Cashew is a tropical tree common to Africa, Brazil, Caribbean Island, Southern Asia and India. A member of Anacardiaceous family the tree can attain 30 feet height.
The tree is evergreen with dark greenish leaves and white/pink flowers. The cashew apple has different coloration based on the species. You have the red, orange, yellow ones that contains a nut.
Benefits of Cashew
The nut has lots of health benefits and good economic value. It is used in many food related products, manufacturing. The cashew apple is loaded with vitamin C, reddish, juicy with slight acidic taste.
Tips to Grow Cashew
The seeds germinate easily in right soil conditions. It takes three to five years to mature and produce fruit. Henceforth it produces fruit each year.
An easier way is to buy the sprouts or potted plant from a reputable nursery. Ideal growth temperature is 60F to 80F and they require partial shade. Pruning is essential for the plants growth and development.
The farmer also needs to clear weeds, vines and shrubs in the surrounding area. Growing techniques include grafting, layering, seedling, potted plant. To grow from seed you need a matured unshelled nut.
Fresh seeds are dried for 3 days then soak for 12 hours before sowing. Sow the seed in starter mix and the seeds should germinate in 2-3weeks. Make sure you plant them ten meters distance from the next tree.
Pruning and Mulching
Pruning is important to remove dead, weak, infected, overgrown branches. To retain soil moisture use organic matter.
The introduction of fertilizer is mandatory for faster growth and early fruiting. The best type of fertilizer is slow release N-P-K 8 – 3 – 9 and compost once a year.
In the early stage of growth the tree requires regular watering. Water twice weekly in dry humid conditions. Avoid overwatering or waterlogging which is harmful to the tree. The water requirements slowly diminishes and the tree is tolerant to moderate droughty climate.
The preferred soil composition is either laterite or sandy. The soil should have good drainage with ph from 5 to 6.5. The amount of sunlight daily is 6 to 8 hours.
The tree is susceptible to many diseases and pests. Common challenges include root borers, tea mosquitoes, stem borers, leaf miners.
Harvest when the cashew nuts shell is grey and cashew apple is red or pink. The cashew apple is then separated from the nut dried, juiced. Unshelled nuts have a long shelf life and they attract premium price both locally and internationally.
Processing Cashew Nut
You can separate and eat the cashew apple however you can’t eat cashew nuts without processing them. This is because the nuts have caustic liquid that burn. It is important separating the nut from the shell in a safe way.
Safety gear is needed if you chose to use the hot oil dip, freeze or roasting method. The safety gear are gloves, safety glasses and gown. The roasting method requires an open flame and sawdust.