What is a Cashew Apple? The Cashew Counterpart Explained

Ever heard of a cashew apple? If not, you are not alone. Read on to learn more about the fruit counterpart to the popular cashew nut.

cashew apples with cashews out of the shell
Cashew Apples with cashews out of the shell

What is a Cashew Apple?

Cashew Apple Juice

It took 24 years for me to learn of the elusive cashew apple. Not until I took a family vacation down to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil did I learn that in fact, the cashew nut is simply the strange, nubby, delicious appendage to the much larger, flavorful cashew fruit, also known as the cashew apple.

In Brazil, Jugo de Caju (cashew juice) is an unsweetened beverage made with the juice of the cashew apple. Sweetened with a splash of liquid sweetener, Jugo de Caju is undeniably delicious. We savored it every chance we got, sipping the sweetened nectar of the fruit that is so commonly thrown away in favor of harvesting its nutty counterpart.

Cashew apple
Two cashew apples with cashews attached

Why had we never heard of, much less seen, cashew fruit before? Is it top secret? Did it possess some otherworldly properties not to be shared with the masses? No, unfortunately, the answer was much more economical.

Where are the Cashew Apples?

Cashew fruits are not exported outside the lands in which they grow (primarily Latin America). This is because they are extremely perishable and touch-sensitive, meaning they can’t survive the arduous journey involved with mass export.

Cashew apples grow to about 2-4 inches in size. Consumed on their own, cashew apples have a mild flavor. However, the most popular way to consume cashew apples is to juice them. Unlike Fuji apples, cashew apples are not a popular choice to eat whole, raw.

Outside of its high Vitamin C content, the cashew fruit contains favorable antioxidant properties. With a whopping 232mg of Vitamin C per 8-ounce serving of cashew juice, these apples pack a nutritional punch. Studies also show that cashew apples possess some favorable antibacterial and even healing properties.

3 Cashew apple - still on the tree with cashews attached
Cashew apples on the tree

Cajuína – Cashew Apple Drink

In Brazil, where cashew production is high, cashew apples are commonly sold at street market stands. Cashew apples are also used to make a popular local drink – cajuína. Cajuína originated in the northeast of Brazil, typically associated with the cities of Piauí and Teresina. However, the succulent cashew apple drink is enjoyed throughout the country.

Cajuína on a display – via Shutterstock

“Cajuína is made with clarified and filtered cashew juice. The resulting liquid is pale golden due to the natural caramelization of sugars that occurs during sterilization, and it has a sweet and subtly tart flavor. Traditionally produced as a non-industrial drink, there are now several factory-produced versions.” via Taste Atlas

Taste Atlas also mentions that cajuína is documented as early as 1912 by the writer Rodolfo Teófilo, originally referred to as “cashew nectar.”

Cashew Apple – Antibacterial, Antioxidant

While cashew apples may not be as vitamin-packed as some other fruits, recent studies suggest they may possess a type of healing property, due to the fruit’s antibacterial attributes.

A 2015 article published in the journal of Experimental Biology and Medicine evaluated the antioxidant capacity, anti-inflammatory, and wound-healing effects of cashew apple juice. The study compared juices from ripe and unripe cashew apples.

The results were surprising. While the ripe cashew apple juice contained higher antioxidant content and activity, the unripe cashew apple juice proved to contain higher wound-healing properties.

Overall, cashew apples were found to contain a high volume of minerals and vitamin C as well.

cashew apples shown with cashews out of the shell
Cashew Apple with Cashews

Cashews & Cashew Apples: Further Reading

If you enjoyed this article, you may be interested in learning more.

Slow Food – Cashew Processing & Toxicity

This Slow Food article details the toxic process of extracting cashews from their shells for commercial use. As the article states, “cashews themselves aren’t toxic, but they are surrounded by a shell that consists of the toxic oil [called] urushiol… Coming into contact with urushiol can cause itching, blisters, and skin rashes.” This article takes a closer look at the sociological implications of mass cashew harvesting.

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