Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

  • About
Like the Brazil nut, cashews come from the Amazon region, whose natives gave us the name. But the tree was successfully transplanted to India and East Africa by the Portuguese, and today these regions are the world’s largest producers. The cashew is second only to the almond in world trade. It’s a relative of poison ivy, and that’s why we never see cashews for sale in the shell. The shell contains an irritating oil that must be driven off by heating before the seed can be carefully extracted without contamination. In the producing countries, the seed-containing fruit is often discarded in favor of the swollen stem tip or “false fruit” called the cashew apple, which is enjoyed either fresh, cooked, or fermented into an alcoholic drink.