The cashew tree is native to South America where it flourishes in Brazil and Peru. In the sixteenth century, Portuguese traders introduced the tree to India where it has more recently become an important export crop equal to that of Brazil. Other countries that grow and export cashews include Sri Lanka, China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, Colombia, Guatemala, Venezuela, the West Indies, Nigeria, Mozambique, Tanzania, and Kenya. The United States is the largest importer of cashew nuts.
In addition to being an excellent food source, the nut yields an oil used in flavoring and cooking foods. The tree produces a sap or gum sometimes used in bookbinding and often incorporated into a varnish used to protect woodwork from insect damage. The cashew nut shell produces an oil used in the manufacture of brake linings and is sometimes applied to metals as an anti-corrosive agent. The shell oil is also used for waterproofing and as an adhesive. Natives in South America used cashew nut shell oil in the treatment of scurvy, sores, warts, ringworm and psoriasis. The oil is found to have potent antibacterial properties. Not many plants can claim to provide so many benefits.
Many people avoid cashews because of their high fat content, though they are lower in total fat than almonds, peanuts, pecans, and walnuts. Cashew provide essential fatty acids, B vitamins, fiber, protein, carbohydrate potassium, iron, and zinc. Like other nuts, cashews are high in saturated fat; however, eaten in small quantities cashews are a highly nutritious food.
Cashews can be enjoyed raw or roasted. Sprinkle them into salads and grains, use them on top of breakfast cereals, and enjoy cashew butter on your favorite whole grain breads.
Following is one of our favorite ways to incorporate cashews into a tasty meal:
3 1/2 lbs. (2 kg) Roma tomatoes (Italian plum tomatoes)
Wash and dice tomatoes and onions and put them into a large skillet or wok. If you have a food processor, simply quarter the tomatoes and onions and let the processor do the dicing.
Add the following to the skillet:
4 to 6 cloves garlic, minced
Cook on high heat, stirring frequently, until cooked through, about 12 to 15 minutes. While tomatoes are cooking, prepare cashews as follows:
Use an electric coffee grinder to grind raw cashew pieces into a fine meal. Pour into a measuring cup until you have a full cup (237 ml).
Add ground cashews to cooked, bubbling sauce, stirring until well incorporated and smooth. The sauce is now ready to enjoy over your choice of whole grain pasta, such as whole wheat, spelt, corn, or quinoa pasta. Makes enough sauce for 1 pound (453 g) of pasta.For other cashew recipes click on Recipe Index.