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I have a pen pal in Brazil (is it still a pen pal if we e-mail? anyway...) and knowing that I like nuts sent me some cashews. Apparently there is a cashew farm near enough to her that she went right to the source and procured me some raw nuts. I've eaten a few handfuls; the taste is a little more sharp than I'm used to, but in a good way, I have however had some serious discomfort after eating them. I'm not allergic to nuts in general or cashews specifically so I thought I would ask about it before ingesting any more. Anybody have any ideas or thoughts?

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up vote 7 down vote accepted

Nuts can go rancid. I've also had stale nuts, pecans or peanuts that were exposed to too much humidity. This adversely affects the texture. They need to be fresher than that.

Cashews, however, are in a slightly different boat.

Cashews have a toxin in their shells that resembles poison ivy. When harvested, cashews are roasted in their shells to reduce the toxin and make the shells brittle and easy to remove. If these cashews were harvested by an amateur this process might have not been done correctly and you may be reacting to the toxin.

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well yes i guess a toxin would cause me to have a pretty sever upset stomach, steaming it it. – boxed dinner Dec 3 '10 at 19:10

Truly raw cashews are not safe to eat. The "raw" cashews in stores are actually slightly steamed.

Roasting the nuts should neutralize the urushiol remaining in them (I'm assuming they're not still in their outer shells).

Also, technically, cashews aren't "nuts". It's the seed of a fruit.

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that's great Bob, but if i had put 'cashew seed' then i would have gotten people saying 'do you mean cashew nuts?' – boxed dinner Dec 3 '10 at 18:58
@boxed There's nothing wrong with saying "cashew nut", or "peanut", but cashews are still seeds and peanuts are still legumes. It matters when talking about safety, preparation, allergies, and other "technical" things. – Bob Dec 3 '10 at 20:16
This is roughly like saying "technically, tomatoes are fruit". – Jefromi Sep 8 '13 at 17:05

When visiting Cost Rica, my tour guide pointed out a cashew tree in a park with fruit on it. I asked if it was safe to eat and she looked at me funny and said, "Yeah, but I don't know why you'd want too." I took a bite of the apple and ate the nut. They were OK. for the rest of the day I had a burning sensation all around my lips like a hot chili pepper sensation. In general I have very low sensitivity to poison ivy, I used to remove the stuff from my yard bare handed before someone told me what it was. So I wouldn't recommend anyone eat truly raw cashews.

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