Cashew Nut (Kaju) – Story of the most loved Dry Fruit
Cashew Nut (Anacardium Occidentale) or Kaju was originated in Brazil but is now cultivated extensively in India and East Africa. The Nut also known as the seed hangs from the Cashew Fruit, which is also called Cashew Apple. The fruit is kidney-shaped and almost 2 inches long. It has two layers, out of which outer layer contains caustic oil which must be burned off before the nut is touched or it reacts with the skin. Later after reaching the inner part, the nut is boiled or roasted to remove other toxic substances before the it can be eaten.
Despite the long procedure in extracting the nuts, it has become widely popular in India and in other parts of the world owing to its taste and crunchy texture. In 1600s, Portuguese came sailing down to Indian coast, Goa. With them they brought this valuable tree, which went on to become the favorite nut of the world. In the late sixteenth century, it spread to rest of the coastal region. From there it spread throughout Southeast Asia, eventually Africa. Today the major production of Cashew Nut occurs in Vietnam, Nigeria, Ivory Coast and India.
In India these nuts are known as “Kaju”, which is the name adopted from Portuguese pronunciation. Here after harvesting it in the months of February to May, the nuts are eaten as it is, or used in thousands of recipes, and Cashew Apple is processed into sweet or produced into liquor. In Goa, the cashew apple is mashed, and the juice is extracted and kept for fermentation. The fermented juice undergoes double distillation process after which Feni or Fenny is formed. Fenny or Feni is a world-famous drink, loved by tourists and people from Goa and contains 40-42% alcohol content.
Most people think cashews are high in calories and oil, but they are in the lower spectrum of oil and calories. With no cholesterol, they are considered a healthy food for heart patients. They are high in magnesium and antioxidants. It also has zinc which helps in vision and immunity. Currently India is the largest Cashew processor in the world. This plant took deep roots in the culture & livelihood of the entire nation.