Cashews grow from trees which are most predominantly found in the Amazon in Brazil. The trees grow about fifteen meters high, with thick branches that wind down to the ground. From cashew trees come many products and resources and its fruit is internationally popular and marketable. Cashew fruits are often sold fresh in many South American groceries but because it is such a perishable item it is exported only as a frozen or processed (usually roasted) product outside of this region.
History of Cashews
In the fifteenth century, European traders discovered cashews in the northeast region of Brazil. These traders then brought products and samplings when they travelled to India and Africa. From there, cashew became a popular commercial crop similar to rubber or tea. In the sixteenth century, people discovered many other ways to use cashew. Aside from being a food product, these were then used for medicinal purposes, like treatment for fever.
Cashew as a commercial by product boomed in the 1960s, where lands and forests were developed specifically for cashew plantation and production. Because cashews are highly adaptable to various climates and conditions, it yields a very high percentage for the economy of any region or country that produces it.
India today, is also one of the other countries whose economy relies on cashew production, propagation and export.
Uses for Cashews
For centuries, the nuts and fruits of the cashew tree were used by ancient tribes in the rainforest for many purposes. Ancient people have already regarded cashew as a medicine to fight against influenza, diarrhea and colic for infants. It was also used as a topical solution for skin conditions like eczema or psoriasis, or as an astringent for the face. In some tribes, women even used this as a vaginal douche or a cure for syphilis. Many tribes also believe that the fruit may be used as an aphrodisiac.
Cashews contain more vitamin C than any other citrus fruits like orange. It is also rich in mineral salts. It contains, among many other elements, compounds like carboxylic acids, anacardic acids, glutamic acid, europium, gadoleic acid, hafnium, limonene, salicylic acid and terpenes, which may be used for chemicals and solutions. Cashew is a very good source of tannins and demonstrates an anti-inflammatory effect. Studies also show that the chemical properties contained in cashews can kill toxic cancer cells.
Here is a summary of how people around the world make use of Cashew:
- Venezuela use cashew for gargling, so that a sore throat is treated effectively. Aside from that, cashew is believed to cure leprosy and dysentery.
- In Trinidad, cashews serve as cough or asthma medicine. It is also used for minor stomach cramps.
- In Turkey, some herbal medicine with cashew as its main ingredient is used to remove warts and relieve fever. It is also an antidote for poison.
- In Peru, many natives use cashew to ward of skin infections and sometimes, it is also used as an antiseptic.
- Mexicans believe cashew is good for people with diabetes and ulcer.
- Malaysians relieve themselves by drinking cashew tea, when they feel constipated or nauseous.
- People from Haiti use cashew to treat cavities.
- Africans use this as treatment for malaria.
- And in Brazil, cashew is used in many kinds of illnesses, from the minor ones to the potentially dangerous ones.
Today, cashews are used in several ways. None of its components can be left to waste because there is always some use for it.
Cultivation of Cashews
- The nut and the fruit, which are rich in protein and low on carbohydrates, make a very nutritious snack (roasted cashew). It can be added to pies, cakes, bars and candies. It can also be extracted as juice or made into jam and chutney, and even butter (cashew butter, which is similar to peanut butter).
- The fruit is also used for body, hair and skin care products. Because it contains generous amounts of vitamin c and mineral salts, it serves as a treatment for rejuvenating skin. For hair treatments, scalp creams containing cashew components serve as good hair conditioning as it is also rich in proteins.
- Its leaves can be made into bark tea, which serves as an effective remedy for colic and diarrhea.
- The testa is used for leather or as a poulty feed.
- The nutshell is used for making industrial materials like varnish, resins and paint. It is may also be used for preparing insecticides.
Cashews require a humid climate for it to grow and thrive healthy. Ideal temperature must be between fifteen to forty degrees and they must receive at least 600 mm of rainfall all year round. Cashew cannot stand cold and frosty climates but it can resist droughts. Cashews grow better in soils that are well drained, although it can thrive in rocky conditions or hilly slopes. It can be planted along side legumes as they benefit from each other while in the growing stages.
Cashews are propagated by seed. The seeds must be sun dried for at least three days before anything else. Then it is soaked for two days to speed up germination before it is sown into the soil. The completed process of germination takes about a month, after which a pit will appear. Seeds may be transplanted after two months with the use of alkathene bags.
Caring for Cashew
Regular watering is much needed in a cashew’s first three years so that the seeds are established. The seeds must be protected from the scorching summer heat by providing ample shade. The seedlings must be protected from further damage by fencing them around the area. Cashews grow better with manuring as it yields a more mature fruit.
Cashew Trees will begin to bear after five years, but it is not until its tenth year that it becomes stabilized.
Cashew flowers in the early months of January or February and fruits may be harvested between April to June.
Cashew nuts take about sixty days to mature. A very good and healthy cashew tree should yield about 12 1/2 pounds or 20 kilograms of fruit every year.