Naturally Speaking: Cashews

Jerry Davis

Cashew pieces are almost too much for the tufted titmouse. (Photo by Jerry Davis)

Winter holidays bring familiarity with some otherwise uncommon fruits, plants and flowers.

Who would guess cashews grow on shrubby trees and are classified in the sumac family, along with poison ivy and poison sumac?

While the seed of this plant is edible after special care to remove the fruit covering, which like poison ivy can cause a rash in most people.   The tree’s wood is used for shipping crates and boats. The resin in the fruit shell is used as an insecticide and in some traditional medicines.

The larger accessory fruit is partial to jams and jellies, but the plant is grown for its seed crop, not the accessory fruit, called a cashew “apple.”

We see the inner most portion of the true fruit, the seed. The poison has been removed along with the shell layers, during roasting. Therefore unlike the peanut, the cashew is never sold in the shell.