The cashew is a fruit that is consumed for the most part as a dried fruit. We always consume it in a bag toasted with salt, although raw cashews are also marketed, although later we will see what this “raw” means . It is a fantastic food with many nutritional properties and a great caloric intake, but do you know where it comes from, how and where it is grown? Let us begin.
ORIGIN AND DISTRIBUTION OF THE CASHEW
Its scientific name is Anacardium occidentale L. Although apparently it has nothing to do with it, the cashew is from the mango family and they share a habitat. It is indeed a species of tropical and subtropical origin, making its cultivation very difficult in Europe, except in some places such as the Canary Islands (in the middle of the tropics) or they have even occurred in areas of the south of the peninsula and I know from some forums that there are people trying it at a particular level in northern areas from Galicia to the Basque Country. We imagine that there will be few for commercial purposes in our country.
If we look for its origin we go to Brazil, to its tropical zone, the heart of the Amazon. But if we investigate its current distribution we find that Brazil and India are the places where it is most produced. Does this have to do with a natural situation? or was it us?
Indeed, the Portuguese discovered the fruit in Brazil in the 16th century and, being amazed by its nutritional properties, decided to take the seeds to another area where they had great power at that time: to India, making this place the world producer of this fruit. Today it is somewhat more distributed, but it still remains a world export power.
Go to any supermarket and if it has cashew nuts look at the origin. It will almost always be India. Although, given the global agricultural movements, we may have some surprises. We have consulted the FAO database and we have found that the main producers in 2016 are 4 with a great difference over the rest of the countries. Quantities are in tons.
- 1º Vietnam
- 2º Nigeria
- 3rd India
- 4th Ivory Coast
Cashew production in 2016. Source: FAO
WHAT IS THE CASHEW NUT LIKE?
It is a 6-7 meter tree with a thick trunk and oblong leaves of a very bright green. Species destined for production bear fruit for 25-30 years and from the third fourth year of transplantation they are already bearing fruit. It is a perennial species that branches low above the ground and usually spreads. That is, the crown of the tree is more extensive than it is high.
THE “FALSE” FRUIT OF THE CASHEW IS ALSO EATEN
What reaches us in Spain is only the inside of the nut. Actually, unless you have a mango in your house or have been interested in the tree on some occasion, I doubt that you have seen what the fruit is like. Here we show you a photo.
Fruit and pseudo fruit of the cashew.
Curiously, the walnut (the true fruit) is, as you can imagine, from the shape, in that kind of brown bump. The rest is a fleshy part that in Spain we have not even smelled because it is extremely perishable. In the places of origin, various drinks, jams and various fermentations are eaten and made as it has a high sugar content. It is sweet in taste. This part of the fruit is often called “apples” of the cashew, also called cashew apples or cashews.
NUTS FROM A NUTRITIONAL POINT OF VIEW
Nuts are a group of foods of various genera and species. However, they have quite a few things in common that make them just that: a very specific food group. They stand out for their low water content, which allows them a longer shelf life and a high concentration of nutrients that makes them true energy pumps. For example, the walnut has a large amount of zinc, achieving a quick recovery after an intense sport.
With the fashion of jellies for athletes etc. etc. from Gardenprue we come to claim the dried fruit as an energetic element of great recovery when doing demanding sports. And what about the cashew?
NUTRITIONAL COMPOSITION OF CASHEW
- Caloric intake: 550-570 kcal / 100g
- Total Fats : 40-45% of which most are unsaturated and polyunsaturated. 7-10% of the total cashew nuts are saturated fat. Its omega 6 content is also remarkable, as it is in the walnut, although it is still the blue fish that takes the cake in this regard.
- Carbohydrates : 30% approximately and has practically no sugars.
- Proteins : Approximately 16-18%
CASHEW. AN IMMENSE CARBOHYDRATE SOURCE
Nuts, in general, contain 20% carbohydrates or even slightly less. The walnut, the hazelnut, the almond, the pine nuts are all around 15-20%. However, the cashew, along with chestnuts, are the nuts that have the highest amount of carbohydrates. As you have seen before, it is around 30%, practically double the rest. Among carbohydrates and fats, it is one of the most satisfying nuts out there. You eat a handful and you don’t want a crumb of bread anymore.
Plus, most of these carbohydrates are complex, slow-absorbing, so they won’t give us sudden sugar spikes. If we are doing intense sports such as running or cycling, its percentage of simple sugars gives us the necessary initial boost. That is only 6%; the other 24% are complexes, of slow absorption that will give us the energy dose little by little. In short, for high-level athletes, the energy / weight ratio of the cashew nut is practically unsurpassed and is an almost indispensable element in long races.
In addition, as we can see, it is a food rich in fat (almost all nuts) and the quality of these fats is reduced if they are eaten fried with salt. The frying process deteriorates phytosterols and very beneficial antioxidants present in cashew nuts. But it’s not like we can eat them raw raw either. They always have a light touch of toasting or cooking. And can’t they be eaten raw? Well not really. The cashew contains a toxic oil called urushiol that causes severe dermatitis only on contact with the skin. Many plants in this family contain this compound.
[alert style = »yellow»] Raw cashews are not really raw at all. They have been lightly cooked to completely break down the urushiol. Even so, they continue to be marketed as raw. [/ alert]Of course, although they are treated, they will always preserve the thermolabile compounds better than with a salt fry.
KEYS TO GROWING CASHEW NUTS
We start from the basis that we need a tropical climate so:
THERMAL RANGE AND AMBIENT HUMIDITY
Minimum temperature of 20ºC. Tropical regions usually have an average of 24-25ºC and the ranges in which they move during the year vary between 20 and 30, with those that exceed 35ºC being especially hot days. Above this temperature it is hard for him.
Environmental humidity in tropical areas is assured. However, as long as the root system is well developed and there are reserves in the soil, the cashew can withstand certain periods of drought and therefore low relative humidity (around 30%). In these cases, it will be convenient to increase the irrigation doses.
It is important to comment that altitude also affects you. Where it best occurs is in low-lying areas (less than 500 meters above sea level). Above this altitude it tends to slow down its growth and from 1000 m it does not occur at all.
SOIL AND IRRIGATION
Its root system is very extensive and goes deep into the soil, as long as it is loose. No compact floors. It is also necessary to develop the root system properly for what we have commented in the previous section. The roots are sensitive to certain soil nematodes that stunt their growth. We must also be careful with the fungi present in the soil and treat it previously since it is very sensitive. Solarization is not a natural method because it loads a lot of microflora from the soil, but if we want to plant cashew nuts we must start from a “healthy” soil (ignoring that we have crushed a lot of the microflora), nourished and loose.
Direct sowing of cashew nuts compromises many more seeds, so protected germination and subsequent transplantation is the most recommended. In addition to better regulating the spacing between trees.
Irrigation should be moderate to abundant if it is for commercial purposes and we are not in areas with a lot of rainfall. It supports droughts but the tree will not grow in the same way. In a tropical zone, its habitat will not need excessive watering since the rainfall is assured above 2000 mm per year. In subtropical or drier areas it will be necessary to support it with some irrigation to ensure its optimal growth. As we have said, it does not matter too much if the relative humidity is low or medium, as long as you have water available through the deep and extensive root system.
PLAGUES AND DISEASES
Many diseases and the vast majority of them of fungal origin (cryptogamic). There are dozens of them so prevention is key in this crop. The best fight against fungal diseases is done before symptoms appear. Afterwards it is already very complicated and above all expensive. It is attacked by various strains of Aspergillus, Fusarium, Pytophthora, Sclerotium and a long etcetera.
Regarding pests, it mainly suffers with the whitefly, some trip, caterpillars …
Do you live in an area where cashews can grow? Do you have any planted in your garden? Tell us in the comments!