Cashew nut Anacardium occidentale Anacardiaceae

Native to the northern part of South America, the cashew's likely center of origin is semi-arid northeast Brazil. The nut is at the apex of the "fruit" or "apple," a fleshy and enlarged fruit stalk. The fruit is sweet-tasting and eaten raw or as juice or jam. Early Portuguese navigators found that the Indians valued both the nuts and "fruit" and soon after took the crop to India, the East Indies, and Africa. The Spanish probably took it to Central America and the Philippines. It remained a smallholder crop for the next 300 years in Asia and Africa. It is now a significant plantation crop in international trade, ranking third after almonds and hazelnuts. The main producer is Mozambique. The shell or pericarp of the nut contains an oil rich in phenols (similar to those found in poison ivy) that cause severe allergic reactions. The shells are therefore heated and removed from the nut before they enter trade.

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