Who knew that a visit to St. Lucia in the Caribbean would yield a taste of freshly roasted cashews, made the old fashioned way over a wood fire, cracked and peeled by hand and still warm when gobbled up?
Cashews are another of the universally loved foods that originated in the New World, specifically, Brazil. Portuguese traders introduced them to Europe, and then to more exotic locales where they became wildly popular and a staple of local cuisines, like in India and China.
Have you ever wondered why cashews are never sold in the shell, like most other popular nuts?
Cashews contain a chemical similar to the irritant found in poison ivy, and so they are never eaten raw. The thick, hard nuts are usually heat processed, by steaming or roasting, and this facilitates the necessary removal of the outer shell and skin.
They can also be processed by drying, which can be the case when they are marketed as “raw”, although that may just mean that they have had no further roasting (with or without oil) or salt.
The less processed nuts will show up in Chinese, Indian and other popular dishes, while the more processed (developing further flavors) will show up in a Planter’s can or in a little dish on an airplane.
Cashews are particularly popular among vegetarians, because of their high protein content, and you can even find cashew paste and flour in an Indian market (or just go on Amazon or drive to Trader Joe’s). They also appear to be a viable food for those on Paleo diets.
One of myMEGusta’s good cookin’ friends uses ground cashews instead of panko for coating fish, a great idea which she is going to try!