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The cashew (Anacardium occidentale; syn. Anacardium curatellifolium A.St.-Hil.) is a tree in the flowering plant family Anacardiaceae. The plant is native to northeastern Brazil, where it is called by its Portuguese name Caju (the fruit) or Cajueiro (the tree). It is now widely grown in tropical climates for its cashew "nuts" (see below) and cashew apples.
It is a small evergreen tree growing to 10-12 m 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 a smooth margin. The flowers are produced in a panicle or corymb up to 26 cm long, each flower small, pale green at first then turning reddish, with five slender, acute petals 7 to 15 mm long.
What appears to be the fruit of the cashew tree is an oval or pear-shaped accessory fruit or false fruit that develops from 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, and the skin is fragile, thus making it unsuitable for transport.
The true fruit of the cashew tree is a kidney or boxing-glove shaped drupe that grows at the end of the pseudofruit. Actually, the drupe develops first on the tree, and then the peduncle expands into the pseudofruit. Within the true fruit is a single seed, the cashew nut. Although a nut in the culinary sense, in the botanical sense the fruit of the cashew is a seed. The seed is surrounded by a double shell containing a caustic phenolic resin, urushiol, a potent skin irritant toxin also found in the related poison ivy. Some people are allergic to cashews, but cashews are a less frequent allergen than some nuts.
Other vernacular names include cajueiro, cashu, casho, acajuiba, caju, acajou, acaju, acajaiba, alcayoiba, anacarde, anacardier, anacardo, Andi parippu (in Malayalam), cacajuil, cajou, gajus, godambi (in Kannada), jeedi pappu (in Telugu), jocote maranon, maranon, merey, Mundhiri paruppu (Tamil), noix d’acajou, pomme cajou, pomme, jambu, jambu golok, jambu mete, jambu monyet, jambu terong, kasoy. In the Antilles, specifically Puerto Rico, it is known as pajuil and the pseudofruit is the main part used as raw fruit.
Originally spread from Brazil by the Portuguese, the cashew tree is now cultivated in all regions with a sufficiently warm and humid climate.
Cashew is produced in around 32 countries of the world. The world production figures of cashew crop, published by the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), was around 3.1 million tons per annum. The major raw cashew producing countries with their production figures in 2006 (as per the FAO) are Vietnam (941,600 tons), Nigeria (636,000 tons), India (573,000 tons), Brazil (236,140 tons) and Indonesia (122,000 tons).
World’s total area under the cultivation of cashew is around 33,900 km². India ranks first in area utilized for cashew production, though its yields are relatively low. The world’s average yield is 817 pounds per acre (916 kg/hectare) of land
Collectively, Vietnam, India and Brazil account for more than 90% of all cashew kernel exports. Some varieties of cashews come from Kollam or Quilon in Kerala, Southern India which alone produces 4,000 tons of cashews per annum. The major trading centers of cashew in India are Palasa, Kollam or Quilon Mangalore and Kochi.
The cashew apple is used for its juicy but acidic pulp, which can be eaten raw or used in the production of jam, chutney, or various beverages. Depending on local customs, its juice is also processed and distilled into liquor or consumed diluted and sugared as a refreshing drink, Cajuína. Ripe cashew apples also make good caipirinha. In Goa, India, the cashew apple is the source of juicy pulp used to prepare fenny, a locally popular distilled liquor. In Nicaragua the cashew apple has many uses, it is often eaten or made into juice and also processed to create sweets and jellies. Other uses in Nicaragua include fermentation to produce wine and home-vinegar. The cashew apple contains much tannin and is very perishable. For this reason, in many parts of the world, the false fruit is simply discarded after removal of the cashew nut.
The urushiol must be removed from the dark green nut shells before the seed inside is processed for consumption; this is done by shelling the nuts, a somewhat hazardous process, and exceedingly painful skin rashes (similar to poison-ivy rashes) among processing workers are common. In India urushiol is traditionally used to control tamed elephants by their mahouts (riders or keepers). The so-called "raw cashews" available in health food shops have been cooked but not roasted or browned.
Cashew nuts are a common ingredient in Asian cooking. They can also be ground into a spread called cashew butter similar to peanut butter. Cashews have a very high oil content, and they are used in some other nut butters to add extra oil. Cashews contain 180 calories per ounce (6 calories per gram), 70% of which are from fat.
The liquid contained within the shell casing of the cashew, known as Cashew Nut Shell Liquid (CNSL), has a variety of industrial uses which were first developed in the 1930s. CNSL is fractionated in a process similar to the distillation of petroleum, and has two primary end products: solids that are pulverized and used as friction particle for brake linings, and an amber-colored liquid that is aminated to create phenalkamine curing agents and resin modifiers. Phenalkamines are primarily used in epoxy coatings for the marine and flooring markets, as they have intense hydrophobic properties and are capable of remaining chemically active at low temperatures.
Anacardic acids with a 15 carbon unsaturated side chain found in the cashew plant is very lethal to gram positive bacteria. The side chain with three unsaturated bonds was the most active against Streptococcus mutans, the tooth decay bacterium, in test tube experiments. The number of unsaturated bonds were not material against Propionibacterium acnes, the acne bacterium . Eichbaum claims that one part to 200,000 to as high as 2,000,000 parts of solution of anacardic acid is lethal to gram positive bacteria in 15 minutes in vitro. Somewhat higher ratios killed tubercle bacteria of tuberculosis in 30 minutes . Heating these anacardic acids converts them to the alcohols (cardinols) but does not destroy their activity  unless high heat is used, which decarboxylates them . A case history has been successful in curing tooth abscesses using cashew nuts in vivo . It is said that the people of the Gold Coast use cashew leaves and bark for a toothache. 
References and external links
Cashew Fruit- Stages of Development
|This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Cashew". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.|