Strange things you never knew about cashews
Cashews are derived from a tropical evergreen tree originally native to Brazil. The top cashew producing countries today include: Vietnam, Peru, India, Nigeria, and Côte d'Ivoire. What is strange about the cashew is how it grows. Although the cashew is considered a culinary nut, botanically it is actually a seed. The cashew (seed) comes from the cashew apple. The apple is yellow and bell shaped, and slightly resembles a bell pepper. The cashew is encased in a crescent shaped shell which grows from the bottom of the cashew apple on the tropical cashew tree. Wonder why you haven’t heard of the cashew apple before? The juice within the cashew apple is used locally when harvested, as a fruit drink. The exterior of the fruit however is very fragile and not able to withstand shipping. So, until you travel to a cashew orchard, there is the tasty cashew nut to enjoy. This delicious nut is rich in vitamins and minerals: potassium, manganese, phosphorus, magnesium, protein, iron, copper, vitamins K, and B-6, dietary fiber and healthy fats. Cashews contain no cholesterol.
In the tropical regions of the world, the cashew is used extensively, and is served in a wide range of culinary dishes such as stir-fry, meat stews, soups, savory sauces, and milk-based desserts. As you read, cashews are extremely versatile and have an unlimited potential of recipe applications, including cheese spread, ice cream, nut butter, cashew milk, cashew cream, cheesecake, vegetable lasagna, and the list could go on. (See Dr. Kim Gambino's raw lasagna made with cashew cheese in the photograph at the top, right of the page.)
So what makes the cashew so creamy and the perfect dairy substitute?
1. High in Fat. The cashew’s high fat content makes it the perfect cheese, peanut butter, milk and cream alternative.
2. High in Starch. The second quality that makes the cashew especially versatile in preparing dairy-like foods is its high starch content. Cashews contain more starch than other oily tree nuts, up to 10% of their weight. The starch in cashews makes it superior to other nuts and seeds as a thickening agent in water or milk based soups, beverages, or desserts.
3. Subtle Flavor. Cashew’s mild, buttery flavor compliments and blends well with other ingredients, instead of masking them. Cashews taste great when paired with fresh basil in pesto recipes, layered as a cheese replacement in vegetable lasagna, and when combined with fresh fruits in ice cream making.
If you haven’t added cashews to your diet beyond fancy mixed nuts or trail mix, try this recipe for making cashew milk in a blender.
Cashew milk is the latest nut milk to hit the market, but they must have saved the best for last. Making delicious cashew milk is so simple; it requires no straining, but you will need a Vitamix or blender.
Yield: 4 cups
1 cup cashews
3 cups water
3 dates or your choice of sweetener, to taste
Pinch of sea salt, opt.
Add ingredients to a Vitamix or other high powered blender. Start on lowest setting and quickly increase to high speed. Blend on high until cashews are completely pulverized and the milk is smooth. Chill and store in the refrigerator. Homemade cashew milk will only keep for 3 to 4 days. Freeze extra milk in ice cube trays for use in ice cream, smoothies and other chilled beverage recipes.
More delicious cashew recipes:
Cashew and Sun Dried Tomato "Cheese" Spread
Chunky Cherry Vanilla Ice Cream (Blender Recipe)
Raw Strawberry (or Blueberry) Lime Cheesecake
Deborah Tukua is the editor of Journey to Natural Living and the author of the healthy fresh from the blender recipe book, Naturally Sweet Blender Treats. She is a freelance writer for the Farmers' Almanac and Chiropractic Economics magazine and author of the book, Marketing Strategies for Chiropractic Success. Check out Lowell and Deborah's super sturdy and handsome DIY Gardening Potting Bench Plans.