In the wonderful world of trail mix, cashews are the real MVP. (Chocolate excluded.) We've eaten plenty of them over the years, but we never stopped to wonder: How do these things actually grow?
Well, now that we know, we're kind of freaking out.
Turns out, each and every cashew nut grows attached to a "false fruit," the red, apple-esque object in the photo above. Technically, the cashew nut itself is the tree's fruit, so the fleshy cashew "apple" is merely a byproduct. The "false fruit" is edible, but highly perishable.
Cashews are cultivated primarily in Brazil and India, where the "apples" are often made into beverages or jams. Cashew harvesters also chew on them in the fields, drinking their sweet juice.
After the cashew nuts are detached, they are dried in the sun in their shells. And if you've ever wondered why you can't buy in-shell cashews, the reason lies in the shell itself. Cashew shells contain anacardic acid, which can cause allergies and irritation similar to poison ivy. Once the nuts are removed from their shells, they are steamed or roasted to remove any poisonous residue. After that, they're finally ready to enjoy.
So next time you reach for a handful of cashews, take a moment to remember the weirdly wonderful way they came to be.