The Cashew Tree
The cashew trees appear more like bushes than trees because of their small stature. They are evergreen trees, with an average height of not above 30 feet. The limbs of the tree spread fast and strike the ground to re-root themselves. The trunk of the tree is often short and irregular in shape, giving it an extremely disheveled look. The cashew trees grow abundantly in the tropics and are extensively found near the equator, as they flourish in extreme heat.
The cashew apple is a pear shaped fruit that appears to be the actual fruit of the tree, but it is in fact the pseudo or the false fruit that develops from the cashew flower. It ripens into a yellow and/or red colour and is about 5-11 cms in length. This fruit can be consumed and has a strong sweet smell and is sweet to taste. Though the pulp of the cashew apple is extremely juicy, its skin is extremely delicate and therefore it makes its transportation extremely difficult. While the cashew nut is so popular, the cashew apple is not equally relished, though, the people of Brazil and the Caribbean consider it to be a delicacy.
Cashew Nut is a nut, which is a popular snack due to its exquisite and distinctive sweetness and crispiness. The nut can be easily found in the markets throughout the year for consumption. These nuts are in the shape of a kidney and adhere to the bottom of the cashew apple, the fruit of the cashew tree, which is found in abundance in the coastal region of Brazil.
The fruit of the cashew is a seed. The seed is surrounded by a double shell comprising of a phenolic resin called urushiol, which is a skin irritant toxin. This caustic resin is also referred to as the cashew balm, which must be carefully removed. This resin is used in various industries to make varnishes and insecticides. Some of the other names for the cashew nut include caju, cajueiro, cashu, casho, acajuiba, paruppu, pomme cajou, pajuil, etc.
As far as the nutritional composition of the cashews goes, they are an excellent source of monounsaturated fats, copper , magnesium and phosphorous. They are high in fat content, but the fats contained in them are good fats and are essential for the body. Cashew nuts are available in the market in a number of flavours. Roasted, salted, honey coated, sugar coated, plain, etc, are some of the flavours available in cashew nuts.
Cashew nuts are a delicacy and are savored on their own and are also a good option for garnishing. Roasted “cajus” are often sprinkled on salads, rice, etc. to make them more alluring to the taste buds. Its paste can be used to make some mouthwatering dips and bread spreads. cashew butter is relished world over for its creamy taste.
Cashew grew wild in Brazil, and the Portuguese were the first Westeners to spot this tree, when they invaded Brazil in there 1500′s. Portuguese sailors brought the seeds of the cashew nut trees from Brazil and planted them on the coast east coast of Africa. The trees in no time grew wild along all the entire coast of Mozambique, and then also spread to Tanzania and Kenya.
The first to harvest these wild nuts were native Africans. Later, these nuts were sold to the Portuguese traders, who in turn sold them to the merchants who shipped them to India, where these nuts were shelled.
At present, cashew is cultivated in abundance in areas having a sufficiently warm and humid climate. The cashew plantations are spread across almost 32 countries of the world. Total area under cultivation across the globe is about 33,900 km². The average yield of the cashew crop across the globe is 817 pounds per acre, that is approximately 916 kg/hectare of land.
Countries like India, Brazil, Vietnam and Nigeria boast of more than 90% of the cashew crops collectively. Kollam in Kerala, India itself produces around 4,000 tonnes of cashews per annum. A few of the most prominent trading centers of cashew in India are Palasa, Kollam, Mangalore and Kochi.
Consumption of dry fruits is in general good for the overall health of a human being. Not only are they nutritious, but also provide energy to the body. They are often referred to as the natural health capsule. They also possess medicinal properties, and have no side effects. Cashew nuts are a healthy snack and can prevent many diseases and ailments if taken in moderation.
Contrary to the general belief, nuts are extremely good for health and do not lead to weight gain if taken in moderation. They have a high energy density and high amount of dietary fiber, which is beneficial in weight management
Consuming cashew nuts ensures good cardiovascular and circulatory health. They contain no cholesterol and provide a healthy snack for heart patients. They have high amounts of monounsaturated fatty acids, which help in supporting good levels of low good cholesterol or the HDL.
Cashew nuts have high magnesium, which helps protect against high blood pressure, muscle spasms, migrane, headaches, fatigue, etc. Magnesium works in tandem with calcium in the body to make healthy bones and muscles in the body.
Cashew nuts and almost all other nuts are beneficial for prevention against the gallstone disease. People who regularly consume nuts are at a lower risk of developing gallstones.
A few recent researches have also shown that the chemicals in cashew nuts kill positive bacteria, which cause tooth decay, acne, tuberculosis and leprosy.
Cashew nuts have high copper content, and its consumption helps the body utilize Iron and also produce melanin, a hair and skin pigment.