It is a small evergreen tree growing to 10-12m (~32 ft) 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. Called the cashew apple, better known in Central America as "marañón", it ripens into a yellow and/or red structure about 5–11 cm long. It is edible, and has a strong "sweet" smell and a sweet taste. The pulp of the cashew apple is very juicy, but the skin is fragile, making it unsuitable for transport. It is often used as a flavor in agua fresca.
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. The seed is surrounded by a double shell containing a dermatogenic phenolic resin, urushiol, a potent skin irritant toxin also found in the related poison ivy. Some people are allergic to cashew nuts, but cashews are a less frequent allergen than nuts or peanuts.
Other names include: cajueiro, cashu, casho, acajuiba, caju, acajou, acaju, acajaiba, alcayoiba, anacarde, anacardier, anacardo, Andi parippu (in Malayalam), cacajuil, cajou, gajus, godambi (in Kannada), jeedi pappu (in Telugu), jocote maranon, maranon, merey, Mundhiri paruppu (Tamil), noix d’acajou, pomme cajou, pomme, jambu, jambu golok, jambu mete, jambu monyet, jambu terong, kasoy (Tagalog), and hạt điều in Vietnamese language. In the Antilles in Puerto Rico, it is known as pajuil, Indian nut in Slovenia, and in the Dominican Republic as the cajuil. The pseudofruit is the main part used as raw fruit.
Originally spread from Brazil by the Portuguese, the cashew tree is now cultivated in all regions with a sufficiently warm and humid climate. It is produced in around 32 countries of the world. The world production figures of cashew crop, published by the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), was around 3.1 million tons per annum. The major raw cashew producing countries with their production figures in 2006 (as per the FAO) are Vietnam (941,600 tons), Nigeria (636,000 tons), India called Kaju (573,000 tons), Brazil (236,140 tons) and Indonesia (122,000 tons).
World’s total area under the cultivation of cashew is around 33,900 km². India ranks first in area utilized for cashew production, though its yields are relatively low. The world’s average yield is 817 pounds per acre (916 kg/hectare) of land
Collectively, Vietnam, Nigeria, India and Brazil account for more than 90% of all cashew kernel exports.
|Top Ten Cashew Producers — 2005|
|Country||Production (Int $1000)||Footnote||Production (t)||Footnote|
|No symbol = official figure,F = FAO estimate, * = Unofficial figure, C = Calculated figure;|
Production in Int $1000 have been calculated based on 1999-2001 international prices
Source: Food And Agricultural Organization of United Nations: Economic And Social Department: The Statistical Division
Anacardic acid is also used in the chemical industry for the production of cardanol, which is used for resins, coatings, and frictional materials.
In Brazil, the cashew fruit juice is popular all across the country and is usually consumed with sugar.