The cashew tree (Anacardium occidentale) is a tropical evergreen tree that produces the cashew seed and the cashew apple. It can grow as high as 14 m (46 ft), but the dwarf cashew, growing up to 6 m (20 ft), has proved more profitable, with earlier maturity and higher yields.
The species is originally native to northeastern Brazil. Portuguese colonists in Brazil began exporting cashew nuts as early as the 1550s. Major production of cashews occurs in Vietnam, Nigeria, India, and Ivory Coast.
The cashew nut, often simply called a cashew, is widely consumed. It is eaten on its own, used in recipes, or processed into cashew cheese or cashew butter. The shell of the cashew seed yields derivatives that can be used in many applications including lubricants, waterproofing, paints, and arms production, starting in World War II. The cashew apple is a light reddish to yellow fruit, whose pulp can be processed into a sweet, astringent fruit drink or distilled into liquor.
Culinary uses for cashew seeds in snacking and cooking are similar to those for all tree seeds called nuts.
Cashews are commonly used in Indian cuisine and Pakistani cuisine, whole for garnishing sweets or curries, or ground into a paste that forms a base of sauces for curries (e.g., korma), or some sweets (e.g., kaju barfi). It is also used in powdered form in the preparation of several Indian sweets and desserts. In Goan cuisine, both roasted and raw kernels are used whole for making curries and sweets. Cashews are also used in Thai and Chinese cuisines, generally in whole form. In the Philippines, cashew is a known product of Antipolo, and is eaten with suman. The province of Pampanga also has a sweet dessert called turrones de casuy, which is cashew marzipan wrapped in white wafers. In Indonesia, roasted and salted cashews are called kacang mete or kacang mede, while the cashew apple is called jambu monyet (translates in English to monkey rose apple).
In Mozambique, bolo polana is a cake prepared using powdered cashews and mashed potatoes as the main ingredients. This dessert is popular in South Africa.
In Brazil, the cashew fruit juice is popular. Brazilians prefer the fruit to the nut. In Panama, the cashew fruit is cooked with water and sugar for a prolonged time to make a sweet, brown, paste-like dessert.
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