‘Nipe korosho moja!’ ‘Give me one packet of Cashews!’ calls out an old man to a trader at a bus stop, who then hands him, the old man, a small packet of cashew nuts. He accepts reluctantly and mummers unsatisfactorily about the high price for such a small packet.
That was the first time I had heard Swahili name for cashew nut. I have always enjoyed cashews as a snack: because cashew’s the only nut I’m not allergic to, without giving it much thought; but that exchange got me curious to want to know more about cashews.
Cashew nut or cashews, is native to Northeastern Brazil and Southeastern Venezuela. It’s not very clear who between the Portuguese missionaries, or the colonialists took cashews to India and brought it to Africa in the late 16th century; specifically the coastal regions of East Africa: As both represented the same values to natives.
However, cashew plant cultivation did so well and in the new territories, with Ivory Coast and India being the largest producers of cashew nut. Vietnam is also amongst the largest producers of cashews.
The cashew apple is two parts. The first part is the larger cashew apple, which is not a true fruit but an accessory fruit. Cashew apple appears yellow and reddish to brown when mature, and is the same size as a true fruit.
The cashew apple is shaped as a small bell pepper. The cashew fruit’s second part, is a small bean like shaped hard shell protruding at the bottom; that has a single seed inside, the cashew nut.
Extraction process of cashew nut from its parent fruit is not only labor intensive but is also dangerous to our health. To extract cashew nut: The cashew apple is picked by hand, the curved shell is detached, and then the bean like shaped fruit is sun dried.
After drying, the hard shell is then cracked, one cashew nut shell at a time, using a machine or manually using a mallet, to remove the inner edible seed, the cashew nut
Most producers prefer by hand (using a mallet), to keep the original shape of the cashew, which is favored by consumers. A brown oily resin is produced between the two shells, and can blister human skin, therefore a lot of care and expertise is required in handling during separation.
Korosho in Swahili, cashews or cashew nut is available in the market as unshelled whole nut, (even though it’s not a true nut but a seed). Unshelled cashew nut is available as roasted and salted in retail shops.
It is always better to have cashews dry roasted as this ensures there aren’t additional oils used during roasting. Cashew nut is also available as cashew powder, a gluten free powder used in cooking, cashew butter, cashew oil, cashew cream, cashew milk and cashew juice.
From our previous chapter on peanut, cashew nut is also readily available in markets across Africa, and especially the coastal regions. You will have the small traders’ upselling you on cashews too, at most stop overs, with similar packaging as the peanut.
In culinary, cashew nut is used as an ingredient in preparation of stews, sauces, breads, cakes and cookies. In South Asian cuisine, cashews are commonly used in chicken and vegetarian dishes. In most parts of the world, cashew nut is mainly consumed as a whole protein - rich snack.
Here are some health benefits that would make you consider adding cashew nut to your diet:
- Cashew nut is a good source of proteins
- Cashews help in blood building as they have abundant amounts of copper and iron, both blood building essentials
- Cashews are low in cholesterol and are high in nutrients, which is good for the heart.
- Cashews help improve blood pressure as they contain two minerals important in blood pressure regulation, potassium and magnesium
- Cashews aid in weight loss as their high fiber content makes you feel full for longer
- Cashews are rich in monounsaturated fats that help prevent formation of gallstones
- Copper in cashews help in maintaining collagen and elasticity of the skin, thus prevents skin sagging
- May help boost testosterone levels and reduce the risk of prostate cancer as it contains the mineral selenium
- May help boost immunity as they are very rich in zinc, an immune - boosting compound.