The cashew nut is mainly farmed in the west of Zambia. With low production levels, low cashew quality and the lack of quality standards, this is definitely an agricultural opportunity to explore in Zambia.
Cashews grow on trees. They are also known as nuts. However, the cashew nut is not the only fruit of the cashew tree. The other part is called the cashew apple. The cashew nut is found inside the kidney shaped shell that is attached to the bottom of the cashew apple.
The planting process
Cashew trees grow like weeds with plenty of water. Also, they are fairly draught resistant and grow well even on marginal soils where other fruit trees would fail. The best soils for growing cashews are sandy soils. Select a well drained spot, preferably a place that has some protection from strong winds.
If you want to grow your trees from seeds you can start them in pots or straight in the ground. Keep them moist and they’ll sprout within four or five days. The best time to plant cashew seeds is when you can get hold of fresh seed. The sooner you plant the fresh seed, the better.
Mature trees can grow to 12 metres tall so plant 10 metres apart. Plant each cashew seed about 10 cm deep into the potting soil. The seeds take about four to six days to germinate. Since cashew trees grow well in sandy soil, add some sand or limestone.
As you wait the three years for the cashew tree to produce fruit, be sure to water and fertilize it. Irrigate during dry periods, and fertilize the trees when they actively grow, as well as during flowering and nut development. Prune periodically to remove parts of the cashew trees that aren’t useful, limit chance of disease, and improve overall health. Those planted inside should be trimmed as needed. If insects like the twig borer start to eat at the branches, spray with insecticide.
When the cashew tree blooms, the fruit is almost ready. The cashew apple, which is what the cashew nut hangs from, turns deep red when it’s ripe. Then, it’s time to put on gloves and pick the apples and nuts. While the nuts require extra processing, the apple can be eaten or made into juice immediately. The cashew apple is rarely seen in stores, so take advantage of the chance to eat this incredibly sweet fruit. Also inside that shell is a very nasty, caustic liquid that causes severe burns, so be careful when handling it.
Separate the cashew apple from the nut, and enjoy the apple. Luckily the nuts keep very well inside their shells. You can store them for two years so you don’t have to process every batch you pick. Keep them somewhere cool and dry until you have enough to justify the effort of processing them.