The word cashew comes from the Tupi-Indian word Acaju, which means “nut”. Instead of growing like conventional nuts, they grow out of the base of cashew apples like little tails. However, for this reason, they are the only ‘nut’ that sells solely without a shell. The outer shell causes skin irritation.
The seed has a double shell containing an allergenic phenolic resin containing an anacardic acid. This composition is a potent skin irritant. Chemically, this resin is related to the more well-known allergenic oil urushiol, a toxin in poison ivy. Some people are allergic to cashew nuts. What is much more common is the allergy to the outer coating on the fruit’s skin.
The cashew was first discovered by Europeans in Brazil around 1558. Because of the irritating shells, they were thought to be inedible at first. Over time, there was a realization that it was the fruit skin, not the irritating seeds. It was the local native tribe, the Tupi-Indians, that showed the Europeans otherwise. Consequently, the Portuguese were shown to roast the cashews to get the irritant off.
Europeans found the cashew seed to be quite tasty. However, they also used the cashew apple pulp to make wine. The natives had learned to eat cashews from the local capuchin monkeys. The primates use primitive tools to break the shells off and throw the nuts in a way.
The Modern History Of The Cashew
As a consequence of finding out how to reach the cashew seed, the Portuguese brought cashews to Goa in about 1560. Ultimately, the nut thrived in the new climate and then traveled to India soon after. The Indian people discovered healing properties in the nut, and cashews became very popular. In the second half of the 16th century, cashews spread to Southeast Asia and Africa. Eventually, many countries and cultures currently depend on cashew seeds as a food staple and for commerce.
The modern history of cashew shows that they reached the United States around 1905. Afterward, cashews became popular in the mid-1920s when the General Food Corporation started to ship them regularly to the United States and Europe. Ultimately, the cashew became popular. By 1941, looking at the number of imports from India annually was 20,000 tons of cashews.