Cashews are a very popular species of nuts, as they have a pleasant taste and are good for your health. However, they pose a serious danger if they are not processed properly.
Cashews are rich in protein, carbohydrates, iron, and vitamins K and B6. They contain zinc, phosphorus, and calcium. They help treat diabetes and lower cholesterol, writes dietitian Lauren Panoff in her article for Healthline magazine. They grow in Brazil, India, West Africa, South-East Africa and South East Asia, mainly Vietnam.
Mature cashew trees produce red or yellow pear-shaped drupes called cashew apples. The dried fruit itself grows within gray shells at the ends of these fruits.
Still in their shell, they are removed from these ends but are not directly traded due to the risk of exposure to urushiol, a substance found in all members of the Cashews family, which includes cashews, mangoes, poison ivy, poison oak, sumac, Peruvian peppers, and pistachios.
Urushiol is found in all parts of the plant, including roots, stem and leaves. But the most unpleasant thing is that it tends to be also in the oil between the shell and the nut.
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Coming into contact with urushiol usually causes allergic dermatitis, similar to that experienced after exposure to poison ivy. The type and degree of reaction may depend on the amount of urushiol you’re exposed to and whether you consumed it or had direct skin contact. For people, the lethal dose is very high, but mice can die when they come into contact with the substance.
To avoid the risk involved, raw cashews are roasted over high heat to remove traces of the toxin before they can be shelled, dried completely and peeled, Panoff says. Commercially, these cashews are still often labeled raw, as they have no added flavoring.
Then, They can be roasted a second time to give flavor if sold as roasted. Another round of roasting can also help ensure that any remaining urushiol residue is removed prior to sale.
Roasting or steaming shelled cashews at high temperatures removes any remaining urushiol that may have penetrated the nuts, making them safe for consumption; so you don’t have to be afraid when buying this treat at the supermarket.