Cashew nuts are one of the favorite nuts on this planet. Most cashew nuts are labeled "raw cashew nuts", but are not truly "raw". They have been heat processed in order to remove the delicious nut from the toxic shell.
The cashew, belongs to the Anacardiaceae or cashew family. Two related plants in this family are the mango tree and pistachio tree.
The cashew tree is native to South America where it flourishes in Brazil and Peru. In the sixteenth century, Portuguese traders introduced the tree to India where it has more recently become an important export crop equal to that of Brazil. Other countries that grow and export cashews include Sri Lanka, China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, Colombia, Guatemala, Venezuela, the West Indies, Nigeria, Mozambique, Tanzania, and Kenya. The United States is the largest importer of cashew nuts.
Cashew trees produce both a fruit, nut, and a valuable oil that can be drawn from the nut shell. After the cashew flower blooms, a nut forms. The fruit apple later swells between the nut shell and the stem. It takes two months for the cashew apple to ripen. When harvested, the apple can only keep for twenty-four hours before it begins to ferment. Although the fruit can be used for making many typical fruit products (jellies, jams, juice, wine and liquor), the apple is often discarded, in pursuit of the nut. If processed and stored properly, the cashew nut can be kept for a year or longer. Technically, the actual nut is the thick-shelled seed. The outer shell of the seed contains the poison oak allergen urushiol, and may cause dermatitis in hypersensitive people.
Many people avoid cashew nuts because of their high fat content, though they are lower in total fat than almonds, peanuts, pecans, and walnuts. Cashew provide essential fatty acids, B vitamins, fiber, protein, carbohydrate potassium, iron, and zinc. Like other nuts, cashews have a small percentage of saturated fat; however, eaten in small quantities cashews are a highly nutritious food.
There is a toxic resin
inside the shell layer. If the shell is not opened properly, the resin
will get on the cashew nut, making it inedible. Most companies steam the
shell open at a high temperature, thus cooking the cashew nut inside. A
certain nut producer in Indonesia uses a special technique with
specially-designed tools (without using any heat at all) to open the
shell cleanly every time without ever exposing the cashew nut to the
resin. The raw cashews are much sweeter, tastier, and nutritious than
their cooked counterparts.