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Cashews are a magical ingredient in the raw food world but they have been gaining great popularity in the cooked world too. Vegan chefs use them as a staple that stands in for dairy in a variety of ways.
Cashews don’t have a really strong flavor of their own, they are just a vessel for fat and creaminess. Apparently, roasting them brings out the sweetness in cashews. Did you know that cashews technically are not nuts? Instead, they are the seeds found in cashew apples, a fruit that grows on trees in tropical climates.
Cashews are sold shelled because the interior of the shells contains a caustic resin, known as cashew balm. This must be removed before they are fit for consumption. This caustic resin is actually used in industry to make varnishes and insecticides. The removal process brings up much controversy as to whether or not cashews can be purchased raw or not.
Because cashews don’t have a thick outer skin and they already start off as a softer nut, they only need to be soaked for about 2-3 hours. You can soak them over night, just be sure to place them in the fridge. Over soaking them can lead to bitterness, slimy water and a leaching of their flavor.
I soak cashews for two reasons… one is to reduce the phytic acid found within them and the second reason is for softening them which make them easier to process. With a high-powered blender you can make the creamiest-mouth-feel textures! This is the one nut that I don’t immediately soak and dehydrate once bringing them home. For the most part I use wet, soaked cashews in my recipes; creams, sauces, desserts, “yogurts”, etc. The only time I soak and dehydrate them is when I am planing on adding them to a trail mix, or when making a flour out of them.
Oven method: (no longer raw)
Many people choose not to consume cashews because they contain oxalates. So I started to research this a bit more. I read, “Cashews are among a small number of foods that contain measurable amounts of oxalates, naturally-occurring substances found in plants, animals, and human beings. When oxalates become too concentrated in body fluids, they can crystallize and cause health problems. For this reason, individuals with already existing and untreated kidney or gallbladder problems may want to avoid eating cashews. Laboratory studies have shown that oxalates may also interfere with absorption of calcium from the body. Yet, in every peer-reviewed research study we’ve seen, the ability of oxalates to lower calcium absorption is relatively small and definitely does not outweigh the ability of oxalate-containing foods to contribute calcium to the meal plan. If your digestive tract is healthy, and you do a good job of chewing and relaxing while you enjoy your meals, you will get significant benefits” (source) For more information on oxalates and which foods contain them, you can read about it (here).