Latin name: Anacardium occidentale
Uses: nut, oil, fruit
Cashew trees are evergreen tropical trees related to mangoes and pistachios, and cashews are the tree’s kidney-shaped seeds (not true nuts) that grow at the blossom end of fruits known as cashew apples. Cashews are used — and should be treated culinarily — like tree nuts. The fruits are used to make juice in Jamaica, and the juice is fermented and distilled into alcohol in Brazil, parts of India, and some African countries. The fresh fruit is eaten raw and cooked in Southeast Asia.
Why is cashew healthy?
Cashews are a versatile source of healthy fats, protein, dietary fiber, minerals, and antioxidants. Combine this complete macronutrient profile with their sweet-savory flavor and you’ve got an excellent choice for snacking. The brain and body need healthy fats, so cashews offer excellent support for stress, mood, and focus, and can also help absorb fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E, and K. Additionally, many studies associate cashew consumption with a reduced risk of heart disease, cancer, and obesity.
What does cashew taste like?
Though mild, cashews have a lingering, creamy sweetness that places them high on many people’s list of favorite nuts.
Where does cashew grow?
Cashew trees originated somewhere in Central America, the Caribbean, and/or Caribbean South America. Today Vietnam, India, and Ivory Coast are the top producers, with Burundi, Vietnam, and other tropical African and Asian countries growing the rest. Because they don’t travel well, you’re unlikely to find cashew apples outside of the regions where they grow.
How do I prepare cashew and what do I pair it with?
Roasted and salted, cashews are a great snack on their own or mixed with other nuts and dried fruit. They make a gorgeous nut butter. Whole or coarsely chopped, you’ll often see them enhancing Chinese or Thai stir-fries, and ground cashews form the base for Indian korma. Cashews see a lot of use in vegan cooking, where they’re frequently soaked in water and then blended to form the base for thick, rich sauces, both savory and sweet. Cashew milk is an excellent alternative to cow’s milk for baking and drinking. Vanilla makes a great pairing, as do several tropical fruits and spices, including coffee.
Cashews are related to poison ivy, oak, and sumac. All parts of the plant except the seed and apple are poisonous and can cause serious rashes. The nut oil and some extracts are used to produce a variety of industrial chemicals.