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Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

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cashew Anacardium occidentale, a small tree which bears a strange fruit. As the drawing shows, it has two parts: at the stem end a cashew ‘apple’, and projecting from the other end of the apple a smaller cashew ‘nut’. In fact the ‘nut’ is the true fruit, and it is only after the ‘nut’ has reached its full size that the ‘apple’ develops, as a fleshy expansion of what is called the receptacle of the nut. The degree of expansion is considerable; the apple may be over 10 cm (4") long.

When the apple is ripe, it and the nut fall to the ground together. Each then poses a problem. The apple keeps only for a very short time; it will spoil within a day at ordinary room temperature. The nut is in a hard double shell, between the two parts of which there is a caustic substance, as explained below, so the kernel is difficult to extract. In some countries the fruit is prized, for immediate consumption, or to be preserved in syrup or dried and candied; and the nuts are discarded. In other countries, the emphasis is on the nuts, and the fruits are left on the ground for animals to eat. Monkeys like them.