The cashew nut is one of the most popular and highly prized nuts. Cashew nuts have a bean or kidney shape and a smooth, curvy pointed tip. They are cream white in colour and measure about an inch in length and half an inch in diameter. Each nut has two equal halves just like other legumes. Its shell is toxic, hence why it is removed before it is sold to consumers. Unlike other oily tree nuts, cashews contain about 10 per cent starch in their weight, thus making them more effective than other nuts in thickening water-based dishes such as soups, meat stews, and some indian milk-based desserts.
Though small in size and appearance, cashew nuts are packed with energy, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals such as manganese, potassium, copper, iron, magnesium, zinc and selenium. Magnesium plays an important role in bone strengthening and transmission of nerve impulses whereas iron is an important part of haemoglobin, a basic component of red blood cells, which transports oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. Therefore, having a few cashew nuts in one’s diet every day would offer sufficient minerals and prevent deficiency diseases.
Cashew nuts also contain chemicals that offer protection from various diseases and cancers. They are also heart-friendly and contain fatty acids, which help lower harmful LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol while increasing good HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol.
Cashew nuts can be ground into pastes, which can be spread on bread or used for soup thickening. They can be cooked in different rice recipes, vegetables and desserts or used in salads. Unless you intend to use cashews as a thickener, do not add them to hot dishes until near the end of the cooking process as they will quickly become soft and begin to crumble. In powdered form, cashews are used in the preparation of several Indian sweets and desserts. Locally, cashew nuts can be found in shops, supermarkets and groceries.