Fruit Tree of the Day: Cashew


Cashew Tree
Yesterday’s post about was about a fruit that can kill you, so here’s another fruit you may be surprised to learn is poisonous: Cashew. Unlike ackee, it’s easy to get the poison out so it won’t kill you. It’s in the same family of plants as poison Ivy, so most people are allergic to it. The bark and cashew itself both have the poison in it, and the cashew has to be dried out to get rid of the poison. This is done by roasting it-- although then the poison is released in the smoke. So it’s probably not something you’d want to grow yourself for the cashew.

But lets look closely at the picture above:
Cashew Apple

Yes, each cashew has another fruit attached to it. Actually, the cashew itself is the fruit, and the other thing is called a cashew apple; it’s an accessory fruit (one without seeds, like the part of a regular apple that’s not the core). They taste… interesting. I had a cashew apple when I was on a Caribbean cruise, and my first instinct upon eating one was to spit it out. I resisted, though, and was rewarded with an interesting flavor. Not really sure how to describe it. The fruit is really astringent and will suck all the moisture out of your mouth. Fun fact: They are so good at sucking out moisture that they are an ingredient in lots of acne medication.

But there are two kinds of cashew trees: The kind grown for the cashew, and the kind grown for the apple (which would have a shriveled, worthless cashew). Supposedly, in their native Brazil, there are varieties of cashew apple that taste really good and aren’t as astringent. I’ve never had one of those, though. They also don’t ship well, so you’ll probably never get to try one yourself unless you go to Brazil or grow your own from a seed.

To grow this, you have to be in zone 10 (preferably 10b). Any exposure to frost will kill them; on top of that they’ll stop growing when the temperatures are below 63. So it would be a slow grower in Florida. You could always plant it in a big pot and bring it indoors when it gets cold, but note you’d want to wear gloves when carrying it so you don’t get any sap on your hands.

Bonus: The Brazilian Pepper Tree, or Florida Holly, is in the same family as cashews and poison ivy. That’s where the big red pepper flakes you see in restaurant shakers come from. It’s an invasive species in Florida, though, so don’t grow it.
Brazilian Pepper Tree