (thiamine), 32% of vitamin B6, and 17% of vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid), along with a good amount of niacin, folate, and riboflavin. They also provide minerals like copper, magnesium, phosphorus, manganese, zinc, iron, selenium, and calcium.
Overall, just like most nuts, cashews help improve our overall health. They can improve our blood sugar level, contribute to a healthier heart, help promote weight loss, and build healthier bones. The excellent amount of copper in cashews helps us produce more energy while building a healthier brain and a strong immune system. Furthermore, they are also an excellent source of antioxidants, which can help protect our bodies from oxidative stress that contributes to inflammation, aging, and diseases such as cancer.
Nevertheless, the most important thing to remember about cashews is that it contains oxalates. Such molecules, especially when consumed in high amounts, can promote gallbladder diseases and kidney stones. Thus, if you have issues with such, it’s best to avoid eating cashew nuts.