Cashew nuts

(Picture courtesy of Choo Yut Shing at flickr.com)

One of the nuts that is grown in Central America and has been familiarized in this country along with its diminishing costs is the cashew nut. A tree nut, it is rich in antioxidants, quite healthy and nutritious.  It is one of the most distinct tastes among nuts, in my opinion, and I’m really glad to have it readily available.  However, I understand that the cultivation of cashews has been a problem in the countries where it is grown.  Originating in Brazil, the tree has been dispersed into tropical areas throughout the world, and now is farmed in India and Asian countries as well.

The cashew apple, also called cashew fruit, is the fleshy part of the cashew fruit that is attached to the cashew nut. The top end of the cashew apple is attached to the stem that comes off the tree. The bottom end of the cashew apple attaches to the cashew nut, which is encased in a shell. In botanical terms, the cashew apple is an accessory fruit that grows on the cashew seed (which is the nut).

The cashew apple is a soft fruit, rich in nutrients, and contains five times more vitamin C than an orange. It is eaten fresh, cooked in curries, or fermented into vinegar, as well as an alcoholic drink. It is also used to make preserves, chutneys, and jams in some countries such as India and Brazil. In many countries, particularly in South America, the cashew apple is used to flavor drinks, both alcoholic and nonalcoholic. In Brazil, it is a popular fruit flavor for the national drink, the caipirinha.

In much of South America, people regard the cashew apple as the delicacy, rather than the nut kernel which is popular elsewhere. In fact, in many South American countries, the cashew apple is more popular as a food than is the cashew nut. A large reason for this is simply the availability of cashew apples. They tend to be popular where they are readily available.

Cashew nuts are more popular than cashew apples in many parts of the world—regions that do not grow cashews—because the fruit, unlike the nut, is difficult to transport to these places. Unlike cashew nuts, cashew apples are extremely soft and easily bruised in shipment. For this reason, cashew juice and cashew juice concentrate are often shipped to these nonlocal countries instead of the fresh fruit.

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Fluctuations in world market prices for cashew nuts have been a source of discontent for communities in Tanzania which grow the nut as a cash crop; reduced payments in April 2013 sparked serious rioting in Liwale District in the south of the country.

As usual, industrial farming is not the best of answers to our needs, and individuals appear to do a better, more healthy, job of growing our food supplies.

(Picture courtesy of abcdz2000 at flickr.com.)

Cashew apple, with fruit.