Yes, this strange looking fruit is a cashew fruit. The strange hook at the bottom is the nut covered with a layer of fleshy skin and an inner shell. The yellow apple part can be various colors and sizes depending on the region it grows. I had no idea cashews grew so large! It must take thousands of trees to fill all the jars we see in the super-markets! Now I understand why they cost more than other nuts.
The photo above was taken by Abhishek Jacob of a tree in Brazil.
The yellow part is referred to as the "cashew apple" or "pseudo-fruit" (false fruit) and can be processed into syrup, juice, jam, jelly and liquor.
The green cashew on the end is the real fruit and it is surrounded by two layers of flesh and shell. The resin in these layers is a potent skin irritant and is related to poison ivy. I don't think I could be a harvester!
The cashew tree is native to Americas and is a cousin to poison ivy, poison sumac and oak, mango and pistachio. But most cashews are grown in India and Brazil. It's hardy nature thrives best in tropical climates.
These kidney shaped nuts are lower in fat than most nuts and the fat is a heart-protective monounsaturated.
Description of Cashews
The cashew is actually a seed and adheres to the bottom of the cashew apple. It is kidney-shaped and features a firm texture when bitten and a mild smooth taste. You won't see cashews in their shells because of their toxic shell covering.
How to Select Cashews
I recommend buying prepackaged raw cashews from Trader Joe's for the best price and freshest taste. If you don't have a Trader Joe's, then find a store that sells them often so that they taste the freshest. There is nothing worse than biting into rancid nuts! So to avoid this, check the package date and shop where they are purchased often.
I don't recommend buying cashew nuts from the bulk bins in the health food stores because they always seem softer and slightly "off" from sitting out too long. If you do buy bulk, smell them after you fill your bag. Rancid or old cashews will give off an odor that you'll have to smell to experience. Ask the stock person for a taste test if you want to make sure that the cashews are fresh.
How to Store Cashews
Cashews have a high content of oleic acid that makes them a more stable nut, but I would still keep them in an air-tight container after opening and keep them in a cool location or refrigerate them between use in recipes.
Botanical Cashew Drawing
Raw Creamy Cashew Cheese
Organic cashew nuts are so tasty and smooth that you won't believe that it provides a "mouth feel and taste" of a real cheese product. Use this vegan cheese recipe to create a festive cheese ball for a platter of crackers or spread it on bread slices to create a base for your favorite tapenade. A dollop of Creamy Cashew Cheese scooped with a melon baller and slid onto a halved fresh ripe organic fig is the highlight of any great tea party!
HINT: The most important tool in the creation of Creamy Cashew Spread is a high-powered blender. The new VitaMix 5200 and the Blendtec Total Blender provide smooth superior results for this recipe.
1 tablespoon raw organic tahini
1 capsule powdered probiotic (I used Now Probiotic-10 from iHerb)
8 tablespoons of fresh squeezed lemon or lime juice
6 tablespoons grapeseed oil
1 cup raw cashews, soaked overnight in water
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
Reserve these items for the outside of the roll:
1/4 cup Italian parsley, finely chopped
1 tablespoon black pepper
In a Pyrex glass measuring cup, measure out 1 cup of raw organic cashews and cover with water for 12- 24 hours.
The Soaked Cashews
Drain the cashews and rinse three or four times before adding to the blender.
Measure all the ingredients into the blender container in the order listed above. The liquid items will help the blending process.
Use the pusher wand to make sure all the ingredients get pulled into the blade.
(Do NOT use the cashew nut soaking liquid in the recipe.)
HINT: After making Creamy Cashew Cheese a few times, try experimenting with the consistency by adding two extra tablespoons more of the lemon juice and grapeseed oil to make a softer version. Don't be afraid to experiment with this recipe because the cashew will hold up to whatever torture we put them through.
The Salt and Pepper
Add the salt and ground pepper to the blender.
Turn the Vita-Mix on low and gradually turn up the speed. Use the pusher to make sure that all the nuts are getting whirled. Process till the contents are perfectly smooth.
Scoop out the Cashew Cream onto a large piece of parchment paper and fold one-third of the paper over the mixture.
Gently press the Cashew Cream Cheese into a log shape.
Pinch the ends to press out any air bubbles.
Gently tuck the edges under and refrigerate for at least two hours.
Most likely you'll want a clean-up person for the Vita-Mix.
A Gourmet Log
Roll open the parchment paper and scatter about half a tablespoon of crushed black pepper over the parchment paper.
Lift the ends of the parchment and roll the Cashew Cream Cheese over the pepper to coat the outside.
Add a little Italian parsley to give it more eye appeal.
Simply scatter the chopped parsley over the paper, lift the ends the same way and roll till the outside is coated.
Select a serving platter, add some Mary's Gone Crackers and a spreading knife and EAT!
Creamy Cashew Cheese Presentation Ideas
Creamy Cashew Cheese provides an endless array of presentation possibilities for plating. The following are just a few ways that I have presented this cheese.
A Festive Cashew Cheese Ball
Instead of a log, roll the cheese into a ball and coat the outside with coarsely ground fresh pepper and stud it with whole raw cashews. I served it with celery and carrot sticks and Mary's Gone Crackers and Sticks and Twigs.
This presentation on a holiday platter will look like you had the tray delivered from a 5-Star Restaurant. Simply purchase the pickled peppers from your market making sure there are no breaks in the skins. I found these beauties at Zupan's in Portland, OR in the deli section with the olives. They have red and yellow versions that are pickled, sweet, and crunchy. Buy two to three peppers per guest.
Use a small spoon or off-set spatula to scoop a portion of the Creamy Cashew Cheese into each pepper and press down to completely fill the it.
Press the open-ended top into a plate of finely sliced chives and place on your platter. Try not to eat all of them before finishing the platter... maybe you should get extra peppers for the chef!
Refrigerate till serving.
Fresh Figs and Cashew Cheese
Figs are my favorite fruit and the end of summer seems to produce the sweetest figs of the season. I didn't think anything would be better than just plain ripe figs, but if a dollop of the Creamy Cashew Cheese is added to a sliced open half, oooohlala! Create a tray of these beauties for your next gathering and the humming will never end!
The Golden Beet Cashew Cheese Ring
One golden beet that is oven roasted, peeled, finely diced and dressed with a few tablespoons of organic extra virgin olive oil, champagne vinegar, sea salt and pepper makes a gourmet finish to the Creamy Cashew Cheese.
This presentation is created using a stainless steel food ring with the Cashew Cheese smoothed into the bottom about 1/4 of the way up the ring. Food rings come in many shapes and sizes to coordinate with an event: hearts for Valentines Day, a star for Christmas, diamond for an engagement party, etc. A small offset spatula will make the smoothing easier.
Top off the ringed cheese with the dressed beets and then slowly lift off the cake ring to reveal a glorious presentation.