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Cashew nuts

A pleasant taste and beneficial nutrition ranked the cashews among the most popular nuts. They are very caloric, with high concentration of beneficial unsaturated fatty acids, minerals and vitamins. About 60% of cashew nuts are consumed in various snacks, mostly roasted and salted. Roughly 40% are used in the confectionary and bakery products, often as a substitute for the peanut and almond.

Nutrition and bioactive compounds

Cashew nut contains 1.4–30% carbohydrates, 40–47% fat, 18–36% protein and only around 5% water. A 100 g portion of raw cashews will provide you with the substantial 553 kcal, 67% of the Daily Value (DV, Reference Daily Intake) of the total fats, 36% DV of protein, 13% DV of dietary fibre, 11% DV of carbohydrates, vitamins B1 (37% DV), B6 (32% DV) and K (32% DV); 110% DV of copper, 82% DV of magnesium and 79% DV of manganese. The contents vary according to the variety and environmental conditions.
 

They are also good source of other minerals and amino acids, including all essential ones. The content of lysine and threonine is high enough to meet the requirements for adults.
 

The lipids are predominantly beneficial unsaturated fatty acids (80%), oleic and linoleic acids are prevalent. Cashew nuts can consequently lower the low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels and coronary heart disease risks, also because of the presence of other bioactive compounds, like tocopherols, squalene, and phytosterols like beta-sitosterol.

Cultivation

Cashew (Anacardium occidentale L.) is a relative of mango and pistachio. Cashew trees are evergreen and can grow rapidly up to 20 m, but usually reach 8–12 m in height. Cashew nut grows on the end of accessory fruit (false fruit), also called cashew apple, which grows to 5–11 cm and ripens to be yellow or red.

The cashew tree grows in the tropical areas up to 1000 m. It is well-adapted also to hot lowland areas with a pronounced dry season. It is native to NE Brazil but has been introduced to India and Africa already in the 16th century. Today, it is cultivated primarily in India, Vietnam, Ivory Coast, Guinea-Bissau, Tanzania, Benin, Brazil and other countries of East and West Central Africa and Southeast Asia.

The traditional cashew tree takes three years to produce crop, and eight years before economic harvests can begin. Dwarf cashew trees, that are up to 6 m tall, start producing crop already after the first year, with the economic yields after three years.

Besides the economic benefits, growing of cashew trees can have a vital role in stabilising fragile ecosystems. Like many other cash crops (i.e. coffee), they are being used to establish heterogeneous landscapes harbouring mosaics of natural habitat and agriculture where also animals can reside.

Uses

  • Kernel: food (raw, cooked, processed into cheese or butter, cashew nut oil), animal feed.

  • Cashew apple: juice, liquor, nutritious food products, animal feed; cookies from the powder of cashew apple pomace, obtained after extracting juice.

  • Nutshell: raw material for the industrial applications, production of high-value products for food, medicine, chemical and other industries lubricants, waterproofing, and paints. Cashew nutshell liquid is a strong irritant, and its utilisation depends on the industrial processing.

  • Cashew apple waste is used as a form of energy bagasse’s, fermented cultures used in probiotics or for conditioning of the soil in agriculture.

Market and production

  • Worldwide production of cashew nuts with shell: 4.2 million tonnes in 2020 (FAO), 2.44 million tonnes in Africa (58.5% production share), 682k tonnes in Eastern Africa.

  • Main producing countries in the world: Cote d’Ivoire, India, Viet Nam.

  • Main producing countries Africa: Cote d’Ivoire, Burundi, Benin, Burundi, Tanzania, Kenya.