Today, cashew nuts have grown to become one of the most valuable processed nuts in global commodity markets, with a market value of 6.27 billion U.S. dollars. The cashew (Anacardium occidentale) is a tropical evergreen tree native to South America in the genus Anacardium that produces the cashew seed and the accessory fruit of the cashew tree. The tree can grow to 14 meters (46 feet), but dwarf cultivars, which grow to 6 m (20 ft), are more profitable, with earlier maturity and higher yields.
Cashew seed is commonly considered a snack (cashew) that is eaten alone, used in recipes, or processed into cashew cheese or cashew butter. Like the tree, the nut is often simply called cashew. Cashew nut allergies are caused by proteins found in nuts, and cooking usually doesn't eliminate or change these proteins. The Ghana Export Promotion Authority is currently working with the Ghana Cashew Industry Association to increase local processing.
While Asian processors and exporters can afford high prices on farms because of their access to preferential interest rates in their home countries, local processors can't compete, so they simply can't afford to buy raw cashew nuts. The true fruit of the cashew tree is a drupe shaped like a kidney or a boxing glove that grows at the end of the cashew tree. In the Indian state of Goa, ripe cashew nuts are crushed and the juice is extracted and preserved for fermentation for a few days, which is called Neero. Capital scarcity also limits the ability of local processors to buy raw cashew nuts from farmers.
It can cause burns, itching and blisters, which is why unprocessed cashew nuts are considered dangerous to eat or touch. Cashew oil is a dark yellow oil derived from pressing cashew nuts (usually from broken pieces of lower value that are accidentally created during processing) and is used in cooking or as a salad dressing. Vietnam, on the other hand, was one of the first countries to invest in automation, making it a key location for processing cashew nuts. The low cashew processing rates in African cashew nut producing countries are due to several factors.
A woman uses a cashew nut peeling machine in Thailand and wears gloves to protect against contact dermatitis. The most recent breeds, such as dwarf cashew trees, are up to 6 m tall and start producing after the first year, with economic returns after three years. Trees are members of the same family as poison ivy, and like poison ivy, cashew plants contain a toxin called urushiol. The cashew nut shell produces derivatives that can be used in many applications, such as lubricants, waterproofing agents, paints and, starting with the Second World War, in the production of weapons.