Cashews are truly an international nut, grown on three continents and in both northern and southern hemispheres. Native to Brazil, the cashew was introduced to India and East Africa in the 16th century. Today the principal producing countries of cashews are still the countries in which they originated - Brazil, India, Vietnam and East Africa.
Cashews are primarily marketed roasted & salted for use in snacks and nut mixes. Raw cashews are marketed as an ingredient in many food products, particularly baked goods and are considered a "luxury" product in terms of nuts. With this reputation as a prestigious product, cashews are used as ingredients in many delicacies and chocolates.
The cashew kernels are obtained by cleaning, shelling, drying, peeling, grading, and packing the raw nuts. Kernels must have characteristic shape and be reasonably dry. Insect damage, black spots, and rancidity should not be evident on kernels.
Cashew kernels are sorted into white/scorched wholes, pieces, splits, butts etc. depending on the shape, size and color of the kernel. Cashews are sized by the number of kernels per pound. While different processors have distinct names for their cashews, the cashews are stilled sized based on the number of kernels per pound. These sizes range from 180 to 450.
Cashews are classified according to origin, i.e. Indian, Brazilian, African and Vietnamese, etc.
|180||The "king of cashews". They are largest sized cashew available.|
|210||Commonly known as "Jumbo" cashews. They are slightly smaller than the 180s.|
|240||The third largest cashew size available. This size yields 240 kernels per pound.|
|320||The most popular among cashew kernels and highest in terms of availability, worldwide.|
|450||The smallest and least expensive of whole kernels.|
Butts, splits and pieces are priced lower than wholes and are ideal for cooking, and great as ingredients for delicacies and savory snacks.
|White Pieces||B (Butts) S (Splits) LWP (Large White Pieces) SWP (Small White Pieces) BB (Baby Bits)|
|Scorched Pieces||SS (Scorched Splits) SP (Scorched Pieces) SB (Scorched Butts) SSP (Scorched Small Pieces)|
|Dessert Pieces||SPS (Scorched Pieces Seconds) DP (Dessert Pieces)|
|Light||White, pale ivory or light ash in color.|
Scorched kernels are another grade of cashew kernels, which have a slight brown color due to longer roasting. Scorched kernels have all the other characteristics of white kernels and have the same nutritional values.