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Cashew Fruit

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Cashew fruit is small to medium in size, averaging 5-11 centimeters in length, and has a bulbous, oval to pear shape. The very thin skin is covered in a waxy, smooth coating, and as the fruit matures, it ripens to golden-yellow or red, sometimes variegated with a blend of both hues. Underneath the surface, the yellow flesh is spongy, fibrous, juicy, and soft but also stringy. Cashew fruit is highly aromatic with sweet, tropical flavors mixed with an astringent taste. Many liken the flavor of the fruit to be a blend of cucumbers, strawberries, mangos, and bell pepper. Attached to the bottom of the fruit, there is a double-hulled shell that encases a kidney-shaped, green seed which is the raw form of the well-known cashew “nut.” It is important to note that within the shell, there are harmful substances that can cause a rash and irritation on the skin if touched, so care and prevention should be taken if handling the raw shell.


Cashew fruit is available year-round in tropical climates.

Current Facts

Cashew fruit, botanically classified as Anacardium occidentale, grows on evergreen trees that can reach fourteen meters in height and belongs to the Anacardiaceae family along with mangos. Also known as the Cashew apple or Marañón in Central America, Cashew fruit is considered to be an “accessory” or “false” fruit, which means it does not encase the seeds of the plant inside the flesh. The “true” fruit is the shell that contains the cashew seed attached to the end of the Cashew apple. Cashew fruit is often overshadowed in cultivation by the famous seed, mistakenly called a nut in the commercial market, and is discarded due to its highly perishable nature, often left on the ground as animal feed. In some countries such as Africa, Brazil, and India, there has been a resurgence in reducing food waste, and the fruit has become a secondary source of revenue by processing it into juice. Cashew fruit is also sold at local markets the same day it is harvested for culinary preparations and is commonly used to make jams, syrups, and preserves.

Nutritional Value

Cashew fruits are an excellent source of vitamin C and magnesium, which can help promote tissue and bone growth, and contains copper, potassium, and iron. The fruit also contains fiber, earning it the reputation of a digestive cleanser, and the tannic juice is sometimes used to help soothe sore throats.


Cashew fruit can be consumed raw, but the juice in the flesh is often very astringent and unpalatable to many consumers. The flesh is popularly sliced into very fine pieces to reduce the fibrous texture and is sprinkled with salt to remove the astringent flavor. Cashew fruit is also commonly boiled or simmered into jams, preserves, and chutneys, steamed to reduce the bitter flavor, candied, or added to curries, soups, and stews. In addition to consuming the flesh, the juice is a favorite ingredient in smoothies and cocktails. It is important to note that the juice can stain clothing so care should be taken when juicing the fruit. Cashew fruit pairs well with mangoes, coconut, strawberries, blueberries, spinach, kale, and cinnamon. The fruits begin to spoil just a few hours after it falls from the tree, so it should be used immediately for best flavor.

Ethnic/Cultural Info

One of the most popular uses for the Cashew fruit is to ferment the flesh and process it into alcohol. In Goa, India, the fruit is used to make feni, which is a strong alcohol made from mashed flesh and fermented juice that is distilled multiple times. The fruits are sometimes even trampled by foot to press out the most amount of liquid as possible before the fermentation process. In Tanzania and Mozambique, the Cashew fruit is also fermented into a potent liquor through various methods.


Cashew fruit is native to tropical regions of northeast Brazil and has been growing wild since ancient times. In the 16th century, Portuguese traders brought the trees to India and Mozambique and began to export the seeds, expanding the cultivated trees further into Africa and Asia. The trees continued to spread across the tropical climates and also began growing wild outside of cultivation. Today Cashew fruits can be found in limited quantities at local markets in South America, Central America, the Caribbean, Africa, Asia, and Southeast Asia.