{Foodie Friday: Cashews}

5 Mar

Have you ever bitten into a rancid cashew?  I have.  This morning.  Blahhhhh.  Obviously, I should double-check the shelf-life of cashews.  Enter Foodie Friday.


Comes from the Portuguese name for the fruit of the cashew tree, caju, which is derived from the indigenous Tupi (of northeastern Brazil) name, acajú.

Random Facts:

There such as thing called a “cashew apple”, aka marañón in Central America.  Some might mistake this as the fruit of the tree, but it actually develops from the receptacle of the flower, and then the actual fruit grows from this.  And we thought human beings were convoluted!  The cashew apple is edible, has a juicy flesh which is very sweet, and a delicate skin that makes it unstable for export. (I sense a future Jeopardy question here!)


The actual fruit houses the single seed–the cashew.  Yep, that means that cashews are technically fruits, and seeds.  The shell that makes it a “nut” has been removed, so we only eat the seed.

The cashew seed is well protected by many acids and resins and other toxins.  One common one is urushiol, which is better known as the oil that causes poison ivy rashes.  Hmmm…I’m severely allergic to poison ivy, but have no problems with cashews…

Where is it Grown?

While native to Brazil, the Portuguese took the cashew plant to India in 1560. From there it spread throughout Southeast Asia and eventually Africa. The first country to import the cashew nuts from India was the United States in 1905. The leading commercial producers of cashews are India, Brazil, Mozambique, Tanzania and Nigeria. The United States is the largest importer of cashew nuts.

Storage & Shelf-Life

Due to their high content of oleic acid, cashews are more stable than most other nuts but should still be stored in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator, where they will keep for about six months, or in the freezer, where they will keep for about one year. Because of their high oil content, they spoil quickly at room temperature. Aha!  I really should implement a sniff test before hand, as rancid cashews will smell spoiled.

Ummm, Why Should I Care?

Source of protein-3.5 ounces provides 18g.

Also a significant source of Vitamin B1 and B6.  We know we need to get our B vitamins!

Heart-healthy-cashews contain oleic acid, which is an unsaturated fatty acid.  It has been shown to reduce triglycerides.

High antioxidant level-helps reduce free radicals wreaking havoc on the system.

Many studies have proven, to lower your risk of cardiovascular and coronary heart disease, enjoy a handful of cashews or other nuts, or a tablespoon of nut butter, at least 4 times a week.

High in copper-Copper is vital for our body’s functioning.  Numerous health problems can develop when copper intake is inadequate, including iron deficiency anemia, ruptured blood vessels, osteoporosis, joint problems such as rheumatoid arthritis, brain disturbances, elevated LDL (bad) cholesterol and reduced HDL (good) cholesterol levels, irregular heartbeat, and increased susceptibility to infections.

High in magnesium- Insufficient magnesium contributes to high blood pressure, muscle spasms (including spasms of the heart muscle or the spasms of the airways–asthma), and migraine headaches, as well as muscle cramps, tension, soreness, and fatigue. Given these effects, it is not surprising that studies have shown magnesium helps reduce the frequency of migraine attacks, lowers blood pressure, helps prevent heart attacks, promotes normal sleep patterns, and reduces the severity of asthma.

Because cashews are a higher calorie food (relatively, or course—compare it to a Twinkie!), and a good source of unsaturated fat, many still associate it with FAT and CALORIES and avoid them.  However, studies have shown the exact opposite to be true.  Those who eat nuts and seeds a few times a week actually lost weight and/or did not gain weight.

Other Uses

The bark of the cashew tree is scraped, soaked, boiled, and eaten as an anti-diarrheal. 

Cashew oil is used as an anti-fungal.

The cashew seed is ground and applied to snake bites to retract the venom.

In many places, the cashew apple is mixed with water and sugar and left to ferment to make an alcoholic drink.

It can also be ground to make cashew nut butter, to be used the same way as almond butter or peanut butter.

The wood of the cashew tree is prized for its beauty and sturdiness.

Cashews are never sold shelled because the interior of the shells contains a caustic resin, known as cashew balm, which must be carefully removed before the nuts are fit for consumption. This caustic resin is actually used in industry to make varnishes and insecticides. Umm, wait…what? Who ever figured that out, or who decided to try to get past the “bad stuff” to see if there was “good stuff”?  Diamond in the rough seeker or really bored caveman?


Again, roasting, salting, sugaring or chocolate-coating pretty much negates, or causes further distress, all of the good reasons to eat cashews in the first place.  The best way to eat cashews is raw (again, relative as it has been processed a bit to remove the toxic shell), as a snack.  They make an excellent in-between-meals snack. Try sprinkling them on top of salads, chicken, or pasta dishes.

Cashews have a rich buttery flavor, so they complement other foods well.  Specifically, they go well with fresh or dried fruits, most vegetables (add right after steaming or at the end of stir-frying as they’ll soften quickly),tofu, poultry, pork, soy sauce, ginger, oyster sauce, curry powder, coconut milk, ground coriander and cardamom.

Pork & Cashew Stir Fry

Caramel Cashew Cookies

Cashew Chicken

Asparagus and Cashew Chicken Stir-fry

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