Anacardium occidentale 

Anacardium occidentale L.

Family : Anacardiaceae

Common Name : കശുമാവ് (Mal)

: काजू (Hin)

: Cashew tree(Eng)

IUCN Status : Least concern (LC)

The Cashew is a flowering tree, native to northeastern Brazil, where it is called by its Portuguese name Caju (the fruit) or Cajueiro (the tree). It is now widely grown in tropical climates for its cashew "nuts" (and cashew apples. It is a small evergreen tree growing to 10-12 m tall, with a short, often irregularly-shaped trunk. The leaves are spirally arranged, leathery textured, elliptic to obovate, 4 to 22 cm long and 2 to 15 cm broad, with a smooth margin. The flowers are produced in a panicle or corymb up to 26 cm long, each flower small, pale green at first then turning reddish, with five slender, acute petals 7 to 15 mm long. What appears to be the fruit of the cashew tree is an oval or pear-shaped accessory fruit or false fruit that develops from the receptacle of the cashew flower. The true fruit of the cashew tree is a kidney or boxing-glove shaped drupe that grows at the end of the pseudofruit. Actually, the drupe develops first on the tree, and then the peduncle expands into the pseudofruit. Within the true fruit is a single seed, the cashew nut. Although a nut in the culinary sense, in the botanical sense the fruit of the cashew is a seed. However, the true fruit is classified as a nut by some botanists. The seed is surrounded by a double shell containing a caustic phenolic resin, urushiol, a potent skin irritant toxin also found in the related poison ivy. Some people are allergic to cashews, but cashews are a less frequent allergen than some other nuts.

Gregarious evergreen trees, to 15 m high, bark pale grey to brown; exudation sticky, red; branchlets glabrous. Leaves simple, alternate, somewhat crowded at twig apices, 6-15 x 3-8 cm, obovate, apex obtuse, round or retuse, base acute or cuneate, round, glabrous,; petiole 7-15 mm, stout, swollen at base; lateral nerves 10-15 pairs, parallel, prominent, intercostae reticulate, prominent; glands axillary on main nerves and its branches. Flowers polygamous, yellow, streaked with pink, in terminal bracteate panicles. Calyx 5-partite, lanceolate, imbricate, deciduous, with some pubescence on outside. Petals 5, linear-lanceolate, ligulate, recurved, imbricate; disc filling the base of the calyx, erect. Stamens 8-10, one usually longer than others; filaments connate at the base and adnate to the disc, glandular puberulus. Ovary superior, obovoid or obcordate, 1-celled, ovule 1, ascending from a lateral funicle; style filiform, excentric; stigma minute. Fruit a reniform nut, 2-3 cm, grey, seated on a large pyriform fleshy body formed of enlarged disc and top of the pedicel; pericarp gives acrid caustic oil; seed reniform, ascending.

Use: Nuts and fruits are edible. Cashew apple is fibrous and nutritious. The nut and apple are good source of carbohydrates, minerals like Calcium, Potassium, Iron, and Vitamins like riboflavin, thiamine, niacin, vitamin C. The juice of cashew apple is fermented and made wine containing 8.3 per cent alcohol. It is also utilized for making juice, syrup, candy and pickle. The juice (oil) from the nutshell is used for protecting timber, books etc., from white ants. The juice of the nutshell cause painful blisters on the skin. The bark and leaves are useful in toothache and inflammations of gum.

Distribution : Native of South America; now widely cultivated in Asia and Africa

Flowering & Fruiting : November-April