The sweet, buttery-tasting cashew hits the spot as a snack. Widespread cultivation of cashews is a twentieth century innovation. A favorite in South America, India, and Asian cuisines, the rest of the world is finally catching on to the pleasure of cashews in savory dishes. We have always enjoyed Cashews!
The cashew, botanically known as Anacardium occidentale , is the seed of a tropical evergreen plant related to the mango, pistachio, and poison ivy. Originating in Brazil, the cashew plant made its way to India in the sixteenth century via Portuguese sailors.
The Portuguese introduced cashew to the west coast of India and east Africa in the shortly after its discovery in 1578. It was planted in India initially to reduce erosion, and uses for the nut and pseudo fruit, the cashew apple, were developed much later.
India developed more refined methods for removing the caustic shell oil, and India is given credit for developing the modern nut industry. India led the world in cashew production for many years until just recently, when production in Viet Nam surged about 3-fold in a few years. Brazil ranks in the top 5 of the world in cashew nut production and virtually all cashew apples and juice products come from this country. Preliminary data indicate the cashew nut production surpassed almond in 2003, and thus cashew now claims the title of #1 nut crop in the world .
Unlike most fruits where the seed is found inside the flesh, the cashew seed hangs from the bottom of the cashew apple. The fresh cashew apple fruit is not only edible but also delicious. Cashew apples begin to ferment as soon as they are picked and will barely last 24 hours. Cashew apples are highly prized in the growing locale, where they are sometimes found canned, in jams, or used to make liqueurs.
Cashew Cultivation in India
India has a creditable record of attaining good amount of foreign exchange by way of export of cashew kernels. Among the Agri-Horticultural commodities getting exported from India, cashew ranks the 2nd position. During the year 2001-2002, India could export 97,550 MT of cashew kernels valued at Rs.1, 776.80 crores. USA, Netherlands, UK, Japan, UAE, France, Canada, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Italy, German Fed. Republic, Austria, Israel and Spain are the major international buyers of Indian Cashews.
India is the largest area holder of this crop. Cultivation of cashew in India confines mainly to the peninsular areas. It is grown in Kerala, Karnataka, Goa and Maharashtra along the west coast and Tamilnadu, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa and West Bengal along the east coast. To a limited extent it is being cultivated in Chattisgarh, North Eastern States (Assam, Manipur, Tripura, Meghalaya and Nagaland) and Andaman & Nicobar Islands. Now cashew occupies an area of 7.70 lakhs hectares in the country as on 2002-2003 with a production of 5.00 lakhs MT. Of these, 2.00 lakhs ha of the plantations developed from the beginning of 8th Plan alone have been with superior clones of high yielding varieties.
It generates employment in the processing and agrarian sector employing over 3 lakhs persons with 95% of them being women.
Source: Directorate of Cashew nut and Cocoa Development.