The cashew tree is a tropical evergreen tree that produces the cashew seed and the cashew apple. It can grow as high as 14m (46 ft.), but the dwarf cashew, growing up to 6 meters (20 ft.), has proved more profitable, with earlier maturity and higher yields.
The cashew seed, often simply called a cashew, is widely consumed. It is eaten on its own, used in recipes, or processed into cashew cheese or cashew butter. The cashew apple is light reddish to yellow fruit, whose pulp can be processed into a sweet, astringent fruit drink or distilled into liquor. The shell of the cashew seed yields derivatives that can be used in many applications from lubricants to paints. The species is originally native to northeastern Brazil. Today, major production of cashews occurs in Vietnam, Nigeria, India and Ivory Coast.
Cashew oil is a dark yellow oil for cooking or salad dressing pressed from cashew nuts (typically broken chunks created during processing). This may be produced from a single cold pressing. Cashew shell oil may be used as a resin for carbon composite products.
In Goa, India, the cashew apple (the accessory fruit) is mashed and the juice extracted and kept for fermentation for a few days. Fermented juice then undergoes a double distillation process. The resulting beverage is called feni or fenny. Feni is about 40-42% alcohol. The single-distilled version is called urrac, which is about 15% alcohol. n the southern region of Mtwara, Tanzania, the cashew apple (bibo in Swahili) is dried and saved. Later it is reconstituted with water and fermented, then distilled to make a strong liquor often referred to by the generic name, gongo. In Mozambique, cashew farmers commonly make a strong liquor from the cashew apple, agua ardente (burning water). In traditional Maya medicine, the leaves or bark of cashew trees can be made into a tea to treat diarrhea.