When looking at a handful of cashew nuts, it can be hard to imagine them growing on a tree - but they do! To blow your mind even further, they’re not actually a nut! So how do cashews grow, and what are they if they aren’t a nut? Let’s find out.
What Are Cashews?
Cashews are the seed of the cashew tree, a tropical evergreen plant that can grow up to 46 feet tall. Believe it or not, quite a few of the most common nuts don’t meet the requirements to be a botanical nut, including peanuts which are actually legumes, and both almonds and walnuts, which are drupes.
What Is A Cashew Apple?
Like many seeds, cashews don’t form alone but grow alongside a fruit. Cashew apples are the fruit of the cashew tree and are a very special type of fruit known as an ‘accessory fruit’. Accessory fruits are different from true fruits because they do not form from the ovary. Instead, they form from the floral parts of the plant. Cashew apples are particularly unique because they don’t start to form until after the cashew nut has fully developed. At this stage, the cashew apple begins to grow from the stem of the cashew drupe.
Once mature, cashew fruits look a little like misshapen apples, hence their name. They can be yellow-red when ripe and have sweet, pulpy flesh. Unfortunately, cashew apples don’t transport very well and perish within a few days of ripening. Some growers sell their cashew apples locally, while others juice their cashew apples for the beverage industry, and in Goa, the apples are fermented to make Feni, an alcoholic beverage.
How Do Cashews Grow
Cashew trees are native to Northwestern Brazil but have been transported all over the world by explorers. Today, the Ivory Coast and India are the two top producers of cashew nuts, closely followed by Burundi, Vietnam, and the Philippines. Newly planted cashew trees take around three years to bear their first fruit, but most growers must wait eight years for a full commercial harvest. Healthy, mature cashew trees will produce fruit annually and be ready to harvest between February and May.
Growing A Cashew Tree At Home
Unless you live in the tropics, you may struggle to grow your own cashew tree. Cashew trees thrive in extremely hot temperatures and don’t like too much wind or rain. It’s also very important that cashew trees receive at least six hours of bright sunlight each day and adequate fertilization. If you do want to have a go at growing your own cashew tree, then you may want to stick to a dwarf variety that won’t grow to be 46 feet tall! It will take at least three years for your tree to form its first fruit, but harvesting and eating home-grown cashews will definitely be with the wait.
If you don’t fancy growing a cashew tree in your back garden, then we’ve got plenty of cashews to satisfy your craving. Check out our range of delicious, raw, and roasted cashews.