For the IncrEdibles festival Kew’s resident seed specialist Wolfgang Stuppy is contributing bite-size features about weird and wonderful edible plants from around the world. In the first of the series – the incredible cashew apple!
Most of us know and love cashew nuts - but how many people know about the incredible fruit they originally come from?
- Bright & beautiful Cashew nuts come from wonderfully colourful fruits that grow on trees with large, beautiful, bright green leaves.
The vibrantly colourful fruits of the cashew tree (Anacardium occidentale)
- Native to Brazil The cashew tree (Anacardium occidentale, Anacardiaceae) is originally native to the coastal plains of north-eastern Brazil, where it forms part of the so-called restinga vegetation, though it is nowadays cultivated and naturalised almost all over the tropics. (Restinga is a distinct type of tropical and subtropical forest found on acidic, nutrient-poor soils on Brazil’s Atlantic coast.)
- The origin of 'cashew' Long before European colonisation in the sixteenth century, Brazilian Indians relished the delicious fruits. Called ‘acajú’ by the members of the Tupi tribe, the name was converted by the Portuguese into ‘cajú’ and eventually became ‘cashew’ in English.
Main image: young cashew fruits with their stalks starting to swell. Inset top right: cashew flowers.
- Cashew apples and cashew nuts From very humble, tiny whitish-pink flowers (see the inset photo, above) form the rather large, brightly-coloured and somewhat weird-looking fruits (see photo below). When ripe they resemble a very soft pear with a hard, kidney-shaped nut tucked in at one end.
Ripe cashew fruits on the tree
- Apples or pears? The pear-like part, also called ‘cashew apple’ (whoever came up with that name has never seen an apple next to a pear!) is extremely juicy and sensitive to pressure which is why you can’t find them in our supermarkets. In Brazil I have seen them offered on roadside stalls carefully displayed in egg trays.
'Cashew apples' are so soft, they need to be treated like raw eggs (here, in a roadside stall in Lindóia, Brazil)
- How to eat cashew apples Should you ever be lucky enough to encounter fresh cashew fruits on a holiday in the tropics, remember, the amazingly succulent cashew pear, er... apple, is best enjoyed by sucking out the sweet juice and discarding the stringy-fibrous residue.
Week by week horticulturalists, botanists and attractions organisers from all around Kew Gardens wrote for this special IncrEdibles blog, describing behind-the-scenes experiences and sharing insights into the amazing world of edible plants.
- newly discovered
- around the world
- of use
- ground breaking
- english garden
- garden plants
- english heritage
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