Cashew is one of the most valuable and most nutritious, processed kernel in the global commodity markets and has the potential to generate employment and revenue at national and international leve1.1 It is a kidney shaped nut, product of Brazil, introduced by the Portuguese to Mozambique and India during the sixteenth century.
The cashew tree earlier served only as a means of controlling coastal erosion before the fifteenth century. In fact, the people of this century did not know the value and importance of the cashew nut and cashew nut shell liquid. But they consumed the cashew apple and threw the cashew nuts away. The value, importance and usefulness of cashew nut was recognized during the last part of the sixteenth century, that too, only after it reached India and Mozambique from Brazil. The cashew tree, native to Brazil, was introduced to Mozambique and then India in the sixteenth century by the Portuguese, as a means of controlling coastal erosion. It was spread within these countries with the aid of elephants that ate the bright cashew fruit along with the attached nut. The nut was too hard to digest and was later expelled with the droppings. It was not until the nineteenth century that plantations were developed and the tree then spread to a number of other countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
Through out these countries. Subsequently, the tree spread to a number of countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America and to the West Indies.3 The Portugese traders thus introduced the cashew tree into India and Africa to prevent soil erosion. Cashew is now widely cultivated for its kernel, fruit, cashew nut shell liquid and other products. However, it is mostly found in the coastal regions of South Africa, Madagascar, Tanzania, and in South Asia, from Sri Lanka to the Philippines. 4 The Cashew tree though in existence for a long time was indentified as a useful plant only in the early twentieth century. The earlier reports about cashew are from Brazil, French, Portuguese and Dutch observers. Thevat (1558) a French naturalist who visited Brazil during the period of French settlement, first described the plant being located in the north east.5 He saw some local people harvesting the cashew fruits and squeezing juice from them into a jar. Ganda Vo (1575)6 was the first Portuguese writer who described the cashew apple as a refreshing fruit during hot seasons and the cashew kernel as tasting better than almonds. The Tupi natives of Brazil called the cashew `acaju’ which became `caju’ in Portuguese. The Maconde tribe in Mozambique referred to it as the Devils nut.
The cashew tree and its products are known by different names in different countries and regions of the world.
THE IMPORTANCE OF CASHEW
Cashew is held with great esteem in many customs and cultures. Its value can be estimated from a question that appeared on the household census in Mozambique that asked whether the house owned any cashew trees. Cashew is known by many names. In Mozambique, the Maconde tribe refer to it as the “Devil’s Nut”. It is offered at wedding ceremonies as a token of fertility and is considered by many to have aphrodisiac properties. The cashew tree and its products are known by the following names in other parts of the world.