Is a Cashew a Legume?


Sometimes it can be hard to decide if something is a nut or a legume, just like it can be hard to identify a fruit from a vegetable. A tomato is used in main dish cooking and often thought of as a vegetable but in all honesty the hardy tomato is a fruit. A cashew is not a legume, but it is also not a nut. A cashew is actually a seed.

What is a Legume?

A legume grows in a pod that has multiple seeds in it. Common examples of legumes are the green beans and peas. A legume will open on its own when it has reached a certain stage of ripeness. Seeds for legumes often attach to the pods.

A Cashew is a Seed

The cashew is actually a seed that is attached to the cashew apple on the bottom of the apple. You may not have ever heard of the cashew apple and there is good reason for this. The fruit is good to eat but has a shelf life of 24 hours after harvest. This basically makes them unsuitable for transport and so the apple portion of this treat is only consumed by people who live in close proximity to the trees.

Is a Cashew A Legume?

Some people confuse the cashew with a legume because when the cashew tree blooms it forms a large seed, and between that large seed and the stem a fruit forms. It takes about two months for this apple to form and become ripened. Because the seed is attached on the bottom of the apple in the manner it is many people assume that this is a legume not a nut.

Is a Cashew a True Seed or a Nut?

In the world of cooking and culinary delights the cashew is considered a nut. Anything that is in a hard shell and is cracked open to remove the edible seed is considered a nut to chefs. So any large seed can and is considered a nut.

A cashew can be cracked open but only with a very special tool that very few companies have. There is a toxin on the inside of the cashew shell that can ruin the seed if you do not use the specialized tool to crack it open. Therefore the majority of these seeds are removed from their shell by steaming them until they open.

Is the Cashew Safe to Eat Raw?

The few companies that have the equipment to open these seeds can provide you with cashews that are safe to eat raw. The steamed cashews are safe to eat once they are open.Most people cannot pick cashews because when they do they break out in a rash similar to the rash caused by poison oak.

Why are Cashews so Expensive?

These seeds are more expensive than a lot of other nuts because:

  • The poison on the exterior of the shell
  • The difficulty in opening due to the toxin inside the shell
  • The trees are not easily grown in many different locations

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