What do you imagine when you hear the word “cashew”? Most of you will probably remember the curved, sweet and soft, beige nuts that you pick up first from the bag of mixed snacks during the hunger pangs. And only few will remember that cashew trees produce cashew apples or cashew fruits (which is actually a pseudofruit from a botanical perspective) to which cashew seeds are attached. Why have you never heard of a cashew apple then?
If you really haven’t, that’s probably because these fruits are easily bruised and have a very limited shelf life. Plus they are quite astringent and this characteristic makes them not really much of a welcome guest in your pantry.
Though in some countries the fruit is eaten. It can be eaten fresh with salt or sugar, processed into juice, fermented into an alcoholic drink (known as feni in India) or into vinegar, preserved with salt and vinegar, incorporated into chutneys and jams, dals or salads. The fruit can also be dried and saved for later use. In Africa, for instance, such dried fruits are then reconstituted with water, fermented and distilled into a liquor called gongo.
As for the cashew seeds, they are used as any other tree seeds, which we collectively call “nuts”. Cashews are used in many cuisines around the world and in different preparations. Take a handful of them, toss in a pan, toast until golden and fragrant, and simply season with salt and cayenne pepper. A nice kick is guaranteed.
DIY Cashew drink
You can eat cashews, but can you drink them? Of course, you can. Let’s talk milk. Nowadays there are plenty of plant-based varieties but why not try to make your own? All you need is to soak 1 cup of cashews in water for 6 hours or overnight in the fridge. Drain them and put in a blender with 2 cups of fresh water. Blend on high speed for 2-3 minutes until they are totally smooth. Add more water (1 or 2 cups, depending on how creamy you want your drink), 2 Tbsp of sweetener (honey, sugar, syrup), a nice dash of salt. Blend until everything is completely disintegrated.
Strain the drink through a cheesecloth, bottle the milky cashew beverage and store it in the refrigerator. It’s creamy and refreshing on its own, but you can also add some tea or coffee to the drink to get your dose of caffeine. Or you can pour it on a scoop of chocolate ice cream, into a bowl of muesli or cereal. The cashew milk can be easily transformed into horchata (a type of plant drink made of tiger nut, almond, rice, or even ground melon seeds) and by adding just a pinch of cinnamon – a distinguishing mark of such beverages.