Are Cashews Nuts, Legumes, or Drupes?
Cashews are a fascinating food.
Botanically, they are a master of disguise.
They split in half like a legume, but they are not a legume.
They look sort of like a nut and grow on a tree, but they are not a tree nut.
And the red juicy pear looking thing that grows on the same tree as them looks like a fruit, but it’s not actually a fruit.
From a culinary standpoint, they are also fascinating.
Sure, you can grind them into a flour like other nuts. You can also use them whole in various dishes. But what’s most interesting is the fact you can grind them and mix them with water to form a cream cheese like substance that you can then put on top of pizzas or use as cake icing! It’s one of the foods loved by both vegans and Paleo-eaters!
I hope you’re also getting fascinated about this fake-nut…
So, Are Cashews Nuts, Legumes, or Drupes?
I’ve sort of given the answer away already since I told you that cashews are not nuts and not legumes.
So, that just leaves the third answer…
Yes, cashews are drupes! (Or more technically, those cashew “nut” things we eat are the seeds of a drupe.)
What on earth are drupes?
Don’t worry, that’s pretty much everyone’s response when they hear the word “drupe.”
This funky sounding word actually just means “stone fruits” like peaches and plums. Drupes are fruits that have a soft fleshy exterior and a pit with a seed inside.
Cashews are an odd drupe in that what we think of as cashews are actually the seed inside the pit of the fruit.
And cashews aren’t the only foods we often think of as nuts that are actually drupes. Walnuts, almonds and pecans are also drupes! (Well, there’s some disagreement of course…some botanists classify walnuts and pecans as nuts.)
This is nuts! So what are nuts then?
I’m glad you asked. Nuts are typically defined as a “fruit composed of a hard shell and a seed, which is generally edible” and the hard shell must not open by itself to release the seed.
Some true nuts are hazelnuts, chestnuts, and acorns.
Then, what are legumes?
A legume is a dry fruit found inside a pod that splits into two halves. Beans are the typical example of a legume.
But what you might not realize is that peanuts are also a legume even though we typically call them a nut!
Hopefully this article clarified some rather pointless facts for you about cashews, nuts, legumes, and drupes.
One of my favorite methods of eating them is to make cashew cheese and then to stuff them into dates. It’s raw, it’s vegan, and it’s Paleo! Everybody wins.
Last Question: Just How Nutritious Are Cashews?
Since we’ve talked so much about cashews, we might as well take a quick look at the nutritional facts for cashews.
Here it is:
In 100 grams of raw cashews, you’ll get 553 calories (so don’t overeat them even though they’re delicious).
Cashews are also relatively high in starch i.e., carbohydrates (unlike almonds). In fact, almost a quarter of the weight of cashews is due to the starch in them. This might not be a bad thing however, as some of the starch in cashews is resistant starch that could act as a great prebiotic in your gut.
Cashews are pretty high in Omega-6 fats (and low in Omega-3 fats), which isn’t great.
100 grams of raw cashews contain the following vitamin and mineral Daily Values:
Vitamin K – 43%
Vitamin B6 –21%
Copper – 110%
Iron – 37%
Magnesium – 73% (which many of us are deficient in)
Selenium – 28% (deficiencies of Se has been linked to various illnesses)
Go eat some cashews…
There’s not much else to say on this topic except to go eat some cashews (you can get some on Amazon here), but not too much!
I always buy raw cashews as roasted cashews often contain other unhealthy ingredients.
Images: Copyright (c) wichitpongfrom, nantapok Fotolia