Cashew trees originate in northeast Brazil in South America. Cashews also grow throughout the southern Asian continent in countries such as India and Vietnam as well as throughout Africa.
During the 1500s, Portuguese explorers brought the cashew plant from Brazil to India, where it slowly spread throughout Asia and eventually into the Ivory Coast of Africa. Some of the major producers of cashews, as of 2014, are countries such as Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia, Nigeria, Guinea and Tanzania. Cashew trees are tropical evergreen plants that require year-round warm temperatures and a moderate amount of rainfall. The optimal average temperature for the cashew tree is roughly 25 degrees Celsius. The optimal yearly amount of rainfall needed for the plant to thrive is between 1,500 and 2,000 millimeters. When these condition are met, the cashew tree grows rapidly.
The average cashew tree grows to a height of about 32 feet. The tree flowers and produces an edible yellow or red fruit known as a cashew apple. The cashew apple has a shape that resembles a pear, and the flesh has a strong and sweet taste. The cashew nut, which is actually a seed, is the part of the plant from which the cashew apple grows. This seed is the most frequently consumed part of the cashew tree.