Where Do Cashews Come From?

Caju by webmink
Caju, a photo by webmink on Flickr.

This is a fruit stand in São Paulo central market, selling what’s probably my favourite fruit – caju. It’s soft, sweet, has a hint of the strange mouth-furring sharpness you find in persimmon and it has a wonderful fragrant flavour that I adore. It’s especially wonderful as a caju caipirinha or capifruta, blended with cachaça and ice.

It’s amazingly perishable – a caju left in my hotel room for me one morning had already spoiled by the evening when I got back from work – and I have never seen caju on sale anywhere outside Brazil. I know they grow in many sub-tropical countries and there must be tons of the pulp around.

Why? Well, if the name “caju” sounds like “cashew”, that’s no accident. The green “stalk” on the top is actually the real fruit, and its kernel is the cashew nut that graces tables worldwide.  They spoil so fast because that’s how they propogate. The fruit falls from the tree, nut first (they are attached by a stalk at the other end), and the flesh squashes around it on the ground to create the ideal germination environment. Now you can see why cashews are so expensive compared with most other nuts – each one had to be harvested from a caju.

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About Simon Phipps

Grizzled geek with eclectic tastes. Fanatical about freedoms, manic about music, radical regarding religion, particular about politics.

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