Cashew Nuts, Delicious and Juicy
A popular ingredient finding its way into many Indian gravies, cashew - a plant originating from Brazil, is a nut high in minerals. Brought to India by traders, the cashew tree grows up to exceptional heights having a rather irregular trunk. Hanging from the branches are large juicy apples at the bottom of which are attached the cashew nut. Made available round the year, the nut has a great shelf life if stored properly.
The nut and the fruit, both have multiple uses. The nut, often known as the poor man’s plantation although now it is sold for steep prices, is used to make delectable and rich curries and also roasted and eaten dry. Back when nomads had no idea how to consume the fruit, the nut was discarded while the fruit was given more importance. A book written by SP Malhotra, World Edible Nuts Economy, points out, "Natives also knew of many medicinal uses for the apple juice, bark and caustic seed oil that were later exploited by the Europeans.”
The cashew tree is native to the Brazil’s Amazon rain forest. It spread all over the planet by Portuguese explorers and today; it is cultivated on a commercial scale in Brazil, Vietnam, India, and many African countries.
Cashew tree bears many, edible, pear-shaped false fruits or “accessory fruits'” called "cashew apples." Cashew nut which is a “true-fruit,” firmly attaching to the bottom end of cashew-apple, appearing like a clapper in the bell. Botanically, this tiny, bean shaped, gray “true fruit” is a drupe, featuring hard outer shell enclosing a single edible kernel known commercially as “cashew nut.”
Structurally, this Cashew "drupe" is made up of outer, hard shell and inner, edible kernel. Cashew shell composes of a toxic phenolic resin, urushiol; a potent caustic skin irritant toxin and therefore should be eliminated. In the processing units, the whole cashew is treated under the high flame to destroy urushiol resin. Thus roasted cashew becomes safe to handle with bare hands by workers, who then mechanically shell the nuts to extract underlying edible cashew kernel.
Cashew nut measures about an inch in length, 1/2 inches in diameter, and kidney or bean shape, with a smooth surface and smooth curvy pointed tip. Each nut splits into two halves as in legumes. The cream white kernel features firm yet crunchy texture and sweet, buttery flavor.