A large number of the populace love cashews, but almost all the cashews out in the market are already cooked. Even the ones in organic shops are already steamed. The only instance a person can encounter raw cashews is if one picks cashew apples or works in a cashew warehouse. Handling raw cashews should be done carefully as it is quite toxic. Surprisingly, the cashew is a seed. The shell surrounding it is coated with urushiol, a toxic resin that when ingested will result in skin rashes.
Aside from being present in the shell, urushiol is also prevalent on cashew leaves. Raw cashews have to be processed first before they can be sold and refining them is an arduous task. Workers in factories that process raw cashews often exhibit allergic reactions to the shells that become serious after an extended amount of time. There are alarmingly large occurrences of rashes among the workers who pick or process the raw cashews. And if someone is already very sensitive to urushiol due to constant exposure, ingesting raw cashews might cause severe allergies. Also, anyone who’s already sensitive to poison ivy is in danger of having a fatal allergic reaction if they eat the cashews raw.
The dangerous effect of urushiol is the reason why we shouldn’t eat raw cashews. It’s why all cashews, even the so called unroasted ones, are steamed. Steaming the cashews lets out the toxin and makes the nut okay to eat. The raw cashews that we see in the supermarkets have already been treated so they are now safe to eat and enjoy. When prepared carefully, cashews don’t cause as much allergic reactions as opposed to walnuts and peanuts.
We have the races of the New World to thank for the cashew tree. Their prodigious skill and cunning is the reason why people can indulge in their favourite nut the whole year round. Their knowledge about nature is amazing especially when you consider that even before the advent of written history, they already figured out which part of the cashew was safe to eat. These ancestors of the Brazilians also discovered that steaming or cooking the cashew made them safe to eat. Many undoubtedly had to get sick before they were able to discern what they needed to do to make the nut edible. But their sacrifices have made it possible for us to enjoy the cashew nut, and now this tree is grown in various areas around the world.
The oil derived from cashew shells might be inedible or toxic, but it is still useful. Nowadays, it’s condensed and added in brakes to provide friction or is used as an ingredient in coatings and finishes. The distilled resins and oils still causes an allergic reaction, but the instances of this happening has been minimized since the products have already been processed extensively.