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Maranon is the Salvadoran name for the cashew fruit.  The cashew fruit, or "cashew apple" as some people call it, derives its name from the Portuguese name caju, which derives its name from the indigenous Tupi name acaju.  The cashew fruit goes by many other names as well such as: anacando (Spain), castana de cajuen (Argentina and Chile), and of course the name maranon, which is from Central America.

The tree of the cashew fruit is a type of tropical evergreen that is native to northeast Brazil, specifically the Guayanas region, although the trees are now grown all over the tropics.  The cashew apples, known for their bright red and yellow colors, are actually a type of accessory pseudo carp, or fake fruit, produced by the tree.  The actual fruit of the tree grows at the bottom of the cashew apple in a small kidney like shape, and it is of this true fruit where the cashew nut is found.  This single seed produced by the true  fruit is the actual cashew nut.  The seed is surrounded by a double shell containing allergenic skin irritants related to toxins found in poison ivy.  Roasting the cashews destroys this toxin but the roasting must always be done outside because the smoke can cause severe, life-threatening, reactions in the lungs.  People allergic to cashews may also be allergic to mango or pistachio as they are in the same family.  Cashews still generally cause less allergic reactions than peanuts however. 
The pulp of the cashew apple is very juicy and a typical Salvadoran fruity drink, commonly referred to just as maranon, is made from it.  Cashew juice has a strong sweet smell and taste that is somewhere sort of between mango and grapefruit   The skin of the cashew apple is very fragile and makes transportation and importation virtually impossible. 

The cashew nut itself is a nutritional powerhouse full of vitamins and minerals, the main ones being Iron, Magnesium, Manganese, Zinc, and Copper.  All these vitamins have been linked to improved cardiovascular, diabetic, and energy-related health.  The cashew nut is also chock full of antioxidants and is a high protein food, containing 5 grams of protein per ounce.  Cashew nuts are lower in fat than almonds, walnuts, peanuts, and pecans.  They contain no cholesterol and are said to have the ideal fat ratio of 1:2:1 of saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fat.  The nut also acts as an astringent and is used in creams as gels.  A Philippine scientist has shown that extracts of the cashew nut can prove useful in reduction of warts, moles and other skin growths.  Studies have shown that chemicals contained in cashew nuts can kill gram positive bacteria, the bacteria responsible for tooth decay, acne, and even tuberculosis and leprosy.  

Cashews are quite popular in Salvadoran sweets.  

Here is a link to two of my recipes that use cashews:


Parsley Sage said...

Oooh! Very interesting! I want to try one of those because i'm not sure i've had anything like a maranon before...

thehungryartist said...

It's so interesting I just learned this today at a food festival. I tried cashews grown in Indonesia. I can't believe each nut comes from one fruit!

Viviane@Taste-Buds said...

Neat! They are not one of my favorite nuts, I like them in food though rather than as a snack.

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