The highly popular cashew nut that originated in the West Indies has spread its species all over the world. It is dangerous until roasted and is characteristic of the Poison Ivy family. The cashew comes from the Anacardiaceae genus. The cashew tree is often found on the west side of the continent near the warm ocean. It’s growing range runs from a 7 degree north latitude to a 7 degree south latitude. In Brazil cashew trees grow wild right at the equator near Forteleza, Brazil. In India the cashew tree is found in plantations located in the southern tip in Kerala State on the Malabar Coast.
The Candle Nut
The cashew nut has a kidney-shaped hard shell hanging on the end of a fleshy fruit - the cashew apple. The cashew apple is two inches in diameter and four inches long. At maturity the apple turns bright red or yellow. The shell contains an oil that is highly irritating to the skin. The kernels should be heated in their shells before they are broken open and extracted. The caustic oil is expelled from the hard shell during roasting making the inside kernel sweet and pleasant to eat.Returning soldiers after World War II knew it as the BLISTER NUT due to the caustic irritating oil the nut had before roasting. The cashew tree is also known as the Monkey Nut because it is a favorite food of monkeys in Africa.
This Malaysian tree is somewhat larger than its relatives, the MUNG-OIL and the TUNG trees. It reaches 60 feet high. Tung oil is considered one of the finest finishing oils available for fine furniture and final coatings on exceptionally well-made violins. The candle nuts are round, about 2” across, and flattened laterally. The outer hull of the nut is thin and papery, but the rough inner seed coats thick and hard. Candle oil is produced from the nuts because it is a cheap crop. Candle oil is of lower quality, slower drying, and closely resembles linseed oil. The tree grows primarily in the Philippines, Malasia, and Sri Lanka. It is also found throughout the South Pacific island chains. The nuts are irregularly spheroid and range in color from motley gray to black. They have a hard, but brittle, shell that is 1/8” thick. Each fruit has about five nuts found in the fruit. Only some species are edible and are usually roasted. When used as an oil it is also called “walnut oil, artists oil, kekune (Sri Lanka) oil, of kukuii oil (Sandwich Islands). As for eating the nuts, it is seldom done because the nut acts as a strong purgative so only local people eat the nut after carefully selecting what they believe is safe. When eaten, the nuts are always roasted and they have a walnut-like taste. The nut can contain over 50% oil. In Java they make a sauce eaten with green vegetables and rice. The sauce is a well-accepted stable and the nuts are imported from Malaysia. Sometimes after roasting the kernel is pounded to a powder and combined with flavorings such as salt, chilies, and shrimp-paste and eaten as a relish.Other edible Species:
Taccy Nut - In Columbia the seeds of this tree are valued for eating and are consumed after roasting. The 1” in diameter thin, brown shell surrounding the kernel is easily broken with the fingers. East Indies the winged seeds of its large fruit are eaten
Belgium Walnut - genus of small trees found extensively throughout southeast Asia. The Belgium Walnut has a fruit 1” in diameter depressed wit ha flat stone containing two to five cells each holding a small almond-appearing nut. These nuts are edible and are found primarily in Burma and Malaysia.
Tapos Tree - A handsome tree over 100 feet tall and three feet in diameter, found in Malaysia. The seeds are two inches long and some are not poisonous when eaten fresh. Other varieties are poisonous and contain hydrocyanic acid. Eat with care. Jungle tribes pound them with a little water, pack them in a bag or bamboo stick, and bury in wet earth for a month or more. The preparation ferments. It has a strong flavor. A paste can be made and the paste is wrapped in bamboo leafs in Sumatra where it is sold in the marketplace.
Mango - This Indian tree, cultivated all over the tropics for its famous fruit, is now being exported to produce markets everywhere. The finest mango fruits often weigh two pounds or more. The seeds and kernels are worthless a food crop except as a medicinal in underdeveloped countries. The kernel is starchy and can be eaten roasted or dried and pickled, but it isn’t a favorite.