Cashew Apple, aka jocote de marañón aka cashew mombin

May 13, 2010

We have a young neighbor, Pepe;  he is 21 and from Campeche.  He is here in Merida studying 3 languages; English, French, and Portugese.  Pepe comes over most Wednesday afternoons to practice his English, and to help Tom practice his Spanish.

A few weeks ago Pepe brought his father over to meet us.  His father is a pilot and speaks English, although haltingly.  Dad and I visited and toured the garden while Pepe reviewed a test he had just received back from school.  Dad and I discussed many 'plant' things,  he was telling me about a fruit currently producing in his garden in Campeche.  I was unfamiliar with this fruit.

Pepe returns to Campeche nearly every weekend. When he returned the following weekend he brought us a bag of the unfamiliar fruit with the promise to show us how to prepare a beverage from it the upcoming Wednesday.  Well he didn't show up the  last 2 Wednesdays so it was just yesterday that we finally got our lesson.  Pepe indicates that the fruit will keep for months in the fridge.

The cashew tree, Anacardium occidentale L., is called marañón in most Spanish-speaking countries. The true fruit of the tree is the cashew nut.  The cashew nut itself is encased in a double shell containing a caustic phenolic resin (similar to Poison ivy or oak?). An interesting feature of the cashew is that the nut develops first and when it is full-grown but not yet ripe, the cashew 'apple', aka jocote de marañón aka cashew mombin develops as a plump, fleshy, pearish-shaped, waxy, yellow, red, or red-and-yellow skin fruit with a spongy, fibrous, very juicy, yellow pulp.
The production and processing of the cashew nuts themselves is complex and has many difficult problems due to the caustic/toxic shell casing. Because of this most Latin Americans and West Indians over the years have been more enthusiastic about the juicy cashew apple and have generally thrown the nut away;  except in Brazil, where there is a highly developed cashew nut processing industry.

Here are the beautiful fruits when we initially got them.

We received instruction for a drink.  Here are all the ingredients 

Freshly washed cashew fruit / jocote de marañón, lime juice, sugar, fresh cold water, blender, and a sieve.

You fill the blender with 2 fruit and fresh cold water, liquefy this.  Let it settle a bit and slowly pour the juice through the sieve into a clean pitcher or jar.  As the liquid skims of the top you will get to the pulpy part, allow the juice to seep through, discard the pulp.  Return the liquid to the blender, add the juice of one large lime, and 1/2 c of sugar, top off with a bit more water and process and taste.  Pepe's taste for the juice is a bit different from ours, he wanted quite a bit more water, AND sugar.
You can of course adjust for your personal taste.  Here is a glass of juice - it's quite lovely, light and refreshing; friends' comments on the flavor were a mix of cucumber and pear.  That seems quite accurate.

Here's a table with some nutritional info:

Food Value Per 100 g (3.5 oz) of Fresh Cashew Apple*

Moisture84.4-88.7 g
Protein0.101-0.162 g
Fat0.05-0.50 g
Carbohydrates9.08-9.75 g
Fiber0.4-1.0 g
Ash0.19-0.34 g
Calcium0.9-5.4 mg
Phosphorus6.1-21.4 mg
Iron0.19-0.71 mg
Carotene0.03-0.742 mg
Thiamine0.023-0.03 mg
Riboflavin0.13-0.4 mg
Niacin0.13-0.539 mg
Ascorbic Acid146.6-372.0 mg
*Analyses made in Central America and Cuba.

Medicinal Uses: Fresh cashew apple juice is prescribed as a remedy for sore throat and chronic dysentery in Cuba and Brazil. Fresh or distilled, it is a potent diuretic and is said to possess sudorific properties (causing or increasing sweat).

I found this instruction online for getting to the cashew nut - you need to burn or toast the protective cover first to get it to crack open and give you the already roasted nut.  Things to keep in mind before you go burning the cashew armored seed: 1. The shield carapace produces a very strong smell as the oils and fats in it begin to burn. 2. The oils and fats inside the armored shield also produce a lot of smoke as they burn. 3. It’s best to roast the armored seeds in the left overs of slowly burning charcoal or wood logs.
I have not tried this, nor do I promote it, it is here for information only.