Cashew trees are mainly cultivated in Brazil, some African countries such as Mozambique and Tanzania, India and Thailand. The fruits of the cashew tree consist of the cashew apple and the cashew nut. A cashew tree only reaches full maturity at an age of eight to ten years, and can deliver a full crop yield from then on. The cashew tree bears its first fruits around three years after it is sown. A one-hectare plantation of cashew trees will produce a maximum harvest of 9,000 kilograms of cashew fruit, resulting in around 300 kg of cashew nuts. The harvesting process lasts several months, from January to May.
Cashew trees will continue to produce fruit up until an age of around 30 years, with the exception of the biggest cashew tree in the world, which has a huge number of offshoots and is now estimated to be around 115 years old.
When the fruit is harvested, it is traditionally collected from the ground, as it has then fully ripened and has fallen off itself. Large plantations thus use huge nets that are laid out under the trees. As the flesh of the fruit rots quickly, the fruit can’t be left on the ground for too long. Therefore, some cashew farmers don’t wait until the fruit is perfectly mature and pick it from the tree before it is ripe. Nuts that are harvested in this way and then placed on the market are of lower quality.
The harvested cashew nuts are then removed from the apple using a powerful twisting motion. The drying process traditionally begins after this. They are laid in the sun on bamboo mats or palm leaves until the inner core makes a rattling noise. Now, the majority of cashews are dried at high heat with the aid of mechanised processes. After they have been dried, the shell of the cashew nut is cracked and removed.