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The Juicy Cashew Apple
08-15-2013

The cashew (Anacardium occidentale; Anacardiaceae) apple is actually not a fruit at all, but a peduncle or receptacle from which the cashew nut extends.1 The cashew tree is spreading, bushy, and low-branched, reaching to approximately 35 feet (10.6 m) in height. Its leaves are oblong-oval, and its flowers are 5-petalled, yellowish-pink with terminal panicles of mixed male, female, and bisexual. Although sometimes considered a seed, the cashew nut is the actual fruit of the tree and resembles a miniature boxing glove. The cashew nut develops first, and when full-grown but not ripe yet, the cashew apple develops. The peduncle fills out, becoming plump and pear- or apple-shaped, with waxy, yellow, red, or red-and-yellow skin. The yellow pulp is spongy, fibrous, and very juicy. The juice of the cashew apple has been described as similar to tropical fruit and astringent.1

In some Latin American and West Indian countries, the cashew apple has taken precedence over the cashew nut due to the nut’s toxic shell oil.1 However, some cashew-producing countries do not use the cashew apple at all or utilize it only as animal fodder. In Goa, India, the cashew apple juice is distilled to a local liquor known as feni. In Brazil, the apples are taken to the markets to be sold by fruit vendors to be used as juice or made into wine. Field workers pick up the fruit and chew them as refreshment, swallowing the juice and discarding the fiber. As fresh cashew apples are highly perishable, they are usually preserved in syrup or made into chutneys or jam. In Costa Rica, candied, sun-dried cashew apples are popular. While a great source of ascorbic acid, containing 146.6-372.0 mg, cashew apples are also high in tannins. In Mozambique, frequent cashew apple wine imbibers may experience nutritional deficiency as the cashew apple's tannins block the body's ability to assimilate protein.1

Medicinally, cashew apple juice has been used as a remedy for sore throat and chronic dysentery in Cuba and Brazil.1 Fresh or distilled, it has also been used as a diuretic and is said to possess sudorific properties. The brandy is applied as a liniment to relieve the pain of rheumatism and neuralgia.1 A small, randomized, placebo-controlled trial, published in 2013, demonstrated that cashew apple juice may enhance fat oxidation during exercise.2

References

1Morton J. Fruits of Warm Climates. Boynton Beach, FL: Florida Flair Books; 1987.

2Prasertsri P, Roengrit T, Kanpetta Y, et al. Cashew apple juice supplementation enhanced fat utilization during high-intensity exercise in trained and untrained men. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. March 2013;10(1):13. Doi:10.1.1186/1550-2783-10-13.

Lori Glenn,  Managing Editor