A photo of a cashew growing on a tree caused a sensation on the internet a couple of months ago. I completely missed it, but someone mentioned it to me the other day. Not the viral photo, but that cashews grow funny.
For anyone else who missed it, let’s talk about cashews. Here’s what they really look like.
As to the history, cashew trees are native to Brazil. When the Portuguese arrived in the sixteenth century, they colonized Brazil and exported cashews to India as part of their trade network. And it turns out that cashew trees don’t mind leaving home. Soon they were growing in India, Asia, and Africa.
So why don’t we buy cashews in the shell? Inside the shell are compounds that have an affect like poison ivy. Cashews must be shelled, either manually or by machine, very carefully. And then they need to be roasted or cooked to be sure none of the compounds remain on the nut. Oh, and be careful of the smoke while roasting as that also contains toxins.
Like me, you have probably never seen a cashew apple. Those are mostly used locally as they are too fragile to ship and have a very short shelf life. When they are used, it is mostly to make fruit drinks or fermented to make alcohol.
Ultimately cashews are a lot of work, which is probably why they didn’t become a product of international trade until the early twentieth century.
Please share if you know of any other common food that would surprise us!