Jump to content

A little Cashew trivia


Recommended Posts

It's that kinda day...


Yes, indeed, the cashew does have a shell. So why have most people never seen the shell? Because it’s poisonous!

As a member of the Anacardiaceae family, the cashew is related to poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac. (Oddly enough, it’s also related to the mango.) Thus, the shell surrounding the kernel contains oil which can irritate human skin just like its annoying relatives. As you might expect, that makes the whole process of harvesting cashews a bit complicated. But let’s start from the beginning . . .

Cashews grow on large tropical evergreens with wide green leaves. Native to tropical America, these shrub-like trees can grow 30' to 40' high, and spread up to 60' wide. The nut grows on the end of a 2–4" fleshy stalk. After the nut develops, the stalk swells into a white, yellow, or red, pear-shaped "fruit" called the cashew apple. The apple itself is safe and edible raw. It’s also commonly used to make jelly, juice, and wine.

Watch your fingers . . .

The nut, however, is not safe or edible raw. The delicious kernel is trapped within two shells, an oily outer layer and a thin hard one, which are separated by a honeycombed tissue. Because the nuts are fragile and kidney-shaped, nobody has been able to develop a method of shelling them with machines. So the nuts are actually prepared by hand. To reduce the toxicity of the cashew oil and make the shells brittle, the nuts are first roasted. Even this step is dangerous, though, because the smoke given off is also a poisonous irritant. Finally, the shells are broken away by skilled workers using wooden hammers---who must be careful not to damage the nuts within!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Ouch is right. The oil is actually a resin, or oleoresin to be exact. It is called urushiol. And, as was previously mentioned, is also found in poison ivy, oak, and sumac, and the skin of mangoes. It is also in the sap of the Japanese lacquer tree, and apparently can stay active in the lacquer made from the tree. Brazil nuts also contain urushiol in the shell.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...