Did you know that you can’t buy cashews in the shell? They are always sold pre-shelled and for a good reason! Read on to find out why cashews are different from other culinary nuts and why it’s best not to handle them in their shells.
Why Are Cashews Sold Without the Shell?
Cashews as we know them are not actually nuts at all, they’re the seeds of a drupe. What’s a drupe? It’s a type of fruit, but we’ll talk more about that in a minute.
The cashew tree is in the same family as poison ivy and produces a similar oil. The reason cashews are sold pre-shelled is that unlike true nuts, such as hazelnuts that form a hard wall directly around the seed, cashew shells have a lining that is filled with fluid. This fluid is caustic and can cause burns or rashes to your skin. The part that we consider a “nut” is held between two layers of hard shell containing cardol and anacardic acid – neither of which you want to touch!
So, if cashews are embedded in a potentially painful and poisonous plant, how do they end up at the grocery store? Let’s take a look at how a cashew grows and the amount of work it takes to get a single culinary nut.