Cashew is the principal nut delicacy

By right cashew nuts take up the top positions among the most delicate nuts, besides some scientists consider them as the food of future. Herewith there is no other nut that has so many names: the fragrant curved nuts are called in different way in every country of cashew growing.

Familiar for us “cashew” originated from the words “cajou” or “acajou” which mean “yellow fruit” – these nuts were called in such way by the Indians of tribe Tikkun who were acquainted with the nut long before the Europeans. Its scientific name is “Anacardium occidentale” and it is also called “an Indian nut”, and “a West Indian ink nut” and even “a vesicular nut”. Why is it so? More about that a bit later on.

Brazil is the home of these very ornamental spreading evergreen cashew trees. From Brazil they were brought to India by the Portuguese seamen in the XVI century. Perhaps this is why India is mentioned so often in its numerous names. According to the legend sailors estimated a new nut as “more excellent than almond”.

The cashew tree is easily cultivated and grows rapidly that is why it has spread around the world in a short time. Nowadays Africa, Iran, Southeast Asia, Azerbaijan, apart from India, belong to the area of its growth; that is almost all countries with hot climate. This day Vietnam is the largest producer and exporter of cashew nuts.

Both tops and roots?

Cashew belongs to the plants that can be easily called wasteless: a person uses almost everything that the tree gives. In the countries of Africa and Latin America purgative is made of roots of cashew, a powder of the bark of the tree is considered to be a pyretic and an appetizing remedy, and a decoction of the bark is used to raise blood pressure.

The wood of cashew is a very valuable building material in the conditions of humid tropical climate as far as it has high resistant properties to putrefaction. Furthermore, the trunks of old trees are used to obtain copal applied in medicine, food and paper industries.

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Apart from the nuts, the putamen of cashew is widely applicable. The stuff which is rich in pitches and oils is taken out of the cashew putamen. This stuff is called cashew-oil or cardol. The present day it is widely used in the elaboration of medicines; however some experts think that there are great facilities for the application of cardol in medicine. Due to its repellent properties cardol is used for producing moisture-resistant varnishes that are applied to engrain wood in process of vessels construction and their repairing.

On the whole, cashew is used differently in various countries. At home in Brazil cashew is considered to be an aphrodisiac, it is applied in the treatment of asthma, cold, stomach disorders and even diabetes. Cashew is regarded as an agent for toothache in Haiti and it is a remedy for hypertension in Panama. Cashew is used as an antiseptic in Peru, it is applied to remove freckles in Mexico and to make tattoos in Africa. Generally, as the saying goes both tops and roots are used.

Isn’t it a nut at all?

A lot of things that we used to consider nuts are actually not nuts from the point of view of botany. Thus, a peanut is actually regarded as a bean, a nutmeg is a kind of spice and a Brazil nut is a grain. In the strict sense a cashew is a stone-fruit with an edible curved kernel that we used to call a nut and an effuse pear-shaped fruit-stalk which is called for some reason an apple – “cajou”.

The “cajou” apples are edible fleshy and very juicy fruit with a sour-sweet taste. There is a nut on the top of such yellow, orange and red apple. Unfortunately, it is hardly possible to taste “cajou” apples in north latitude unless one goes to the place of their gathering.

The point is that the juicy fruit spoil almost instantly, that is why they are eaten immediately after abscission or gathering. These apples cannot be transported. However, they are at once converted into juice, jams, jelly, the compotes, traditional seasonings and alcoholic drinks depending on local traditions. In the countries of Latin America cashew juice diluted with sugar is used as the basis for a refreshing drink “cajuina” which is popular there in the same way as orange juice in the European countries. Annually about 25 thousand tons of cashew apples are manufactured only in India. Besides the famous Indian liquor “Feni” is made from fermented cashew fruit.

Food of the future?

The future will show whether it is true, however cashew has all factors to become such food. You can judge on your own: cashew nuts contain potassium, calcium, magnesium, sodium, phosphorus, iron, iodine, manganese, molybdenum, copper, selenium, zinc, almost all the B vitamins, the K, H, A vitamins and E vitamin which is necessary for the normal life activity.

Perhaps the most important reason to love cashews is their high content of useful unsaturated fatty acids which are digestible. Omega-3 acids which are the part of the cell membrane slacken the formation of atherosclerosis plaques in the human body and so prevent the elaboration of thrombi, support the normal tone of blood vessels, normalize the blood pressure, boost immunity and improve the state of mucus membrane. Omega-3 fatty acids are considered to be a precaution for Alzheimer’s disease and can slow down its run; they are useful for curing of breast cancer and skin diseases. Arachidonic acid or Omega-6 acid reduces inflammations in the body, dilates blood vessels and normalizes blood coagulability. Finally, Omega-9 or oleic acid is a perfect source of energy.

One handful of cashew nuts per day can help to improve the cerebration, to stimulate mental activity, to boost immunity, to normalize the level of cholesterol, to amend the blood structure and activity of cardiovascular system. Nuts meliorate the state of the body in case of diabetes, arterial hypertension, anemia, bronchitis, asthma and some other diseases. Moreover, cashews hardly ever cause allergic reaction unlike other nuts; furthermore they contribute to its decrement.

Cashew nuts are healthful for those who can’t leave off smoking. They can’t assist to get rid of this addiction, but they will reduce the harmful effect of nicotine upon the body due to its content of essential amino acid tryptophan. Tryptophan will also help those who suffer from insomnia, depression and heart diseases.

Recent research held by American scientists proves that the cashew is the only nut that has anticancer properties. Cashew nuts contain the stuff called “prantotsianidin” which slows down the segmentation of cancer cells and prevents the progression of rectal cancer.

Why cashew nuts are never sold in the shell?

Cashew nuts are very delicious and healthful but at the same time very subtle: it is a difficult and insecure work to pick and manufacture them. The point is that there are very erodent substances such as cardol and anacard acid between the firm shell of the nut and its cover. These substances can cause excitation in the case of contact with skin and even strong burns that promote skin blisters. Workers who peel the nuts by hand often have skin blisters. It is difficult to claim surely but one of the names of cashew “a vesicular nut” is possibly originated from cardol. Aggressive properties of erodent stuff are applied to remove warts in some countries.

The nuts are punctured for the full evaporation of erodent oils in order to prepare them for eating and they become completely safe only after this procedure. Then the nuts should be taken from the very firm and thick dark shell, thereafter they become edible. The procedure of getting the nuts causes its high price; not in vein cashew nuts previously used to be a pleasure only for rich people. For this reason, cashew nuts are never sold in the shell: they are peeled and heat-treated. So cashew nuts are subtle.

“Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?”

Cashew oil which is often called anacardium oil is applied for making cosmetics. It has antiseptic, assuasive, tonic, nutritional and even analgetic properties. The oil is widely used as the effective rejuvenating remedy for tired, flaccid and fady skin that prevents the emergence of wrinkles and promotes their deletion.

The property of anacardium oil to resolve the inflammation and erythema induced by aggressive external factors (cold, wind and sun rays) is of current interest under the conditions of polluted urban air and increased solar activity. The oil is a great remedy for hand and foot care, it resolves skin cracks, brittleness of nails, corns and dry callus and even restores the compliance of dry skin.

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The products of the most famous cosmetic brands incorporate anacardium oil, however one can use the pure oil bought in a chemist’s shop if desired. For example, napkins impregnated with anacardium oil should be attached to the problem areas of skin, the knots on hands and feet for fifteen minutes once a day. The oil can be also added into shampoos or hair balms, face masks and other care products.

It is possible to use the pure anacardim oil for skin and hair care; however it is better to mix it with the other suitable oil in a one-to-one ratio. For example, the mixture of cashew oil and jojoba oil used for the massage of the hairy part of the head helps to get rid of brittleness and dryness of hair, promotes its growth and resolves the widespread problem of dandruff.

Would you like cashew with yoghurt or in chocolate?

Though cashew is relatively a new product in our kitchen, it is used in cookery in quite a lot of dishes. It can be a separate nut appetizer, a garnish, a component of salads, meat and vegetable dishes, sauces and desserts. There are hundreds of recipes with this overseas delicacy: it can be combined with chicken, goose, liver, shrimps, pineapple, banana, yogurt, egg, strawberries, cheese, spinach, chocolate … This list can be continued.

Cashew nuts are used in the raw state (though they can be called raw only by convention) as well as in a fried state. At home it is easy to dry nuts in an oven, a frying pan or a microwave oven in order to make the cashews taste better. Edible peanut-like oil is made from the cashew nuts in Asian cuisine.

At first sight, cashew nuts are very rich in fat, that is why a lot of people who keep their weight trim refuse to eat them. In fact it is not true: cashews contain less fat than peanuts, walnuts and even almonds. You can compare the average fat content of different kinds of nuts per 100 grams:

• brazil nut – 67g;
• walnut – 64 g;
• hazelnut – 60 g;
• almond – 57 g;
• peanut – 55 g;
• cashew – 49 g.

However, cashew like other nuts is a very high-calorific product: 100 g of the nuts contain 600 calories. At the same time the benefit of cashew nuts is great that is why they are worthy of being included in food ration even for those who are afraid of growing plump. Of course, the cashew nuts should not be salted and sweetened; in that case the reason of the overweight is not eating nuts. No doubt it is necessary to keep the sense of proportion: 8 or 10 nuts are quite enough per day.

What should one pay attention to buying cashew nuts?

Of course, a little depends on you, if nuts are packed; one should pay attention to the shelf life. If you have possibility to choose nuts, you should discard shriveled, shrunken and moldy cashews immediately. It is undesirable to buy broken and splintered nuts, they are kept badly.

It is better to keep the nuts in a tightly closed jar in a refrigerator where they retain their properties and great taste for half a year. Keeping cashew in a freezer prolongs its shelf life for a year. Cashew nuts can taste bitter in a month if they are kept at room conditions.


The only contra-indication of eating cashew is idiosyncrasy. However, you should not be carried away by the packets of salted, sweetened, fried nuts because of the high content of salt and sugar.

Though any nuts are considered to be a healthful and lenten meal, still they can’t hardly be called a dietary product that is why one should take the nuts in limited amounts. Let cashew nuts give you pleasure and help to keep your health!

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Author: Eric
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  1. Klepa 20 September 2013 :

    I’ve heard that the cashew nuts help prevent the cancer. I was also surprised to learn that they can be combined nearly with each product. Now I’d like to find some recipes including these nuts. Thank you for the informative article!

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