The cashew tree is an evergreen shrub native to South America and it produces the cashew seed (nut) and cashew apple. It’s botanical name is Anacardium occidentale. Its nuts are what made this tree very popular around the world, but more than only the nuts of the cashew tree are being used. It’s a tropical tree and very easy to grow.
Commonly the seeds are called cashew “nuts” though they are not true nuts. The seeds, rich in oil and distinctively flavored, are commonly used in South and Southeast Asian cuisine and are a characteristic ingredient of numerous chicken and vegetarian
dishes of southern India. In Western countries they are eaten mainly as a premium-quality protein-rich snack food.
In South Asian cuisine, the nuts are used whole for garnishing sweets or curries, or ground into a paste that forms a base of sauces for curries (e.g., korma), or some sweets (e.g., kaju barfi). It is also used in powdered form in the preparation of several Indian sweets and desserts.
In Goan cuisine, both roasted and raw kernels are used whole for making curries and sweets. Cashews are also used in Sri Lankan, Thai and Chinese cuisines, generally in whole form.
In the 21st century, cashew cultivation increased in several African countries (since 2014, Ivory coast is the largest producer worldwide of cashew) to meet the demands for manufacturing cashew milk, a plant milk alternative to dairy milk.
The cashew tree produces wood that is useful in local economies for such practical items as shipping crates, boats, and charcoal as well as for a gum that is similar to gum arabic, used as a water-proofing agent in varnishes, cements and as a lubricant or timber seal..
There is a caustic liquid within the shells of the cashew tree fruit/seed (so be careful when handling) that is used as an insecticide and in the production of plastics, coatings and frictional materials. It also is important in traditional medicines.
The mature cashew apple can be eaten fresh, cooked in curries, is used locally in beverages, jams, and jellies and chutneys. In the Indian state of Goa, they even make a alcoholic beverage of the fermented fruit called Feni (40% alchol), or a single distilled version called Urrak with 15% alcohol. In Tanzania they make a strong liquor called Gongo.
Cashew nut oil is a dark yellow oil, and is used for cooking or as a salad dressing.
Discarded cashew nuts unfit for human consumption, alongside the residues of oil extraction from cashew kernels, can be used to feed livestock. Animals can also eat the leaves of cashew trees.
How to take care of a cashew tree?
Like the curry leaf tree, the cashew tree originates from a warm climate, and is not hardy in almost all parts of Europe. If you want to keep it the whole year round, it should serve as a house plant indoors when temperatures reach freezing point at night.
Since it’s a subtropical plant, it should receive plenty of sunlight. As soon as winter is over and there’s no more frost at night, the tree can be placed outside in a sunny spot.
The tree loves humidity, so it will benefit from the use of a humidity tray when it’s inside the house in the winter.
How to propagate a cashew tree?
Propagation is done through seeds.
To ensure that it’s delivered in perfect condition, your cashew tree will be shipped in custom plant mail-order cardboard packaging.
Questions and answers
- Do I need to re pot the cashew tree when it arrives?
Answer: after a few weeks of acclimatization, you can re pot it to bigger pot during the growing season (May-September). Since this is a fast growing tree, make sure you get a pot a few sizes bigger than the pot it came in, the roots grow fast.
- What soil do I use for my cashew tree?
Answer: it thrives in a wide variety of soil types. You can use any regular good-quality potting mix.
- Is fertilizer recommended?
Answer: cashew trees don’t need fertilizers to thrive, but when in growing season they will do better when fertilized. If you choose to use a fertilizer, we recommend that you use a liquid fertilizer.
- Do I need to prune my cashew tree?
If you keep it in a pot in the house, yes you will need to prune it to keep it do a manageable size.