Why are Cashews Not Sold to Consumers in Their Shells?


Why are Cashews Not Sold to Consumers in Their
Shells? Cashews are a member of the same family as
poison ivy, Anacardiaceae. Like poison ivy and many other members of
the family, part of the cashew plant contains an oily chemical called urushiol, which is
a strong irritant for most people and can even be fatal for some if ingested. In cashews, the urushiol is found not only
in the leaves, but also in a layer of oil between the shell and the cashew seed. Needless to say, shelling cashews is something
that needs to be done very carefully and not by consumers. Despite the need for care in shelling cashews,
it’s still often done by hand, much to the chagrin of the workers involved, particularly
in poorer nations where safety equipment is often lacking. From the above, you might be wondering why
you can purchase raw cashews. It turns out, even so-called “raw” cashews
are not actually raw. Eating true raw, unprocessed cashew seeds
would result in you ingesting some of this urushiol, which, as mentioned, can potentially
be fatal. Thus, the seeds must either be roasted at
high temperatures to destroy the offending oil or, in the case of “raw” cashews,
usually steamed and/or boiled in oils. Unlike many seeds, the cashew seed grows on
the outside of the fruit itself as you can see from the above picture, making it a “false
fruit” or “accessory fruit.” The fruit, known as a cashew apple, is actually
very good to eat, but is not widely consumed outside of areas it is grown in due to the
fact that it’s not easy to transport because of its extremely fragile skin.

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