Cashew nuts grow out of what looks like an upside down apple. It is a truly bizarre sight and a testament to the limitless possibilities of Mother Nature. The famous cashew nut needs no introduction, it is prized and famous the world over. The cashew apple, however, though unknown in the west, is a popular delicacy in some parts of the world. It is eaten fresh, cooked in curries, or fermented into vinegar. In parts of South America, natives regard the cashew apple as the delicacy, rather than the nut kernel popular elsewhere. Used to make jams, chutneys and preservatives in India and Brazil cashew apples must be handled carefully because of a poisonous waxy layer on the skin that can cause mild to severe allergic reactions.
The true fruit of the cashew tree is a kidney or boxing-glove shaped drupe that grows at the end of the cashew apple. The drupe develops first on the tree, and then expands to become the cashew apple. Within the true fruit is a single seed, the cashew nut. The seed is surrounded by a double shell containing an allergenic phenolic resin, anacardic acid, a potent skin irritant chemically related to the better-known allergenic oil urushiol which is also a toxin found in the related poison ivy. Properly roasting cashews destroys the toxin, but it must be done outdoors as the smoke contains urushiol droplets which can cause severe, sometimes life-threatening reactions by irritating the lungs.
In the early 1970s, the majority of global cashew production (68 percent of total) occurred in African countries, in particular, Mozambique and Tanzania. Over the following thirty years, production trends shifted, with Asian countries emerging as the world leaders in cashew production. Today, India commands about 40 percent of the international market in cashew production. Other Asian countries, particularly Vietnam and Indonesia, are beginning to expand their production capacities. Currently, the four main cashew producing regions are India, Brazil, Nigeria and Tanzania.
Cashews are enjoyed today the world over and famous for its buttery, warm flavor and texture. Premier Organics is the manufacturer of Artisana Raw Organic Cashew Butter.