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Morton, J. 1987. Cashew Apple. p. 239–240. In: Fruits of warm climates. Julia F. Morton, Miami, FL.


Cashew Apple

Anacardium occidentale L.



Cashew Apple
Plate XXX: CASHEW APPLE, Anacardium occidentale
Cashew Apple
Fig. 66: The so-called "cashew apple", a pseudofruit–actually the swollen stalk of the true fruit of Anacardium occidentale, the cashew nut–is fibrous but juicy and locally popular preserved in sirup.

candied cashew apple
Fig. 67: Food technologists in Mysore, India, developed a candied cashew apple product, more appealing than the canned. A similar confection is made and sold in the Dominican Republic.

This pseudofruit (or "false fruit") is a by-product of the cashew nut industry. The cashew tree, Anacardium occidentale L., is called marañon in most Spanish-speaking countries, but merey in Venezuela; and caju or cajueiro in Portuguese. It is generally bushy, low-branched and spreading; may reach 35 ft (10.6 m) in height and width. Its leaves, mainly in terminal clusters, are oblong-oval or obovate, 4 to 8 in (10-20 cm) long and 2 to 4 in (5-10 cm) wide, and leathery. Yellowish-pink, 5-petalled flowers are borne in 6 to 10-in (15-25 cm) terminal panicles of mixed male, female and bisexual. The true fruit of the tree is the cashew nut resembling a miniature boxing-glove; consisting of a double shell containing a caustic phenolic resin in honeycomb-like cells, enclosing the edible kidney-shaped kernel. An interesting feature of the cashew is that the nut develops first and when it is full-grown but not yet ripe, its peduncle or, more technically, receptacle, fills out, becomes plump, fleshy, pear-shaped or rhomboid-to-ovate, 2 to 4 1/2 in (5-11.25 cm) in length, with waxy, yellow, red, or red-and-yellow skin and spongy, fibrous, very juicy, astringent, acid to subacid, yellow pulp. Thus is formed the conspicuous, so-called cashew apple.

The cashew is native to and northeast Brazil and, in the 16th Century, Portuguese traders introduced it to Mozambique and coastal India, but only as a soil retainer to stop erosion on the coasts. It flourished and ran wild and formed extensive forests in these locations and on nearby islands, and eventually it also became dispersed in East Africa and throughout the tropical lowlands of northern South America, Central America and the West Indies. It has been more or less casually planted in all warm regions and a few fruiting specimens are found in experimental stations and private gardens in southern Florida.

The production and processing of cashew nuts are complex and difficult problems. Because of the great handicap of the toxic shell oil, Latin Americans and West Indians over the years have been most enthusiastic about the succulent cashew apple and have generally thrown the nut away or processed it crudely on a limited scale, except in Brazil, where there is a highly developed cashew nut processing industry, especially in Ceara. In Mozambique, also, the apple reigned supreme for decades. Attention then focused on the nut, but, in 1972, the industrial potential of the juice and sirup from the estimated 2 million tons of surplus cashew apples was being investigated. In India, on the other hand, vast tonnages of cashew apples have largely gone to waste while that country pioneered in the utilization and promotion of the nut.

The apple and nut fall together when both are ripe and, in commercial nut plantations, it is most practical to twist off the nut and leave the apple on the ground for later grazing by cattle or pigs. But, where labor costs are very low, the apples may be gathered up and taken to markets or processing plants. In Goa, India, the apples are still trampled by foot to extract the juice for the locally famous distilled liquor, feni. In Brazil, great heaps are displayed by fruit vendors, and the juice is used as a fresh beverage and for wine.

In the field, the fruits are picked up and chewed for refreshment, the juice swallowed, and the fibrous residue discarded. In the home and, in a limited way for commercial purposes, the cashew apples are preserved in sirup in glass jars. Fresh apples are highly perishable. Various species of yeast and fungi cause spoilage after the first day at room temperature. Food technologists in India have found that good condition can be maintained for 5 weeks at 32º to 35º F (0º-1.67º C) and relative humidity of 85% to 90%. Inasmuch as the juice is astringent and somewhat acrid due to 35% tannin content (in the red: less in the yellow) and 3% of an oily substance, the fruit is pressure-steamed for 5 to 15 minutes before candying or making into jam or chutney or extracting the juice for carbonated beverages, sirup or wine. Efforts are made to retain as much as possible of the ascorbic acid. Food technologists in Costa Rica recently worked out an improved process for producing the locally popular candied, sun-dried cashew apples. Failure to remove the tannin from the juice may account for the nutritional deficiency in heavy imbibers of cashew apple wine in Mozambique, for tannin prevents the body's full assimilation of protein.

Food Value Per 100 g of Fresh Cashew Apple*

Moisture 84.4-88.7 g
Protein 0.101-0.162 g
Fat 0.05-0.50 g
Carbohydrates 9.08-9.75 g
Fiber 0.4-1.0 g
Ash 0.19-0.34 g
Calcium 0.9-5.4 mg
Phosphorus 6.1-21.4 mg
Iron 0.19-0.71 mg
Carotene 0.03-0.742 mg
Thiamine 0.023-0.03 mg
Riboflavin 0.13-0.4 mg
Niacin 0.13-0.539 mg
Ascorbic Acid 146.6-372.0 mg

*Analyses made in Central America and Cuba.

Medicinal Uses: Cashew apple juice, without removal of tannin, is prescribed as a remedy for sore throat and chronic dysentery in Cuba and Brazil. Fresh or distilled, it is a potent diuretic and is said to possess sudorific properties. The brandy is applied as a liniment to relieve the pain of rheumatism and neuralgia.