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Cashew is a tree that is being cultivated for its fruit called ‘cashew nut’. The nut or the seed of the cashew tree is also called by name cashew in culinary terms. Cashew is a kidney-shaped, cream color seed that grows under the ‘cashew apple’. Cashew apple is an accessory fruit of the apple that is not of much use. Cashew is a very expensive nut hence not so common in cooking. However, cashew is used in making various rich cashew dishes such as cashew chicken, cashew mushroom soup and cashew nut cake.

History of Cashew

Cashew is believed to be the native of Brazil and has been introduced in India by the Portuguese. In sixteenth century, Portuguese introduced cashew for the first time in Goa, a state in India. Now India is the largest exporter of cashew to the countries such as USA, Italy, Iran, Austria and Singapore. In India cashew is popularly known as ‘kaju’.

Culinary Use of Cashew

Cashew is a seed, however, in culinary world it is popularly added to cashew recipes as a nut. It is a well-liked snack in roasted as well as in fried forms. Slightly salted or sweet cashews are quite popular and are eaten independently. Cashews are popularly eaten as a sweet chocolate covered snack also. In vegan cooking, cashew has a great importance. Milk is extracted from the nut to be used in making vegan cashew recipes. Nut is also fondly used as a whole or in chopped form in many confectionery items such as cakes, cookies and muffins. Various savory dishes include cashew paste to make the gravy rich and creamy. Soups and stews also use the paste to make the liquid thick. The cashew paste is also commonly used to make vegan cheese. Cashew sweets and desserts are widely made in various cuisines. For garnishing purposes also, chopped or shaved cashew is an ideal nut. One more very popular use of cashew nut and cashew apple is to make alcoholic drinks. The juice of cashew fruit is extracted and kept for fermenting for few days. After fermenting and distillation, cashew alcohol is ready to drink.

Popular Cashew Recipes

• Cashew Chicken – It is one of the most popular cashew dishes across the world. To make this dish, cashew is ground to a paste and added to make the gravy thick.

• Shahi korma – It’s a very popular Indian recipe that includes cashew paste along with other ingredients such as mutton or vegetables.

• Kaju katli – It’s a very popular and rich Indian sweet.

• Turrones de casuay – This is a famous Filipino dessert that contains marzipan made up of cashew.

• Feni – It s a very popular Goanese alcoholic drink.

Cuisines Commonly Making Cashew Dishes

Thai, Chinese and Indian cuisines are popular for using cashew in various recipes. Cashew is used either in whole form or in the form of paste. In Indian cuisine, shahi korma, sweets and kaju ki kheer are popular cashew dishes. In Goa, cashew fruit is widely used to make an alcoholic drink called ‘feni’. Thai and Chinese gravy dishes also contain cashew paste and these cashew dishes are quiet popular in world cuisine.

Brazilians are also very fond of using cashews in their food. A drink made up of cashew fruit has a strong liking among the people of Brazil. In Malaysian cuisine, a shrimp paste called ‘sambal belacan’ includes the young cashew leaves. Filipino desserts and rice dishes contain cashew either in form of paste or in chopped form.

Other cuisines such as European and American cuisines also make good use of cashew in baked and confectionery recipes.

Preferred Methods of Making Cashew Dishes

• Baked – Cashew cookies, muffins and cakes are made with baked method.

• Stir-fried – Cashew paste is added to savory dishes and stir-fried with other spices and ingredients.

• Boiled – Cashew milk is boiled to make vegan soups.

• Chopped – Cashew nuts are chopped before adding as a garnish to any sweet or savory dish.

Nutritive Value of Cashew

Cashew is a useful source of proteins and mineral such as iron and zinc. Copper, manganese and phosphorus are also some of the essential minerals that are found in abundance in cashew recipes. The presence of copper in the nut makes it a very popular antioxidant. The fat content in cashew nut is considered as ‘good fat’, hence it can be eaten without any guilt. Cashew apple is famous for providing some health benefits such as reducing blood sugar and hypertension. Diarrhea and fever can also be cured by using the cashew fruit.

Consumption Criteria of Cashew

Cashew being a healthy nut is widely eaten in various forms but excess consumption of cashew and cashew dishes may increase the cholesterol level. Some people have also shown allergic reaction after consuming cashew therefore people who are prone to allergies must avoid cashews and cashew dishes.

Buying and Storing of Cashew

While buying cashews it should be checked that nuts are free from molds and have crispy texture. Moist and blemished cashews are not recommended for buying. Cashews should be stored in cold temperature and it is better to store in refrigerator. In room temperature, cashews can be spoiled very quickly and may be contaminated with molds. Frozen cashews can be stored for up to six months.

Types of Cashew

Cashew has no specific varieties but it can be classed as cashew apple, cashew nut and cashew kernel. All these are the parts of cashew tree and commonly used for various purposes.

Cashew Trivia

• Cashew nut oil is widely used in insecticides.

• The milk-like substance obtained from the cashew tree is used as a varnish.