The cashew tree is a tropical evergreen tree that produces the cashew seed and the cashew apple. The tree can grow as high as 14 m, but the dwarf cashew reaches a max of 6 m. The cashew seed is often considered a nut in the culinary sense. This cashew nut is eaten on its own, used in recipes, or processed into cashew cheese or cashew butter. Like the tree, the nut is often simply called cashew.
The cashew apple, also called cashew fruit, is the fleshy part of the cashew fruit attached to the cashew nut. The top end of the cashew apple is attached to the stem that comes off the tree. The bottom end of the cashew apple attaches to the cashew nut, which is encased in a shell. In botanical terms, the cashew apple is an accessory fruit that grows on the cashew seed.
The species is native to Central America, the Caribbean, and northern South America, including northeastern Brazil. Portuguese colonists in Brazil began exporting cashew nuts as early as the 1550s. In 2017, Vietnam, India, and the Ivory Coast were the major producers.