Come and pick cashew apples!
We all know cashew nuts from the super markets, but have you ever tasted the delicious cashew apples?
The international or scientific name Anacardium occidentale (Anacardiaceae) was coined by Linnaeus in 1753. ‘Ana cardium’ means ‘upside down heart’ and alludes to the red cashew apple. The cashew nut is the seed which contains the embryo. In this picture it is seen as a grey kidney-shaped structure. The fleshy and red ‘cashew apple’ is the enlarged flowering stalk. It has a yellow flesh, rich in juice like a peach, but without a stone! It is amazingly aromatic, rich in vitamin C and a special treat you rarely see in the markets due its poor transportation abilities. The purpose of the cashew apple is to attract birds and mammals to disperse the seed.
At Dokmai Garden we grow them organically so we suggest you come and pick straight from the trees. They can be processed into a range of products (jams, juices, marmalades, liqueurs, distilled alcohol, vinegar, curry, chutney). To lower the astringency one can heat or steam the fruits.
Since the seeds (nuts) contain the embryos they are packed with protective chemicals, and are not meant to be eaten. We can make these delicious and nutritious nuts available as human food by using heat. However, being a relative of poison ivy the nuts contain irritating resins so care and ventilation are necessary. The resin from the nutshell is used in brake-linings, clutches and plastics. Cashew resin is used by some wild bees for their nests and by humans for tarring boats.
The tree is native to northeastern Brazil, but was introduced to India in the 1560’s and according to Rheede it was widely grown in India already in the 17th century. Our experience at Dokmai Garden is that it must be watered well after New Year to yield an abundance of flowers and fruits. Our current crop is the best ever and the trees are now seven years old!
There are 20 species in the genus, which belongs to the same family as mango. At Dokmai Garden mango and cashew share the same pests. ‘Cashew’ is derived from Portuguese ‘caju’, which in turn is derived from the Brazilian Tupi language ‘acaju’. In Central Thai language it is called ‘ma muang himmapan’, meaning ‘paradise mango’, but Smitinand lists another 20 Thai names, many of which contain the name ‘ma muang’ (mango).
Text & Photo: Eric Danell