You know how when you buy cashews at the store and the package or bulk bin says “Raw Cashews”? Well, they’re not truly raw. At first you may feel offended by the deceit, but this is actually one of those, shall we say, inaccurate labels that is in our best interest. Another lesson in there is no regulation in the use of the word “raw” in labeling. I learned that the fruit, called an apple, produced by the cashew tree encases the seed (yes, it’s technically a seed) in a double shell. This space contains a resin called urushiol that is the same toxin found in poison ivy. It can be poisonous if ingested and causes significant skin rashes and burning. So, in order to separate the cashew seed from the shell, a high-temperature steaming process is used, which inevitably steams the part we eat.
Real Raw Cashews
I did find information about raw Indonesian cashews that are being harvested without heating of any kind. A special harvesting process has been developed where farmers use a tool specifically designed for the procedure of cracking open each cashew shell manually. It makes sense that these cashews would have greater nutritional value and flavor, as the claims state, because they have not been subjected to high heat, which does alter the enzymes in food. I read a lot of different opinions and experiences of these cashews. Most concur they are delicious, but there are also those people who had bad reactions to them and became ill.
Nostalgic note:I remember strolling along a path near Lake Atitlan in Guatemala with a friend. The path winded through a grove of fruiting trees and behind a row of simple houses with sprawling backyard lawns and gardens that met with the trail. A joyful elderly woman came up to us with a bag of freshly roasted cashews. We bought them for probably a quarter. We happily munched our snack while we continued on our way.
As with all things, it is up to each of us what we can tolerate to put in our bodies, and we need to do our own research and checking in with our body when considering to try a new food. I have no problem eating the “Not Truly Raw Cashews” and will probably not seek out the Indonesian ones. I am curious about the flavor, though, so will definitely welcome the opportunity to try them next time I’m taking a walk in a Balinese cashew grove. At least you know the “raw” cashews are not roasted.
Also, a little known treat in the areas where cashews grow is cashew juice made from the fresh fruits. If you ever have the chance to try some do not pass on it.