Come any festival and the one nut that is used abundantly is cashewnuts. Its botanical name is Anacardium occidentale. Cashewnut is a close relative of mangoes, pistachios, poison ivy and poison oak.
Though it was in the 16th century that the Portuguese first introduced the cashewnut to the world by Portuguese explorers in South America, it was only around the 1920’s that its international trade took off. The natives would gather the fruits that fell off the trees and sell them to the Portuguese traders. Eventually the nuts made their way to India. And today cashewnuts are grown extensively in Brazil, Vietnam, India and many African countries. Brazil, however, remains the world’s largest exporter of the nut.
Surprisingly cashewnuts have no cholesterol and are therefore a healthy fat food for heart patients. And because of their high levels of monounsaturated fatty acids, they also help support healthy levels of low good (HDL) cholesterol.
By and store them carefully
While buying cashewnuts choose them carefully and be more careful while eating them. Always check your cashews for freshness before you dig in. Since cashews have a high quantity of the stabilizing oleic acid, which is a monounsaturated fatty acid, they should always be stored in a tightly sealed container in a cool, dry place, preferably in the refrigerator. Otherwise they may turn rancid. If properly stored, the nuts will stay fresh for five to six months.
What are cashewnuts
Cashewnuts are kidney-shaped seeds that grow at the bottom of a fleshy pear-shaped cashew apple, which is the fruit of the cashew tree. The fruit is white, yellow, or red, juicy and slightly acid, and is eaten or fermented to make wine. The fruit is not much appreciated by most but in Brazil and the Caribbean, they are considered as delicacies.
Cashews are mostly sold shelled because the interior of the shells contains a caustic resin, known as cashew balm, which must be completely removed before the nuts can be consumed. This caustic resin is used in the manufacture of varnishes and insecticides.
Cashews are high in calories. 100 grams of cashewnuts provide 553 calories. They are rich in soluble dietary fiber, vitamins, minerals and numerous health-promoting phyto-chemicals that help protect from diseases and cancers. Then again they are rich in “heart-friendly” monounsaturated-fatty acids like oleic and palmitoleic acids.
Cashewnut is good for skin, muscles and hair because it contains plant protein which is very necessary for the body. Our daily intake of protein should be 10-35% of our intake. We can get four grams of protein by eating only one ounce of cashewnuts which means that these nuts are best option to meet our daily requirement of proteins.
No Dusshera or Diwali celebration is complete without cashewnuts. Kaju katli, perhaps one of the most favourite of all sweetmeats, is welcome anytime – festival or not. And when there is excess you can use them to sweeten and flavour some other sweet dish like a phirni or kheer.
In Goa, this nut is used to make the famous drink that goes under the name of feni. The fruit however is highly perishable as a result of which it is accessible to only those who grow it. It is impossible to store or transport it to any other place as it ferments within twenty four hours of plucking from the tree. They can however be canned or used to make jam – but this should be done where they are grown.
Sweet or salty, cashew is welcome
If you thought that cashewnuts are good only in sweets, you are sadly mistaken. Because its paste is not only used extensively to make a gravy thick but also add a delicious richness. Heard of shahi kurma or shahi paneer or shahi matar dhingri? Well it is the paste of this very nut that make them shahi or in other words royal or rich.
It can be used to good result in cakes, cookies, to sprinkle on sundaes and puddings. Roasted and salty cashewnuts serve as a delicious pastime.
Chef Sanjeev Kapoor is the most celebrated face of Indian cuisine. He is Chef extraordinaire, runs a successful TV Channel FoodFood, hosted Khana Khazana cookery show on television for more than 17 years, author of 150+ best selling cookbooks, restaurateur and winner of several culinary awards. He is living his dream of making Indian cuisine the number one in the world and empowering women through power of cooking to become self sufficient. His recipe portal www.sanjeevkapoor.com is a complete cookery manual with a compendium of more than 10,000 tried & tested recipes, videos, articles, tips & trivia and a wealth of information on the art and craft of cooking in both English and Hindi.