How Cashews Grow

Updated on February 8, 2018
Blond Logic profile image

Living on a farm in Brazil, I've gained local in-depth knowledge of food, plants, and traditions, which I share through my articles.

cashew nut
cashew nut

The Cashew Apple

Can you recognize this fruit in the picture to the right? Would it surprise you to know that you have probably eaten this before but not recognized it? It is a cashew nut. The part at the top is called the cashew apple. This is a juicy fibrous fruit that is eaten locally either like an apple, juiced, or cooked into a dessert. The nut is hanging off the bottom of this fruit in a protective outer shell.

Here on our farm, in northern Brazil, we have several types of cashew trees. We have dwarf trees and full-size trees with fruit that is either yellow or red. The cashew nuts they produce also vary in size, the most valuable being the larger ones. The smaller ones are either sold locally or ground into cashew flour or sold as broken nuts by local street vendors. The cashew tree is native to this area of Brazil and it is common to see them growing wild in scrubland near the roads. The local people will toss a twig up to a ripe cashew fruit to knock it down to eat. This technique is also employed during the mango season as well.

Raw Cashew Nuts

There are many places that sell what they are calling raw cashews. The problem is, all have been steamed or boiled. So if you are buying packages of raw cashews you are being conned. If you doubt this, plant one and see if it grows.

The reason for this is there is a strong acid inside the cashew shell. This prevents anyone from opening the nut without them first cooking it. Even if you have heard of raw cashew nuts, this is not true. All the nuts have to be cooked in order to open the shell and release the acid. So raw cashews are in fact heated if not roasted. I have seen the resulting burn of the acid in the cashew nut on the arm of my young neighbor. She was about 10 when it happened and It was very painful for her.

Traditionally Prepared Cashew Nuts

When we had our first harvest of cashew nuts, shortly after arriving in Brazil, I was petrified at the way they were prepared. Being a native Californian, I have had the possibility of forest fires ingrained into me from a young age. Seeing how traditional roasting of cashews was done here on a parched lawn with dry looking palm trees nearby had me worried. Coupled with a gusty day I envisioned the whole farm catching alight.

Our gardener began by washing out a 25-liter paint can and piercing holes in it. Then he began to build a fire quite close to the house and just explained they had always done it this way. The next thing I knew there was a roaring (albeit small) fire burning uncomfortably close-by. The cashews were spitting hot acid and the gardener just kept stirring explaining that everything was under control.

Below is a video of how this process is done. It also shows how to make caldo do caju. This is stewed cashew fruits cooked with water and sugar. This is also commercially available to buy here in Brazil. I hope you enjoy the video.

Cashew Prices

The price of cashews varies from year to year depending on the harvest. It is roughly about R$3.00 per kilo (Brazilian Real) which is the equivalent of a $1.00 per kilo or about 50¢ a pound. This is the price I was paid by a local buyer. I collect them and remove the nut from the fruit. Some twist off easily, others need either fishing line or wire to quickly separate the nut and fruit. I wear gloves otherwise my hands will get discolored. The juice will stain clothing, countertops and even the sink. After removing the nut, I place them in the sun until they dry a bit, and then I bag them ready to go to the buyer. I normally wait until I have 15 to 20 kilos. My local buyer, who happens to be a shopkeeper close by, has a roomful of cashews waiting to go to the factory in Fortaleza, about 65 kilometers away.

Here we also eat the fruit. I will eat this straight from the tree or place this in my juicer. It is a very juicy fruit. It does take some getting used to. It leaves a dry almost astringent taste in your mouth. The juice is akin to cloudy apple juice. This can also be bought in those small drink boxes with the straws attached. Although I have seen the cashew fruit for sale locally, I don't believe it travels well because it can be easily bruised. I was shown how to eat this by my young neighbor. The trick is to lean forward so the juice doesn't hit your clothes because it will stain.

Below I have selected another video for you from Ghana. This is processing of the nuts and the fruit, this type of activity goes on here as well. It is labor intensive.

Nutritional value of cashews

Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
30.19 g
23.49 g
5.91 g
Dietary fiber
3.3 g
43.85 g
7.78 g
23.8 g
7.85 g
18.22 g

© 2012 Mary Wickison


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    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 6 months ago from Brazil

      Hi Ev,

      Yes, now you know why they cost so much. Although the ones produced in a factory are sometimes boiled, that acid has to come out and is so dangerous.

      A couple seasons ago, my husband and I roasted some as in the first video. After handling them, I came out in a rash and had to go to the emergency room. The doctor told me, not to eat any more cashews which are prepared at home. I had developed an allergy and she said each time it would get worse. As it was, my face and neck were swollen and I had a rash over most of my body.

      I love cashews, and she told me, those produced in a factory should be okay.

      I think the reaction I had was not to the nut but to the chemical surrounding the nut. It was absorbed through my skin when we were cracking them out of the shell.

      This season the price of the raw cashew nut for me to sell is R$3.00 (Brazilian real) about $1.00 (US) per kilo. Once prepared for sale, they are $R65 ($22). A kilo is 2.2 lbs. That is the price here, I don't know what they are going for in the US.

    • profile image

      Ev from Northeast Ohio 6 months ago

      I was one of those put off by the price of cashews, but never again! Thanks for the info!

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 5 years ago from Brazil

      I am a native Californian and although I love almonds which are grown there cashews were always my favorites. I wonder if I was destined to live here?

      This year we are having the worst drought since 1974 in the state of Ceará where I live. Cashews love it though, this should be a bumper crop this year.

      Wonderful to hear from you.

    • B. Leekley profile image

      Brian Leekley 5 years ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA

      This is interesting information. I like learning about life in other countries and about what foods are grown and eaten locally. Up, Useful, Interesting, and shared with followers and on social networking sites.

      Coincidentally, my wife and I just recently bought and enjoyed a can of shelled, roasted, salted cashew nuts, probably I guess from Brazil, here in Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA.

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 5 years ago from Brazil

      Hello Rajan,

      I am pleased you enjoyed the hub.

      I think cashews are expensive to buy everywhere, even here where they are grown. I only make a small amount when I sell them. Then they go to be processed, and finally into the shops. I buy them for about R$16 a kilo.

      The fruit is so aromatic, and it is said locally that the cashew tree has 3 smells. Often I think it smells of honeysuckle.

      Always a pleasure to hear from you. Thanks for the comment.

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 5 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

      Hi Blond,

      Very interesting information on cashews. Though I eat cashews, I have never tasted the cashew fruit as it does grow around the place I live. Interesting and educative videos.

      Cashews are dirt cheap there. Here we get 1 kilo for the equivalent of about 30 R$ in retail.

      Voted up and interesting.

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 5 years ago from Brazil

      Hello Melvoy,

      It is a labor intensive process. After a season of just picking ours up, I walk around like Quasimoto.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment.

    • Melovy profile image

      Yvonne Spence 5 years ago from UK

      This is very interesting. My family loves cashews, but I had no idea we were not eating raw ones! It sounds like it takes a fair amount of work to pick and bag cashews. I'm surprised how cheap they are, having read this hub.

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 5 years ago from Brazil

      Hello Teaches12345,

      I'm with your husband on that one. They are my favorites as well.

      Great to hear from you.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      My hubby prefers this nut over all others. Thanks for the background on the cashew and the nutritional value information. Good to know.

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 5 years ago from Brazil

      Hello Flashmakeit,

      Here on our small farm, we have coconuts, mangoes, cashews, bananas, passion fruit and various fruits I had never seen before arriving in Brazil.

      I am glad you enjoyed the hub. As always, a pleasure to hear from you.

    • flashmakeit profile image

      flashmakeit 5 years ago from usa

      That is a treat to be able to go on your property and eat some tasty cashews. I enjoyed the hub and the videos that went with this article.

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 5 years ago from Brazil

      Hi Andromida,

      Unless you had seen it, you wouldn't. When I first saw one, I was surprised. I always assumed they grew like walnuts or almonds.

      Thanks for stopping by.

    • andromida profile image

      syras mamun 5 years ago

      Before reading y0ur hub I had no idea how a cashews tree look like and even not knowing that there are cashew fruits also. A great hub.

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 5 years ago from Brazil

      Hello Nettlemere,

      I am pleased you found the hub informative.

      I imagine the first people to try it were the native tribes of Brazil. I am still astounded to find that people here know so many native and wild plants and the various uses.

    • Nettlemere profile image

      Nettlemere 5 years ago from Burnley, Lancashire, UK

      Very informative - I had absolutely no idea that the cashew was such an extraordinary type of nut. It makes me wonder how on earth people discovered it was edible at all what with the acid in there.

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 5 years ago from Brazil

      Hi Mhatter99,

      I have also and it is impossible. They were always my favorite and now I am surrounded by the trees.

      Thanks for you comment.

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 5 years ago from San Francisco

      Thank you for this. I am a cashew nut nut, Ever tried to eat just one. I have... many times. :))