UF/IFAS Okeechobee County Extension Service
458 Highway 98 North
Okeechobee, FL 34972-2578
June 26, 2008
|Quick Links: Relatives Tropical Fruit Tree Growing Cashews Cashew Products References|
Feature Article - for release the week of June 30, 2008
Can’t Believe - it’s a Cashew!
recent visits and work at
One of the more fascinating trees I encountered was a small tree that was covered with a fleshy fruit. It looked like a sweet pepper, except it had a seed growing at the end. Many small trees lined the main entrance road and a few others were scattered around campus.
(Costa Ricans) called this fruit el
and said the fleshy fruit was good to eat.
But they warned me to stay away from that seed.
The seed looked familiar, and I found out is
quite toxic in the raw form.
However, if properly roasted and cracked open, it
is very familiar to snack food fans.
This is the subject of this week’s column –
It amazes me that this plant family can have such a wide variety of really good and really bad plants. And, rather than call it by a “proper” name – Anacardiaceae – it would be easier to fall back on a more familiar family name– the Cashew Family.
This family includes some rogues that are all too familiar in our Florida Yards, the Brazilian pepper (Schinus terebinthifolius), poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans), poison sumac (Rhus vernix) and our native poison wood (Metopium toxiferum).
some less desirable Cashew relatives: (top left)
Brazilian Peppertree [photo: B. Navez,
Wikpedia]; (top center) Poison Ivy [Anne Murray, UF/IFAS];
(top right) Florida native Poisonwood tree [David Lee,
Some other desirable cashew relatives include the Mango [left, Ian Maguire, UF/IFAS] and (right) pistachio [Stan Shebs, Wikpedia.]
Not all of this family is undesirable, as there are several useful plants also in the cashew family; the mango (Mangifera indica) and the pistachio (Pistacia vera) are two that come to mind.
All of these plants have thick dark green leathery leaves with prominent veins. They generally grow with woody stems, although in the case of poison ivy, the stem is not self-supporting. And in most cases the fruit is significant – for better or worse.
Running through all of these plants is an oily sap that contains a very irritating substance – urishol –which causes most people to break out in a skin rash when they contact it. The warning is that some are more sensitive to this sap that others. If you are severely affected by poison ivy, you should be cautious about mangos, and pistachios, and cashews for that matter.
And for safety’s sake, don’t burn any of the raw plant residues. The sap stays around even in dried cuttings and can become airborne in smoke. A product called ivy-block can be applied before contacting these plants. It reduces the severity of the rash if it is put on before exposure to the cashew relatives.
cashew tree (Anacardium occidentale) originally came from the dry tropical
highlands in eastern
The cashew apple “fruit” is not really a fruit, but an enlarged fleshy stem that produces the seed. The flesh has the consistency of a mango, and the flavor is somewhat similar in taste. I only had one chance to taste the fruit. It was good but much milder than a mango.
Cashew apple “fruit” is sweeter when fully ripe, but if it falls off the tree you would have to race the many other creatures that want to eat it. It has a short shelf life, so if not eaten fresh or made into tropical beverages or desserts, it may be made into fruit preserves or dried.
|Cashew Trees line the entrance to EARTH LaFlor's Campus in the dry northwestern part of Guanacaste, Costa Rica. Flowering occurs in mid winter (January) ; the fruit mature in mid spring (April.) Photo: Dan Culbert, UF/IFAS||The fleshy stem of the cashew-apple matures to a yellow or red color. They have a short shelf life. The true fruit is the hard capsule on the blossom end of this "receptacle". Photo: Adrian Hunsberger, UF/IFAS||The
flesh of the cashew apple is like a Mango in texture
and flavor. Photo: Dan Culbert,
Careful - Unripe Marañón are astringent, and my provoke a undesirable reaction. Photo: Dan Culbert, UF/IFAS.
Cashew trees may be grown in frost-free areas. UF Tropical Fruit specialist Jon Crane has a very detailed bulletin on growing cashew apple trees. Let us know if you would like to receive a copy. If you want to grow cashews in Florida, here are a few important things to think about:
* They do not like any frost. Plan on keeping this tree in a container and rolling it indoors when near-freezing temperatures are forecast.
* It will take several years for a small seedling tree to get big enough to flower and fruit. Enjoy the fleshy cashew apple like a seedless mango; throw away the seed or use them to try to grow a cashew tree.
If you want to grow your own, don’t use
a nut out of the jar – it has been roasted and will
not grow. While
they are difficult to find in nurseries, I did locate a
* Do not (i.e. DON’T) try to break open the seeds, extract the nut and eat it, as there is a thick gooey layer of toxic oil just waiting to cause you lots of skin rash. (If you want to learn how to properly roast any homegrown cashew nuts, please contact our office and I will help you locate some instructions.)
Cashew Apples are harvested for making into cashew apple recipes, while the external seed are separated for further processing. Photo: Univ. of Georgia.
|The fruit are sun dried and will needed to be roasted and cracked open before the nuts are safe to eat. Photo: Dan Culbert, UF/IFAS||Roasted cashews can be processed into a very delicious cashew nut-butter. Photo: Dan Culbert, UF/IFAS|
People living on this side of the border know cashews as that curved shaped nut with a pleasant taste. Often found in mixtures of snack nuts, cashews are used in some favorite recipes like Cashew Chicken.
my visit to a market in
my return, I enjoyed this tasty product and then took
a careful look at the label.
I discovered that the nuts were grown in
Hope you enjoy some cashews while you are celebrating our country’s 232nd birthday. If you need additional information on cashews, please contact your local Extension office. GO GATORS!
Trade names, where used, are given for the purpose of providing specific information. They do not constitute an endorsement or guarantee of products named, nor does it imply criticism of products not named. The Florida Cooperative Extension Service - Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer authorized to provide research, educational information, and other services to individuals and institutions that function without regard to race, color, sex, age, handicap, or national origin. Florida Cooperative Extension Service / IFAS / University of Florida Nick Place, Dean. Last update: 03/31/2015.
Azam-Ali, S. H. & Judge, E. C. Small-scale cashew nut processing. Warwickshire, UK: FAO, ITDG Schumacher Centre for Technology and Development, © 2004. http://www.fao.org/inpho_archive/content/documents/vlibrary/ac306e/ac306e00.htm
John, Balerdi, Carlos and
Jonathan Crane Cashew-Apple
Fruit Growing in the
Park-Brown, Sydney. Cashew (Anacardium occidentale) In: FlorIDa, Plant Identification website, 2009. http://gardeningsolutions.ifas.ufl.edu/mastergardener/outreach/plant_id/fruits_nuts/cashew.shtml
Other Cashew references
Cashews Wikipedia, accessed 11/16/2012. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cashew
Cashew Butter: http://www.onceagainnutbutter.com/
to roast Cashew Nuts: http://karineandtom.blogspot.com/2008/04/cashews-tough-nuts.html