Cajú, alcayoiba, anacardo, cajuil, Indian nut, marañón, pepa, or merey are some of the most common global names associated with cashews. Although technically a seed, cashew nuts are the most popular part of the tree—beloved for their creamy texture, high-fat content, and nutrient-rich profile.
Despite the nuts’ dietary praise, their apples (or pseudo fruits) remain mostly out of the spotlight. The cashew apple—or the plump part of the cashew fruit, connected to the cashew nut—looks like a mini, oval-shaped boxing glove. Botanically speaking, cashew apples are so-called accessory fruits because they grow after cashew seeds have fully developed. Thus, the actual drupe or peduncle is the kidney-shaped shell enclosing the edible cashew nut, which you’ll find at the end of the apple.
Cashew trees are native to Brazil’s and Venezuela’s tropical zones and have been growing wild since ancient times. Their introduction to coastal India and Mozambique began in the 16th century, thanks to Portuguese seed traders, and eventually expanded farther into Asia and Africa. Today, cashew trees are found globally across most warmer regions, with India and Vietnam leading the world’s cashew production.
Cashew fruits and their ancestral health applications have been diverse depending on culture, availability, and overall culinary tradition. In Latin America, cashew apples are usually made into juice, wine, jams, salads, and other tasty treats (empanadas, anyone?). In Asia, apple-inspired curry dishes, veggie stir-fries, desserts, vinegar, and chutneys are among some of these fruits’ delectable culinary creations.