Cashew nuts are a popular snack and ingredient in many cuisines around the world. However, many people are not aware of the existence of the cashew apple, the fruit that grows on the same tree as the cashew nut. The question arises: are cashew apples edible?
The answer is yes, cashew apples are edible. They have a sweet and tangy taste and can be eaten raw or used in various culinary preparations. In some countries, such as Brazil and India, cashew apples are used to make juices, jams, and even alcoholic beverages.
Despite being edible, cashew apples are not commonly consumed outside of their countries of origin. This is because the fruit is highly perishable and does not travel well. Additionally, the cashew apple is often overlooked because of the high value placed on the cashew nut, which is the primary product of the cashew tree.
Cashew apples, often overlooked due to the cashew nut's prominence, are a hidden gem of nutrition and flavor. Their tangy sweetness and culinary versatility make them a valuable addition to diets worldwide.
What Are Cashew Apples
Cashew apples are the fruit of the cashew tree that are native to Brazil. They are pear-shaped and have a yellow or red skin. The fruit is about 5-11 cm long and 4-8 cm wide. The cashew apple is not a true fruit, but rather a swollen stem that develops from the base of the cashew nut.
The cashew apple has a sweet and tangy taste, and is high in vitamin C and other minerals. However, the skin of the cashew apple contains urushiol, the same chemical found in poison ivy, which can cause an allergic reaction in some people. Therefore, it is important to handle the fruit with care.
Edibility of Cashew Apples
Cashew apples are edible and have a sweet taste. The pulp of the fruit is very juicy, but the skin is fragile, making it unsuitable for transport. The fruit is typically consumed locally, and it is used to make drinks and fruit spreads like jams and jellies. However, the fruit doesn't last long before decaying.
While the cashew apple is edible, it is not as well-known or widely consumed as the cashew nut. The cashew nut is the primary product of the cashew tree, and it is used in a variety of culinary dishes and snacks.
Nutritional Value of Cashew Apples
Cashew apples are known for their high nutritional value. They are a good source of vitamins and minerals that are essential for maintaining a healthy body. Here are some of the key nutritional benefits of cashew apples:
Cashew apples are rich in vitamins, particularly vitamin C. This vitamin is important for maintaining a strong immune system and for protecting the body against infections and diseases. In addition, cashew apples are a good source of vitamin B, which is important for maintaining healthy skin, eyes, and hair.
Cashew apples are also a good source of minerals, such as potassium, iron, and copper. Potassium is important for maintaining healthy blood pressure levels and for regulating fluid balance in the body. Iron is important for the production of hemoglobin, which is responsible for carrying oxygen throughout the body. Copper is important for the production of collagen, which is essential for maintaining healthy skin, bones, and connective tissue.
Health Benefits of Cashew Apples
Cashew apples have numerous health benefits, making them a great addition to any diet. Here are some of the benefits:
Cashew apples are rich in antioxidants, which help protect the body from damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules that can damage cells and contribute to the development of chronic diseases like cancer and heart disease. Antioxidants neutralize free radicals, preventing them from causing harm to the body.
Cashew apples are also good for digestive health. They contain fiber, which helps promote regular bowel movements and prevent constipation. Additionally, they possess anti-bacterial properties that have been proven to be effective in treating stomach ulcers and gastritis, which is usually caused by H. pylori bacteria.
Culinary Uses of Cashew Apples
Cashew apples are not as well-known as cashew nuts, but they are edible and have culinary uses. The fruit is juicy and has a sweet, astringent taste with hints of mango, cucumber, and bell peppers. The texture is spongy and creamy, and it is also fibrous.
In some countries, cashew apples are used to make juice, jams, and chutneys. In Brazil, they are used to make a popular beverage called "Cajuína" which is made by fermenting the juice of the cashew apple. In Goa, India, the fruit is used to make a popular dessert called "Mithai" which is a type of fudge.
The cashew apple can also be eaten raw, but it is not as commonly consumed that way. In some regions, the fruit is used as animal feed or discarded as waste.
Potential Risks and Allergies
Cashew Nut Allergy
While cashew apples are generally considered safe to eat, some people may be allergic to cashew nuts. Cashew nut allergy is a type of tree nut allergy and can cause mild to severe allergic reactions. Symptoms of cashew nut allergy may include hives, swelling of the face, mouth, or throat, difficulty breathing, abdominal pain, vomiting, and diarrhea.
People with a cashew nut allergy should avoid eating cashew nuts and products that contain them. They should also be cautious when consuming other tree nuts, as they may also cause an allergic reaction. In case of an allergic reaction, seek medical attention immediately.
Cashew apples and other parts of the cashew tree contain a chemical called urushiol, which can cause skin irritation in some people. Urushiol is also found in poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac. People who are sensitive to urushiol may develop a rash or blisters on their skin after coming into contact with cashew apples or other parts of the cashew tree
To avoid skin irritation, wear gloves when handling cashew apples or other parts of the cashew tree. If skin irritation occurs, wash the affected area with soap and water and avoid scratching the rash or blisters. In case of severe skin irritation, seek medical attention.
In conclusion, cashew apples are edible and can be consumed in various ways. They are highly acidic with a pH value of 3.5-4.8 and contain about 85% moisture, which contributes largely to their high perishability. The fruit is a good source of phenolic compounds, vitamin C, and other valuable nutrients. Its juice is also touted as a good source of essential nutrients. While further research is necessary to draw any conclusions about cashew apples' health advantages, there is some promising early evidence that eating the fruit may support physical fitness and oxidative stress response.
Despite the numerous health benefits associated with cashew apples, only small amounts of the fruit are used to make juice. In fact, an estimated 36.9 million tons of cashew apples are produced annually, but most of them go to waste. However, recent studies have shown that cashew apple pomace, a byproduct of the juice-making process, can be used as a functional component in various food products.