Anacardium occidentale, the cashew, is an evergreen tree in the Anacardiaceae (cashew or sumac family) that originated in Central and South America and is now cultivated commercially in semi-arid tropical areas in Africa, India, Sri Lanka, and southeastern Asia for the production of cashew nuts. The tree, which is up to 12 meters (40 feet) tall, has leathery alternate leaves, and flowers with 5 petals and 5 sepals. The fruits take an unusual form, with a kidney-shaped nut (drupe) borne on the end of an receptacle (the stem that holds the flower and fruit), which becomes enlarged and fleshy so that it appears as a fruit (with the nut like a comma dangling at its end), and is referred to as a “cashew apple.”
The cashew apple is edible, with an astringent flavor, and is used in jams, jellies, chutneys, and beverages (including a cashew wine); it is a good source of vitamin A and contains up to five times as much vitamin C as citrus juice. Cashew apples are also used as animal fodder. Cashew nuts, which are important in the cuisine of India, are often roasted and salted and eaten as a snack, and are high in protein, vitamins (A, D, K, and E) and minerals (including calcium, phosphorus, and iron). Other products from the plant include cashew nutshell liquid (CNSL), which is an irritant to human skin (it causes blisters similar to those of poison ivy, Toxcicodendron radicans, which is in the same genus) but is used as a lubricant and insecticide; and acajou gum, from the plant’s stem, which can be used as a substitute for gum arabic or in similar applications, such as varnish.
Total 2010 world production of cashew nuts was 3.6 million tons, harvested from 4.4 million hectares. India was long the leading producer of cashew nuts. However, Nigeria was the largest producer in 2001, and Vietnam’s production surpassed them both in 2002; Vietnam has been the leading producer since. Brazil is the leading producer of commercially sold cashew apples.
(Bailey et al. 1976, Encyclopedia Brittanica 1993, Morton 1987, van Wyk 2005)
- Bailey, L.H., E.Z. Bailey, and the L.H. Bailey Hortatorium. 1976. Hortus Third: A concise dictionary of plants cultivated in the United States and Canada. New York: Macmillan.
- Encyclopedia Brittanica. 1993. “Cashew.” Micropedia 2: 920. 15th ed.
- Morton, J. F. 1987. Cashew Apple. Fruits of warm climates. Julia F. Morton, Miami, FL. pp. 239–240. Available online: http://www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/morton/cashew_apple.html.
- van Wyk, B.-E. Food Plants of the World: An Illustrated Guide. Portland, OR: Timber Press. P. 57.
Derivation of specific name
Native of South America; now widely cultivated in Asia and Africa
State - Kerala, District/s: All Districts"
Localities documented in Tropicos sources
Bolivia (South America)
Brazil (South America)
Ecuador (South America)
El Salvador (Mesoamerica)
French Guiana (South America)
Gabon (Africa & Madagascar)
Venezuela (South America)
Madagascar (Africa & Madagascar)
Peru (South America)
South Africa (Africa & Madagascar)
Paraguay (South America)
Suriname (South America)
Guyana (South America)
Colombia (South America)
Note: This information is based on publications available through Tropicos and may not represent the entire distribution. Tropicos does not categorize distributions as native or non-native.
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- Steyermark, J. 1995. Flora of the Venezuelan Guayana Project. http://www.tropicos.org/Reference/158
- Molina Rosito, A. 1975. Enumeración de las plantas de Honduras. Ceiba 19(1): 1–118. http://www.tropicos.org/Reference/866
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- Killeen, T. J. & T. S. Schulenberg. 1998. A biological assessment of Parque Nacional Noel Kempff Mercado, Bolivia. RAP Working Papers 10: 1–372. http://www.tropicos.org/Reference/1012086
- Foster, R. C. 1958. A catalogue of the ferns and flowering plants of Bolivia. Contr. Gray Herb. 184: 1–223. http://www.tropicos.org/Reference/1313
- Standley, P. C. & J. A. Steyermark. 1949. Anacardiaceae. In Standley, P.C. & Steyermark, J.A. (Eds), Flora of Guatemala - Part VI. Fieldiana, Bot. 24(6): 177–195. http://www.tropicos.org/Reference/6447
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- Nelson, C. 1978. Contribuciones a la Flora de la Mosquitia, Honduras. Ceiba 22(1): 41–64. http://www.tropicos.org/Reference/5269
- Moraes, M. 1990. Lista preliminar de especies Botánicas coleccionadas durante la Expedición Río Madre de Dios (Norte de Bolivia). Mus. Nac. Hist. Nat. (Bolivia) Com. 10: 32–52. http://www.tropicos.org/Reference/1014738
- ORSTOM. 1988. List Vasc. Pl. Gabon Herbier National du Gabon, Yaounde. http://www.tropicos.org/Reference/1671
- Candolle, R. E. A. d. 1901. Plantae Madagascarienses ab Alberto Mocquerysio lectae. Bull. Herb. Boissier, sér. 2, 1(6): 549–587. http://www.tropicos.org/Reference/1950
- Barfod, A. S. 1987. 104. Anacardiaceae. 30: 9–50. In G. W. Harling & B. B. Sparre (eds.) Fl. Ecuador. University of Göteborg and Swedish Museum of Natural history, Göteborg and Stockholm. http://www.tropicos.org/Reference/23080
- Macbride, J. F. 1951. Anacardiaceae, Flora of Peru. Publ. Field Mus. Nat. Hist., Bot. Ser. 13(3A/1): 238–258. http://www.tropicos.org/Reference/681
- Munoz, J. d. D. 1990. Anacardiaceae. 1–84. In G. F. Bocquet & M. R. Crosby (eds.) Fl. Paraguay. Conservatoire et Jardin botaniques de la Ville de Genève; Missouri Botanical Garden, Geneva; St. Louis. http://www.tropicos.org/Reference/11370
- Perrier de la Bathie, H. 1946. Anacardiacees. Fl. Madagasc. 114: 1–82. http://www.tropicos.org/Reference/680
- Gibbs Russell, G. E., W. G. Welman, E. Reitief, K. L. Immelman, G. Germishuizen, B. J. Pienaar, M. v. Wyk & A. Nicholas. 1987. List of species of southern African plants. Mem. Bot. Surv. S. Africa 2(1–2): 1–152(pt. 1), 1–270(pt. 2). http://www.tropicos.org/Reference/1371
- Correa A., M. D., C. Galdames & M. N. S. Stapf. 2004. Cat. Pl. Vasc. Panamá 1–599. Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Panama. http://www.tropicos.org/Reference/1031911
- Jørgensen, P. M. & S. León-Yánez. (eds.) 1999. Catalogue of the vascular plants of Ecuador. Monogr. Syst. Bot. Missouri Bot. Gard. 75: i–viii, 1–1181. http://www.tropicos.org/Reference/42250
- Breedlove, D. E. 1986. Flora de Chiapas. Listados Floríst. México 4: i–v, 1–246. http://www.tropicos.org/Reference/513
- Martínez Salas, E. M., M. Sousa Sánchez & C. H. Ramos Álvarez. 2001. Región de Calakmul, Campeche. Listados Floríst. México 22: 1–55. http://www.tropicos.org/Reference/1018508
- Nelson, C. & G. R. Proctor. 1994. Vascular plants of the Caribbean Swan Islands of Honduras. Brenesia 41–42: 73–80. http://www.tropicos.org/Reference/1021520
- Flora of China Editorial Committee. 2008. Fl. China 11: 1–622. Science Press & Missouri Botanical Garden Press, Beijing & St. Louis. http://www.tropicos.org/Reference/1032358
- Pérez, A., M. Sousa Sánchez, A. M. Hanan-Alipi, F. Chiang Cabrera & P. Tenorio L. 2005. Vegetación terrestre. 65–110. In Biodivers. Tabasco. CONABIO-UNAM, México. http://www.tropicos.org/Reference/1030034
- Balick, M. J., M. Nee & D. E. Atha. 2000. Checklist of the vascular plants of Belize. Mem. New York Bot. Gard. 85: i–ix, 1–246. http://www.tropicos.org/Reference/1014725
- Hokche, O., P. E. Berry & O. Huber. 2008. 1–860. In O. Hokche, P. E. Berry & O. Huber Nuevo Cat. Fl. Vasc. Venezuela. Fundación Instituto Botánico de Venezuela, Caracas. http://www.tropicos.org/Reference/1033110
- Idárraga-Piedrahita, A., R. D. C. Ortiz, R. Callejas Posada & M. Merello. 2011. Flora de Antioquia. Catálogo de las Plantas Vasculares, vol. 2. Listado de las Plantas Vasculares del Departamento de Antioquia. Pp. 1-939. http://www.tropicos.org/Reference/100008595
- D'Arcy, W. G. 1987. Flora of Panama. Checklist and Index. Part 1: The introduction and checklist. Monogr. Syst. Bot. Missouri Bot. Gard. 17: v–xxx, 1–328. http://www.tropicos.org/Reference/1289
- García-Mendoza, A. J. & J. Meave del Castillo. 2011. Divers. Florist. Oaxaca 1–351. Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Ciudad Universitaria. http://www.tropicos.org/Reference/100009052
In terminal, bracteate panicles; greenish with red stripes; fragrant. Flowering from March-April.
A reniform drupe, orange, seed 1. Fruiting April onwards.
Habitat & Distribution
Life History and Behavior
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Barcode data: Anacardium occidentale
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Anacardium occidentale
Public Records: 2
Specimens with Barcodes: 9
Species With Barcodes: 1
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
The nuts are roasted and kernels eaten. The peduncle is also eaten. The juice is made into a beverage (Brazil cajuado) or fermented into a wine. The fruit, bark juice and the nut oil are both said to be folk remedies for calluses, corns, and warts, cancer"
Pericarp and nut edible.
The cashew tree Anacardium occidentale can provide many traditional and industrial byproducts. In terms of culinary uses, cashews appear in the cuisine of many countries and are featured prominently in the cusine of Thailand, China, India, Malaysia, Brazil, Panama and Indonesia. They have also become popular as snacks and appetizers in Western Societies and also appear as ingredients in Western confections (Nair et. al. 1979).
Cashew trees produce: cashew nuts, kernels, cashew apples, edible oil from the nuts (not usually extracted because of the high price the nuts themselves fetch), indelible ink deived form the bark and, yellow dye extracted from leaves (Nair et. al. 1979). Tannins extracted from the testa (seed coat) are used in the leather industry, and gum from the bark is used for bookbinding, while sap its is used for wood preservative (Asogawa et. al. 2007). Senegalese fishermen use the the extract from it's leaves to dye their fishnets yellow (Asogawa et. al. 2007).
Recent studies have found that although the cashew apple is often not valued as highly as the nut by cultivators it has the potential to gross significantly more than it costs to gross because clarified cashew apple juice can be used to grow Leuconostoc mesenteroids which can be used to produce high added value products such as dextran, lactic acid, mannitol and oligosaccharides (Horato, Rabelo and Gonclaves 2007).
Another byproduct that has proven to be useful in industrial manufacturing is cashew nut shell liquid (CNSL). It is composed of anacardic acid, cardarol, and cardol (EPA 2009). While it does not seriously effect rates, it is an acute hazard to fish, aquatic invertebrates, and aquatic plants based on toxicity estimates for cardol at .001 mg/L, .004mg/L, and .010mg/L respectively (EPA 2009). CNSL is an intermediate used in the manufacturing of other basic organic chemicals which are found in automotive car products, antioxidants, rubber compounds, and is a modifier for plastics (EPA 2009).
CNSL is used in wood and fabric preservatives, paints, plastics, printing ink, germicides, insecticides, waterproofing compounds, synthetic resins, dyes, anti-fade agents in brake lining and clutch facing (Asogawa et. al. 2007)
As an insecticide or pest repellant, CNSL has been shown to be effective against Aedes aegypti larvae and Biomphalaria glabrata snails (Laurens et. al. 1998). Cashew nut shells are also highly toxic to Callosobruchus subinnotatus , a pest of the bambarra-groundnut crop, however they also stunt the seed development bambarra-groundnuts (Oparaeke and Bunmi 2006). CNSL is also a very effective termite killer, killing 100% of soldiers and worker termites exposed to it by the 90th minute, which means it is of comparable effectiveness to currently marketed products (Asogawa et. al. 2007). It has been posited that wood treatment products to ward off termite attack created from CNSL are more environmentally friendly than other alternatives (Mwalongo et. al. 1999).
Medicinally, cashew nutshell oil (CNO) has proven to be effective at killing off the human intestinal worm ancylostomiasis and has additionally been observed to be highly effective against Trichuris and Ascaris, though the asserting study only observed three cases of each (Eichbaum, Koch-Wesser and Leoo 1950). In Brazil it has traditionally been used to treat ulcers, hypertension and diarrhea (Konan et. al. 2007). A study investigating whether such application may be potentially harmful tested for acute toxicity, 30-day subacute toxicity and genotoxicity in rats and found that rats showed no symptoms from exposure to crude extract but did exhibit induced frame-shift base pair substitution and damage to chromosomes (Konan et. al. 2007).
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. (2009) Screening-Level Hazard Characterization: Cashew, Nutshell Liquid (CASRN 8007-24-7). Hazard Characterization Document.
- Nair, MK, Bhaskara Rao, EVV, Nambiar KKN, Nambiar MC. (1979) Cashew (Anacardium occidentale L.) Monograph on Plantation Crops.
- Honorato, Talita Lopez, Rabelo, Maria Cristiane, Gonclaves, Luciana Rocha Barros. (2007) Fermentation of cashew apple juice to produce high added value products. World Journal of Microbiology & Biotechnology. vol 23, No. 10, 1409-15.
- Asogwa, E.U., /mokwunge, I. U., Yahaya, L.E. & Ajao, A.A. (2007) Evalutation of Cashew Nut Shell Liquid (CNSL) as a Potential Natural Insecticide Against Termites (Soldiers and Worker Castes). Research Journal of Applied Sciences. Vol. 2, No. 9, 939-42.
- Eichbaum, F.W., Koch-Wesser, D. & Leoo, A.T. (1950) Activity of cashew (anacardium occidentale) nutschell oil in human ancylostomiasis. American Journal of Digestive Diseases. vol 17. No. 11, 370-7.
- Konan, Nzi Andre, Bacchi, Elfriede Marrianne, et. al. (2007) Acute, subacute toxicity and genotoxicity effect of hydroethanolic extract of the Cashew (Anacardium occidentale L.). Journal of Ethnopharmacology. vol. 110, Issue 1. 30-38.
- Laurens, Alain, Frourneau, Christophe, Hocquemiller, Reynald, et. al. (1997) Antivectorial Activities of Cashew Nut Shell Extracts from Anacardium occidentale L. Phytotherpy Research. vol. 11, issue. 2, 145-146.
- Oparaeka, A.M. & Bunmi, O.J.(2006) Insecticidal potential of cashew (Anacardium occidentale L.) for control of the beetle, Callosobruchus sobinnotatus (Pic.)(Bruchidae) on bambarra-groundnut (Voandzeia subterranea L.) Verde. Archives of Phytopathology and Plant Protection. vol. 39, issue 4.
- Mwalongo, Gerold C.J., Mkayula, Lupituko L., Mukofu, Egid B. & Mwingira, Bonaventura A. (1999) Preventing termite attack. Environmentally friendly chemical combinations of cashew nut shell liquid, sulfated wattle tannin and copper (II) chloride. Green Chemistry. issue 1, 13-16.
|This article's lead section may not adequately summarize key points of its contents. (July 2013)|
The cashew, scientific name Anacardium occidentale, is a tree in the family Anacardiaceae which produces a seed that is harvested as the cashew nut. Its English name derives from the Portuguese name for the fruit of the cashew tree, caju (Portuguese pronunciation: [kɐˈʒu]), which itself is derived from the indigenous Tupi name, acajú. Originally native to northeastern Brazil, the tree is now widely grown in tropical climates for its cashew apples and nuts.
The name Anacardium actually refers to the shape of the fruit, which looks like an inverted heart (ana means "upwards" and -cardium means "heart"). In the Tupian languages, acajú means "nut that produces itself".
Habitat and growth
The tree is large and evergreen, growing to 10-12m (~32 ft) tall, with a short, often irregularly shaped trunk. The leaves are spirally arranged, leathery textured, elliptic to obovate, 4 to 22 cm long and 2 to 15 cm broad, with smooth margins. The flowers are produced in a panicle or corymb up to 26 cm long, each flower is small, pale green at first, then turning reddish, with five slender, acute petals 7 to 15 mm long. The largest cashew tree in the world covers an area of about 7,500 square metres (81,000 sq ft), it's located in Natal, Rio Grande do Norte, Brazil.
The fruit of the cashew tree is an accessory fruit (sometimes called a pseudocarp or false fruit). What appears to be the fruit is an oval or pear-shaped structure, a hypocarpium, that develops from the pedicel and the receptacle of the cashew flower. Called the cashew apple, better known in Central America as marañón, it ripens into a yellow and/or red structure about 5–11 cm long. It is edible, and has a strong "sweet" smell and a sweet taste. The pulp of the cashew apple is very juicy, but the skin is fragile, making it unsuitable for transport. In Latin America, a fruit drink is made from the cashew apple pulp which has a very refreshing taste and tropical flavor that can be described as having notes of mango, raw green pepper, and just a little hint of grapefruit-like citrus.
The true fruit of the cashew tree is a kidney or boxing-glove shaped drupe that grows at the end of the cashew apple. The drupe develops first on the tree, and then the pedicel expands to become the cashew apple. Within the true fruit is a single seed, the cashew nut. Although a nut in the culinary sense, in the botanical sense the nut of the cashew is a seed. The seed is surrounded by a double shell containing an allergenic phenolic resin, anacardic acid, a potent skin irritant chemically related to the better-known allergenic oil urushiol which is also a toxin found in the related poison ivy. Properly roasting cashews destroys the toxin, but it must be done outdoors as the smoke (not unlike that from burning poison ivy) contains urushiol droplets which can cause severe, sometimes life-threatening, reactions by irritating the lungs. People who are allergic to cashew urushiols may also react to mango or pistachio which are also in the Anacardiaceae family. Some people are allergic to cashew nuts, but cashews are a less frequent allergen than other nuts or peanuts.
The cashew nut is a popular snack and food source. Cashews, unlike other oily tree nuts, contain starch to about 10% of their weight. This makes them more effective than other nuts in thickening water-based dishes such as soups, meat stews, and some Indian milk-based desserts. Many southeast Asian and south Asian cuisines use cashews for this unusual characteristic, rather than other nuts.
The shell of the cashew nut is toxic, which is why the shell is removed before it is sold to consumers.
Cashew nuts are commonly used in Indian cuisine, whole for garnishing sweets or curries, or ground into a paste that forms a base of sauces for curries (e.g., korma), or some sweets (e.g., kaju barfi). It is also used in powdered form in the preparation of several Indian sweets and desserts. In Goan cuisine, both roasted and raw kernels are used whole for making curries and sweets.
The cashew nut can also be harvested in its tender form, when the shell has not hardened and is green in color. The shell is soft and can be cut with a knife and the kernel extracted, but it is still corrosive at this stage, so gloves are required. The kernel can be soaked in turmeric water to get rid of the corrosive material before use. This is mostly found in Keralan cuisine, typically in avial, a dish that contains several vegetables, grated coconut, turmeric, and green chilies.
In Indonesia, roasted and salted cashew nut is called kacang mete or kacang mede, while the cashew apple is called jambu monyet (literally means monkey rose apple).
South American countries have developed their own specialities. In Brazil, the cashew fruit juice is popular all across the country. In Panama, the cashew fruit is cooked with water and sugar for a prolonged time to make a sweet, brown, paste-like dessert called dulce de marañón. Marañón is one of the Spanish names for cashew.
|Top Ten Cashew Nuts (with shell) Producers in 2010|
|Source: Food & Agriculture Organization|
Nigeria was the world's largest producer of cashew nuts with shell in 2010. Cashew nut production trends have varied over the decades. African countries used to be the major producers before 1980s, India became the largest producer in 1990s, followed by Vietnam which became the largest producer in mid 2000s. Since 2008, Nigeria has become the largest producer. Cashew nuts are produced in tropical countries because the tree is very frost sensitive; they have been adapted to various climatic regions around the world between the latitudes of 25°N and 25°S.
Peru reported the world's highest production yields for cashew nuts in 2010, at 5.27 metric tons per hectare, nearly nine times the world average. The traditional cashew tree is tall (up to 14 m) and takes three years from planting before it starts production, and eight years before economic harvests can begin. More recent breeds, such as the dwarf cashew trees, are up to 6 m tall, and start producing after the first year, with economic yields after three years. The cashew nut yields for the traditional tree are about 0.25 metric tons per hectare, in contrast to over a ton per hectare for the dwarf variety. Grafting and other modern tree management technologies are used to further improve and sustain cashew nut yields in commercial orchards.
Fluctuations in world market prices for cashew nuts have been a source of discontent for communities in Tanzania which grow the nut as a cash crop; reduced payments in April 2013 sparked serious rioting in Liwale District in the south of the country.
Cashews, as with other tree nuts, are a good source of antioxidants. Alkyl phenols, in particular, are abundant in cashews. Cashews are also a source of dietary trace minerals copper, manganese, magnesium and phosphorus.
For some people, cashews, like other tree nuts, can lead to complications or allergic reactions. Cashews contain gastric and intestinal soluble oxalates, albeit less than some other tree nuts; people with a tendency to form kidney stones may need moderation and medical guidance. Allergies to tree nuts such as cashews can be of severe nature to some people. These allergic reactions can be life-threatening or even fatal; prompt medical attention is necessary if tree nut allergy reaction is observed. These allergies are triggered by the proteins found in tree nuts, and cooking often does not remove or change these proteins. Reactions to cashew and other tree nuts can also occur as a consequence of hidden nut ingredients or traces of nuts that may inadvertently be introduced during food processing, handling or manufacturing. Many nations require food label warning if the food may get inadvertent exposure to tree nuts such as cashews.
In some people, cashew nut allergy may be a different form, namely birch pollen allergy. This is usually a minor form. Symptoms are confined largely to the mouth.
Cashew oil is a dark yellow oil for cooking or salad dressing pressed from cashew nuts (typically broken chunks created during processing). This may be produced from a single cold pressing.
Cashew shell oil
The cashew nutshell liquid (CNSL) or cashew shell oil (CAS registry number 8007-24-7) is a natural resin found in the honeycomb structure of the cashew nutshell and is a byproduct of processing cashew nuts. It is a raw material of multiple uses in developing drugs, antioxidants, fungicides, etc. It is used in tropical folk medicine and for anti-termite treatment of timber. Its composition varies depending on how it is processed.
- Cold, solvent extracted CSNL is mostly composed of anacardic acids (70%), cardol (18%) and cardanol (5%).
- Heating CNSL decarboxylates the anacardic acids, producing a technical grade of CNSL that is rich in cardanol. Distillation of this material gives distilled, technical CNSL containing 78% cardanol and 8% cardol (cardol has one more hydroxyl group than cardanol). This process also reduces the degree of thermal polymerization of the un-saturated alkyl-phenols present in cashew shell nut liquid.
- Anacardic acid is also used in the chemical industry for the production of cardanol, which is used for resins, coatings, and frictional materials.
This natural oil phenol has been found to have interesting chemical structural features which enable a range of chemical modifications to create a wide spectrum of bio-based monomers capitalising on the chemically versatile construct it containing three different functional groups, the aromatic ring, the hydroxyl group and the double bonds in the flanking alkyl chain. These can be split into key groups, there use as Polyols. Which have recently seen a dramatic increase in demand for their bio-based origin and key chemical attributes such as high reactivity, range of functionalities, reduction in blowing agents and naturally occurring fire retardant properties in the field of ridged polyurethanes aided by their inherent phenolic structure and larger number of reactive units per unit mass.
CNSL based Novolac are another versatile industrial monomer deriving from cardanol typically used as reticulating agents for epoxy matrices in composite applications providing good thermal and mechanical properties to the final composite material.
Further examples of applications which are Cashew shell nut liquid derived materials are being evaluated are in the fields of chemical intermediates, additives, stabilizers, lubricants, diesel engine fuel alternatives, poor point dispersants, anti-oxidants, anticorrosive paints.
Abrasives and friction dusts have also been developed from Residol, the residue byproduct of this synthesis process.
During World War II cashew shell oil was used as a sabotage device by the OSS (Office of Strategic Services) for destroying the engines of German vehicles when poured into the crankcase of engines.
Composite Technical Services (Kettering, Ohio, USA) have researched the use of cashew shell oil as a resin for carbon composite products.
|This section needs additional citations for verification. (April 2013)|
The cashew apple, also called cashew fruit, is the fleshy part of the cashew fruit that is attached to the cashew nut. The top end of the cashew apple is attached to the stem that comes off the tree. The bottom end of the cashew apple attaches to the cashew nut, which is encased in a shell. In botanical terms, the cashew apple is an accessory fruit that grows on the cashew seed (which is the nut).
The cashew apple is a soft fruit, rich in nutrients, and contains five times more vitamin C than an orange. It is eaten fresh, cooked in curries, or fermented into vinegar, as well as an alcoholic drink. It is also used to make preserves, chutneys, and jams in some countries such as India and Brazil. In many countries, particularly in South America, the cashew apple is used to flavor drinks, both alcoholic and nonalcoholic. In Brazil, it is a popular fruit flavor for the national drink, the caipirinha.
In much of South America, people regard the cashew apple as the delicacy, rather than the nut kernel which is popular elsewhere. In fact, in many South American countries, the cashew apple is more popular as a food than is the cashew nut. A large reason for this is simply the availability of cashew apples. They tend to be popular where they are readily available.
Cashew nuts are more popular than cashew apples in many parts of the world—regions that do not grow cashews—because the fruit, unlike the nut, is difficult to transport to these places. Unlike cashew nuts, cashew apples are extremely soft and easily bruised in shipment. For this reason, cashew juice and cashew juice concentrate are often shipped to these nonlocal countries instead of the fresh fruit.
Cashew apples have a sweet but astringent taste. This astringency has been traced to the waxy layer on the skin that contains a chemical, urushiol, which can cause minor skin irritation to areas that have had contact with it. It is almost identical to the astringency caused by the skin of a mango, which also contains urushiol. The astringency from mango skin can be mildly tasted in the flesh of mango fruit, just as the astringency of cashew apple skin can be mildly tasted in the flesh of cashew apples. In cultures that consume cashew apples, this astringency is sometimes removed by steaming the fruit for five minutes before washing it in cold water; alternatively, boiling the fruit in salt water for five minutes or soaking it in gelatin solution also reduces the astringency. When mixed in drinks or used as a flavoring, the astringency becomes highly diluted and typically causes no irritation to those without urushiol allergies.
In Goa, the cashew apple (the accessory fruit) is mashed, the juice is extracted and kept for fermentation for a few days. Fermented juice then undergoes a double distillation process. The resulting beverage is called feni or fenny. Feni is about 40-42% alcohol. The single-distilled version is called urrac, which is about 15% alcohol.
In the southern region of Mtwara, Tanzania, the cashew apple (bibo in Swahili) is dried and saved. Later it is reconstituted with water and fermented, then distilled to make a strong liquor often referred to by the generic name, gongo.
In Mozambique, cashew farmers commonly make a strong liquor from the cashew apple, agua ardente (burning water).
According to An Account of the Island of Ceylon by Robert Percival an alcohol had been distilled in the early 20th century from the juice of the fruit, and had been manufactured in the West Indies. Apparently, the Dutch considered it superior to brandy as a liqueur.
Many parts of the plant are used in the traditional medicine of the Patamona of Guyana. They grind the seeds into a poultice for treating snakebites, apply nut oil to cracked heels or as an antifungal agent, and use the fruits, bark, and leaves for many other purposes including anti-fungal activity, for sores and rashes, or as an antipyretic, and for antidiarrheal applications. The leaf extracts with petroleum ether and ethanol inhibited growth of several species of bacteria and fungi. Chemicals identified in cashew shell oil have been assayed against Streptococcus mutans, a bacterium responsible for many dental cavities, and found to have activity in vitro against this and other Gram positive bacteria.
- List of culinary nuts
- Semecarpus anacardium (the Oriental Anacardium) is a native of India and is closely related to the cashew.
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