Jewel of Goa, not originally Goan?

There are many aspects of Goa unknown by us locals. Some of them are hidden in plain sight. Don’t believe me? Let me give you an example. Anacardium, originally derived from a Greek word, is the name given to a tree found in Goa. The name refers to the unusual location of the seed, outside the core or heart of the fruit. Do you know what I’m talking about? It is the Cashew tree.

The origin of the name

The fruit from this tree is consumed by many locals and tourists alike in Goa. But how many of you know of its origins? For all those who thought the tree is from Portugal, you are wrong. It came from South America and the name is derived from the Tupian word acajú, literally meaning ‘nut that produces itself’. Its English name was derived from the Portuguese name for the fruit of the cashew tree, Caju.

The voyage to Goa

Now while reading this, you must be thinking the Portuguese must have brought the cashew seeds from South America. You’re absolutely correct, to be precise, the tree is native to northeast Brazil.


The Portuguese brought it on their voyage to Goa, between 1563 and 1578. From here it spread throughout Southeast Asia and eventually Africa.

The false fruit

This fact is for tourists who eat cashew nuts but are not aware what the tree or the fruit looks like. The fruit of the tree is an accessory fruit (sometimes called a false fruit). What appears to be the fruit is an oval or pear-shaped structure that develops from the flower. It is Called the cashew apple and it ripens into a yellow and/or red structure. It is edible, has a strong “sweet” smell and a sweet taste. It is very juicy with a fragile skin, therefore it is not suitable for transportation.

The image shows the true fruit and the false fruit of the cashew tree


The actual fruit

The true fruit of the cashew tree is a kidney shaped drupe that grows at the end of the cashew apple. The drupe develops first on the tree and then the pedicel expands to become the cashew apple. Within the true fruit is a single seed, which is often considered a nut in the culinary world.

Caution – allergic reactions

Some people are allergic to cashews, similar to those allergic to tree nuts. It can lead to complications or severe allergic reactions and can be life-threatening. Prompt medical attention is necessary if a reaction is observed. These allergies are triggered by the proteins found in tree nuts and cooking often does not remove or change these proteins. Reactions to cashew and tree nuts can also occur as a consequence of hidden nut ingredients or traces of nuts that may inadvertently be introduced during food processing, handling or manufacturing.


Image Credits: Annfariss

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