Extracting Cash From Cashew
In recent years, more and more people are eating cashew nuts. The reason: health experts and nutritionists considered it as “nature’s vitamin pill.”
In the Philippines, many farmers are reluctant to venture into tree farming because it does not provide them immediate returns, unlike the growing of agricultural crops. But in the long run, tree farming is more profitable since it means more money and conservation. Trees help conserve the land by minimizing excessive soil erosion and run-off. Wood products mean additional income to the farmer. In addition, a farmer doesn’t have to attend his trees all the time once they have grown up.
One tree that can be a good source of income for farmers and simultaneously help the environment is cashew (scientific name: Anacardium occidentale). The forestry department of the University of the Philippines at Los Banos (UPLB) puts it this way: “Planting cashew trees in idle lands may be the best solution to our land conservation problem. As an agricultural crop, cashew trees provide vegetative cover to barren lands and help minimize soil erosion. There is also money in cashew. Its fruit has varied uses and commands a good price in the market.”
The cashew was formerly thought, by some writers at least, to be indigenous both in America and Asia. It has been shown, however, that it was originally confined to America, whence it was carried to Asia and Africa by early Portuguese voyagers.
The early missionaries introduced cashew from South America and India to the Philippines. Today, it grows abundantly in Palawan, Mindoro, Nueva Ecija, Cavite, Zambales, and Bataan. It is also found in other parts of the country, including the four provinces of Davao.
Unfortunately, cashew has always been neglected by Filipinos. Perhaps, only the people from Brazil fully appreciate the importance of cashew. Father J.S. Tavares, who studied Brazilian fruits, wrote of the tree: “It furnishes food and household remedies to the poor, a refreshing beverage to the sick, a sweetmeat for tables richly served, and resin and good timber for industrial uses.”
The uses of cashew fruit are varied and profitable. Although acrid in taste, the fruit is juicy and contains a substantial amount of important values. It can be eaten raw or processed into jams, syrups, and candies. In India, unripe fruits are used in the manufacture of curried vegetables and pickles.
The juice, after its astringent and acrid substances are removed, have been found suitable for production of a number of beverages like classified juice, cloudy juice, juice blends with lime, pineapple, orange, grape and apple juice, juice concentrates, and spiced juice. The juice can also be brewed into wine for local consumption and for export.
The fruit’s kernel, called “dessert nut,” is second only to almond in value. One cashew tree produces between200 and 30o cashew nuts in a year. Sixty percent of cashew kernels are consumed in the form of snacks while the remaining 4o% are included in confectionery. In the Philippines, local processors use only the roasted and dried kernel in the manufacture of ice cream, confectionaries, and hardener for chocolate and pastries.
In recent years, more and more people are eating cashew nuts. The reason: health experts and nutritionists considered it as “nature’s vitamin pill.” Cashew nuts has various health advantages as they are significant sources of iron (essential for red blood cell function and enzyme activity), magnesium (promotes energy release and bone growth), phosphorus (builds bones and teeth), zinc (essential to digestion and metabolism) and selenium (has important antioxidant properties, thus protecting the body from cancer). These nuts are also good sources of protein.
Cashew nuts do have a relatively high fat content, but it is considered “good fat.” This is due to the agreeable fat ratio in the nut, 1:2:1 for saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated, respectively, which scientists say is the ideal ratio for optimal health. In addition, cashew nuts also contain significant amounts of phytochemicals with antioxidant properties that protects the body from cancer and heart disease.
Research has also shown that chemicals in cashew nuts kill gram positive bacteria, a pervasive mouth affliction that causes tooth decay, acne, and tuberculosis. Eating cashew nuts at moderate levels, some say, can eliminate abscessed teeth, though this has not been proven yet by proper clinical trials.
Another possible source of income for farmers is the shell of the nut, which is a good source of an important liquid called CNSL (cashew nut shell liquid). CNSL is one of the few natural resins that is highly heat resistant and is used in braking systems and in paint manufacture. It contains a substance called phenol, which is used in the preparation of plastics.
Some important derivatives of CNSL, like hydrogenated oils and ethyl ether, are used in the manufacture of some industrial, chemical, and pharmaceutical products.
The main markets for CNSL are the United States, the European Union (mainly the United Kingdom), Japan and the Republic of Korea.
“If industrially exploited, the cashew tree can help alleviate many of our socio-economic problems by way of offering employment to the many unemployed,” the UPLB forestry department contends. “A cashew cottage industry can easily absorb idle manpower in the rural areas since only the normal skills of the workers are required in processing many cashew products.”
Cashew is hardy and can grow well on dry soil, sandy open beaches, and poor laterite soil. Leaf and grass mulching and composting around each tree give the cashew tree moisture during the dry season. It can also thrive well on soils that are too poor and too dry for other crops. It requires no cultivation, irrigation, and fertilization.
In India, cashew trees are grown even in harsh conditions. “It is planted upon the low hilly ridges which intersect the country in every direction, andwhich are too dry and stony for other crops. The cultivation gives no trouble…” wrote one scribe.
There are two types of cashew: the sweet and the astringent. However, several varieties of cashew exist but only three are recommended for commercial growing. These are Guevarra, Nagbayto, and Makiling. Guevarra, a seedling selection originated from San Marcelino, Zambales, produces yellow fruits with medium-sized nuts containing about 2.7 gram kernel. Moderately prolific, Nagbayto produces yellow fruits and nuts that contain 2.9 gram kernel. Makiling, on the other hand, produces big, red-skinned fruits with large nuts containing about 3.2 gram kernels.
Just a warning: The cashew tree is related to poison ivy and the shell of the cashew nuts contains an irritating poison. People who touch the shell sometimes develop skin rashes and blisters.
By Henrylito D. Tacio