Cashews - The World's Healthiest Food

Cashew nuts growing is easy, but it requires a more specific environment and growing conditions. If you can provide that you can grow your own cashew tree and enjoy the nuts and fresh fruits that are called cashew apple, throughout the year.

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Cashew nuts are actually the kidney-shaped seeds that adhere to the bottom of the cashew apple, the fruit of the cashew tree.

Cashew tree is a close relative of mango, pistachio nut and poison ivy. This plant originates from northeastern parts of Brazil, where it lives as a part of tropical rainforests. Cashew tree was discovered and transported to the other parts of the world thanks to Portuguese explorers.

Interesting Cashew tree Facts:

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  • Cashew tree is tropical evergreen plant that can reach 20 to 46 feet in height.
  • Cashew tree has green, elliptical, leathery leaves that are spirally arranged on the branches.
  • Cashew tree produces flowers arranged in multi-branched inflorescence called panicle. Tree produces three types of flowers: male, female and mixed (flowers that contain both type of reproductive organs). Flowers are initially green, but they become red after some time. Bats and insects are main pollinators of flowers.
  • Cashew nuts are the “true” fruit of the cashew trees. They are located on the bottom of the “false” fruit called cashew apple. Cashew nuts are protected with hard shell. Nuts are bean-shaped and one inch long.
  • Cashew apples are also edible. They are mostly consumed in the South America, where people eat them raw or in the form of delicious drinks.
  • Cashew nuts are commercially available without shell because it contains compound (anacardic acid) which induces skin irritation.
  • Anacardic acid, isolated from the shell of cashew nuts, has application in the chemical industry for the production of insecticides and varnishes.
  • Cashew nuts are rich source of the vitamins of the B group and minerals such as magnesium, manganese, zinc, phosphorus and copper. They also contain high level of monounsaturated-fatty acids, which are beneficial for the human health.
  • Cashew nuts are usually consumed raw as a snack, or in the form of butter. Besides that, cashew nuts are integral part of different sweet and salty dishes in Indian, Chinese and Thailand cuisine.
  • Due to high content of fat, cashew nuts easily become rancid at a room temperature. That’s why they should be stored in the fridge.
  • According to the latest medical studies, cashew nuts can prevent development of gallstones and lower the risk of cardiovascular diseases. They act beneficially in people diagnosed with diabetes.
  • Cashew nuts, like many other types of nuts, may trigger severe allergic reaction in sensitive persons.
  • Hard shell of cashew nuts is used in treatment of snakebites in some parts of the world.
  • The greatest producer of cashew nuts in the world is Nigeria. It produces more than 1.9 metric tons of cashew nuts annually.
  • Cashew tree is able to live and produce nuts more than 30 years.

Health Benefits of Cashews

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Monounsaturated Fats for the Heart:
Cashews are a good source of healthy dietary fats, which are essential for our body to absorb the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K and produce fatty acids that are vital for the development of the brain and blood clotting. These healthy fats include Monounsaturated fats or MUFA and polyunsaturated fats or PUFA. They are good for the heart and help to reduce bad cholesterol.

Healthy Muscles and Nerves: Cashews are a good source of magnesium, which is vital for the healthy development of bones, muscles, tissues, and organs of the body.

Magnesium helps to maintain healthy blood pressure, sustain the immune system, maintain nerve function, and keep the bones strong.

Diabetes:
The presence of very low amounts of sugar and no harmful cholesterol in cashews makes them safe for diabetic patients! It even helps in lowering the risk of type 2 diabetes.

Chemotherapy:
Research has shown that the wealth of antioxidants like anacardic acids, cardanols and cardols in cashews make them effective for people undergoing treatments for tumors and cancer.

Ground cashews are a comparatively simple absorbed form of protein and are advised to be safe for such patients as well.

Red Blood Cells:
Cashews are rich in copper, which helps in the metabolism of iron, aids in the formation of red blood cells and helps in keeping bones and the immune system healthy.

Bone and Oral Health:
Cashews also provide phosphorous, which is essential for the healthy development of teeth and bones. Phosphorous also aids in protein synthesis, absorption of carbohydrates and fats and the maintenance of cellular health.

Anemia:
Cashews are a source of dietary, iron which is vital for carrying oxygen around the body and aids in the functioning of enzymes and the immune system. A deficiency of iron in the diet can lead to body fatigue, anemia, and an increased susceptibility to infections.

Gallstones:
Gallstones are stone-like deposits that usually consist of cholesterol that accumulates in the gall bladder. The regular inclusion of healthy nuts like cashews can help to lower the risk of formation of gallstones.

Culinary Usage:
Cashew nuts are tasty and highly sought-after nuts. They can be enjoyed either roasted or plain, and with or without salt. They are added to a various vegetarian and non-vegetarian delicacies and a range of confectionery food items like cookies, biscuits, and ice cream.

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Apart from the famous and delicious cashew nut, the cashew tree offers an immense treasure of medicinal and industrial uses as well. These applications are widely popular in Guyana and all over the Amazon.

Cashew Nut Shell Liquid–
This is a byproduct obtained while processing cashews and is a versatile material in terms of industrial usage. It is one of the sources of naturally available phenols. It is a raw material that is used in the preparation of drugs, insecticides, paints, plastics, resins, and anti-termite treatments for timber.

Due to its medicinal properties and the presence of anacardic acids, cashew nut shell liquid has an antibiotic effect and is used in the treatment of sore tooth, leprosy, ringworm, warts, scurvy, and elephantiasis.

Cashew Bark and Leaf –
The bark and the leaf of the tree possess medicinal benefits and have been used as remedy for both diarrhea and colic. Cashews leaf extract is utilized to reduce blood sugar and blood pressure levels. Oils extracted from the seeds prove effective in the preparation of insecticides.

The infusion of the bark of the cashew tree has astringent properties and is used as a mouthwash for treating oral ulcers and as a remedy for sore throat and influenza.

Leaves of the cashew tree, when boiled with water, serve as an anti-pyretic and are used for the treatment of aches and pains throughout the body.

Cashew Fruit (Cashew Apple) –
Cashew apples possess anti-bacterial properties and have been proven to be effective in treating stomach ulcers and gastritis, which is usually caused by H. pylori bacteria.

Its juice is rich in vitamin C and has an anti-scurvy effect. Cashew apple juice is widely utilized in the cosmetic industry due to the presence of antioxidants and is used in the preparation of various creams and shampoos.

Cashew Seed –
Oil extracted from cashew seeds are widely used in curing cracked heels. Powdered cashew seeds have anti-venom effects and are used for treating snake bites.

Cashew Stem –
Gum extracted from the cashew stem is used as a varnish for wood works and books.

Note: It is advisable to consult doctors if one develops any allergies after consuming cashews.

How to Grow Cashews

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Days to germination: 4 to 6 days
Days to harvest: 3 years
Light requirements: Full sun
Water requirements: Regular watering
Soil: Sandy soil, even generally poor soil

Cashew Nuts Growing Information

It is also called as cashew apple tree, it is part of the Anacardiaceae family, the same family that belongs to pistachio and mango.

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Cashew tree can grow up to 6 – 12 m (20 – 40 f) high. Its evergreen leaves are oval, leathery and dark green. They have a prominent midrib.

The flowers, white and pink are gathered in inflorescence at the tips of young shoots. They are smaller in size but very fragrant.

As for the fruits of this tree, do not be fooled by appearances. The cashew apple is oval-shaped, like bell pepper: yellow, orange or red in color is actually a false fruit (it is also edible).

The real fruit, more discreet is a nut attached to the end of the false fruit. It is that which contains the edible kernel, which we called cashew.

How to Grow Cashew Tree from Seed

Cashew tree can be grown from seeds, air layering and grafting. To propagate it from seeds, you will need a good quality seeds. (High quality seeds are available with nurserylive.com)

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After collecting seeds, dry it in sun for 3 days and soak in water overnight before sowing.

Sow the seeds in good quality seed starting mix, the seeds will germinate anywhere from 4 days to 3 weeks.

Requirements for Growing Cashew Nuts Tree

Sun
Cashew tree needs at least 6 hours of direct sun, it grows slowly and doesn’t fruit if grown in shade.

Soil and water
Cashew prefers poor sandy and laterite soil with pH level around 5 – 6.5. Never grow cashew tree in clay rich soil.

It is heavy and encourages waterlogging and in the case of growing cashew tree, the soil you use should be well drained in a way that water will drain easily.

Cashew trees are moderately drought tolerant once established, but they produce more fruits if watered regularly. During the summer, water weekly or twice and deeply. Reduce or withhold watering during winter.

Overwatering can harm or even kill your cashew tree, so water only if soil is dry and let the soil to dry out between spells of watering.

Fertilizer
Cashew tree needs regular application of fertilizer to grow vigorously and produce fruits. Use slow release fertilizer. Apply compost or farm manure once in a year, around 30 pounds (15 kg) on the surface of soil to a mature tree.

Cashew Nuts Growing Care

Pruning

Prune cashew trees regularly to remove weak, dead and entangled branches and branches that are infested with diseases or pests. Also cut overcrowded branches to promote vigorous growth.
Mulching

Do mulching around your cashew tree with organic matters to prevent weeds and to conserve moisture.
Pests and Diseases

Cashew tree is generally pest free if it is in good health. Major pests that attacks it are tea mosquito, stem and root borer, leaf Miner and blossom Webber.

Harvesting and Cashew Nut Processing

Harvest when cashew apples turns pink or red and cashew nut shell is grey. After harvesting, separate the cashew apple from nut.

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Cashew apple can be eaten raw or make juice of it. Unshelled cashew nut can be stored up to 2 years.

Do not attempt to break the shell before roasting, as cashew shell contains very caustic oil which can burn skin.

When processing cashew nut at home must wear gloves and safety glasses and take special care. To learn more on how to process cashew– read this.

Cashew Nuts Growing Tips

  • Sow fresh cashew seeds for germination, as they germinate easily.
  • Tree grown from seeds take 3 to 5 years to produce its first fruits, our recommendation is to buy a potted plant from nursery, this way you’ll not have to wait that long.
  • Choose a location that is well protected from wind.
  • Cashew grows better when temperature remains around 80 degrees Fahrenheit (25 C) although it can withstand temperatures as low as 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 C) and as high as 105 Fahrenheit (40.5 C) without any problem.
  • Keep the area around the base of your cashew tree free from weeds, small shrubs, vines and debris.
  • Watch for sick or dead branches, prune them if necessary.

Other than the necessary tropical climate, cashews are actually very easy plants to grow. Growing cashew trees will not only provide you with the “nuts”, but also the unusual sweet fruit that grows along with them.

Called the cashew apple, the fruit is edible, though quite astringent to the taste. It makes excellent fruit juice.


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