Undoubtedly, among all the nuts, the peanut ranks first in popularity and importance in the United States. The most common among the nuts Americans eat, the peanut has nearly limitless uses, as scientific researcher George Washington Carver so aptly demonstrated. All sorts of products from peanut butter to cooking oil that can be used at elevated temperatures to floor tile to ink to animal food and even to plastics have been developed from the humble peanut. But would you be surprised to learn that the peanut is not really a nut at all, but a legume? But what is a legume? One reference says a legume is a “fruit or seed of any of various bean of pea plants consisting of a case that splits along both sides when ripe and having the seeds attach to one side of the case.”
Introducing the Cashew
But we are not here to discuss the peanut. We are here to discuss the cashew in this brief article. Now the cashew is oh, so good! What a marvelous texture. It is soft and smooth when eaten, and has a sweet nutty taste. But the cashew isn’t a nut any more than the peanut is a nut. Not at all. It is a seed.
Wikipedia tells us, “The true fruit of the cashew tree is a kidney or boxing-glove shaped drupe hat grows at the end of the pseudofruit.” The shell portion of the cashew contains the phenolic resin urushiol, which can cause skin problems! In fact, the cashew has been considered a relative of the poison ivy, which contains the same dermatogenic allergen. Hence, cashews are generally not eaten raw. Which brings me to a short story. Wherever I went in my home state, New Jersey, I would eventually discover a warm, delicious smell that irresistibly made me seek it out. Inevitably, it led me to a Morrow’s Nut House. One of my favorite treats was the Hot Fudge Cashew Sundae I used to get at the Green Valley Farms in Haddon Township! Oh, my. No better dessert existed in the Western Hemisphere.
The Cashew’s Diverse Uses
But don’t think the nut is the only product of commercial value from the Cashew Tree (Anacardium occidentale). Not by a long shot. Cashew Nutshell Liquid, made in the processing of cashews, is useful for a number of things. I should know. I once worked with one of those things. One of my former places of employment used it in their manufacture of resins for the brake drum linings of railroad cars. Talk about an unusual use. In addition, CNSL is useful for treating tooth abscesses. The oil is good for cracks of the heel of one’s foot. The juice of the fruit also, has come into the light, as it has now been made into a beverage that is enjoying current popularity. But, of course, it is the nut that reigns supreme.
Why More Expensive?
But where do cashews grow? Some believe it originated in Brazil. Today, however, the three leading producers of cashews are Vietnam, Nigeria, and India.
So it is no wonder that the cashew costs more than the peanut.
1. It has higher shipping costs.
2. There is only one seed per fruit.
But as for me, when I stop by a convenience store and want a small, satisfying treat, I bypass the bag of peanuts, and reach for the smaller and more costly bag, containing a few of the tantalizing seeds of the Cashew Tree!