Friday, 25 January 2013

Cashew (Anacardium occidentale)

The Cashew tree is naive to northern Brazil. 

The Cashew tree is an evergreen tree that grows to about 10 to 12m tall. It has an irregularly-shaped trunk and spreading crown. It has prominent tap roots and a well-developed and extensive network of lateral roots and sinker roots when grown from seed. The large leaves are simple and alternate, up to 20cm long and 15cm wide. They are leathery in texture and pale green or reddish when young, turning dark green upon maturing.

The flowers produced by the Cashew tree are numerous and in panicles. They are small and pale green or reddish in colour with 5 sepals and 5 petals no more than 2cm. 

The fruit of the Cashew tree is considered an accessory fruit or false fruit. The pear-shaped structure that appears to be the fruit is actually developed from the pedicel and the receptacle of the Cashew flower. About 10 to 20cm long, this structure is also known as the Cashew Apple, and is yellow or red in colour. The Cashew Apple is edible and has a sweet juicy pulp and sweet smell. 

The true fruit of the Cashew tree is the kidney-shaped drupe that grows at the end of the Cashew Apple. The drupe develops first, followed by the expanded pedicel which becomes the Cashew apple. Inside the drupe is where the "Cashew nut" is found. Though commonly referred to as a "nut", it is actually the seed of the fruit. The seed is surrounded by a double shell which contains toxins similar to those found in poison ivy. Roasting the cashews properly will be able to destroy the toxin.

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