Cajuil – Cashew
The Árbol de Anacardo, the tree that produces cajuil, the cashew seed and the manzana de auga, is a fruit tree that was brought to Dominican Republic long ago. It now, according to The Ministry of Environment, is in danger of becoming extinct in this country because of deforestation in the eastern region where the fruit producing tree is mainly found to grow.
The Many Names Of Cajuil
Anacardium Occidentale is also simply known as cashew. Here it is called Cajuil, Pomarrosa, Cajuilito Perita Roja and the fruit Manzana de Cajuil. The caju, as Brazilians call it, is native to northeastern Brazil. It is not a nut but a fruit and has great medicinal and nutritional properties. The fruit is sweet and has a variety of names depending on which country you are in.
The Tree And Fruit
The Cajuil tree can grow up to around 20 feet. The tree flowers in February and March and can produce fruit anywhere from April to August. It is a strange looking fruit. The seed grows outside of the fruit. It is a red, small pear shaped fruit grown what looks like it is upside down. There is what looks like a grey-black growth coming out of the fruits bottom. This black seed holds the ever popular cashew nut, that is really a seed, and the red fruit is made into a wonderful sweet that is a must try.
The fruit, manzana de cajuil, is sweet with a lime type tang. Cooked with some sugar and cinnamon it turns into a tasty sticky sweet. The fruit can also be juiced. But the black seed – BEWARE!
The external seed, the cashew, has an outer skin that is thick and leathery. The edible seed is surrounded by a double shell containing a nasty sticky allergenic phenolic resin called anacardic acid. It holds a very strong and fierce skin irritant. It is chemically related to the highly allergenic oil urushiol that is also a toxin found in its relative, poison ivy, oak and sumac.
The Dangerous Seed
The skin of the seed is sticky and once it touches your skin it is very difficult to get off. It is a dangerous irritant and can cause burns, blisters, swollen skin and eyes and for some people can leave lifelong scaring. The burning and itching can last for weeks. This is why cashews are not sold in their shell like walnuts and other nuts. They are sold roasted. Roasting at high temperatures kills the urushiol that is lurking inside.
Dulse de Cajuil
If you get the chance try the cooked fruit, Dulse de Cajuil. Enjoy the roasted, so called Cashew Nuts (which are really seeds). But be warned. If you see these interesting fruits take cautions with the skin and especially the seed. I read that some people are even allergic to the resin from the trees as well.
Did you know:
I wrote my story on the Life and Times Of The Dominican Gringa Blog – My Cajuil Experience.
60% of the cashew nuts come from India. Many of the people who work in the cashew industry have permanent damage to their hands from this corrosive liquid, because factories do not routinely provide gloves. More information here www.telegraph.co.uk
A little more detailed information on how a cashew is processed at Nut Gourmet.