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. Its English name derives from the Portuguese name for the fruit of the cashew tree, caju, which in turn derives from the indigenous Tupi name, acajú. It is now widely grown in tropical climates for its cashew nuts (see below) and cashew apples.
The cashew nut is a popular snack, and its rich flavor means that it is often eaten on its own, lightly salted or sugared. Cashew nuts are sold covered in chocolate, but less often than the cheaper peanuts and almonds.
Cashews are a staple in vegan diets. They are used as a base in sauces and gravies, and can take on sweet properties for frostings and cookies. Raw cashews can also be made into a vegan milk (in a manner similar to almond milk) known as nut milk. They are an excellent source of protein and a raw, natural source of energy.
Cashew nuts also factor in Thai cuisine and Chinese cuisine, generally in whole form, and in Indian cuisine, often ground into sauces such as shahi korma, and also used as garnish in Indian sweets and desserts. The cashew nut can also be used in cheese alternatives for vegans, typically in homemade cheese recipes.
A little-known, but delicious, use of the cashew nut is in its tender form, when the shell has not hardened and is green in color. The shell is soft at this stage, and can be cut into two with a knife. The kernel is extracted (it is still corrosive at this stage, so gloves may be required) and soaked in turmeric water to get rid of the corrosive material before use. This is mostly found in Kerala cuisine, typically in the avial, a dish that contains several vegetables, grated coconut, turmeric and green chilies.
In Malaysia, the young leaves are often eaten raw as salad or with sambal belacan (shrimp paste mixed with chili and lime).
In Brazil, the cashew fruit juice is popular all across the country. Additionally, visitors to northeastern areas such as Fortaleza will often find cashew nut vendors selling the nuts for low cost, salted in a plastic bag upon purchase.
In the Philippines, cashew is a known product of Antipolo, and is eaten with suman. Pampanga also has a sweet dessert called turrones de casuy which is cashew marzipan wrapped in white wafer.