• Mary Draper

Let’s Talk Cashews (And Poison Ivy?)

Although cashews can make a great, creamy, dairy-free substitute (great for making “cheese” sauces or “cheese”cakes or super creamy “nice” cream, we don’t use cashews (or peanuts) at our bakery and here’s why:

Cashews are the second most common nut allergy out there, second to - you guessed it - peanuts.

What’s funny, is neither peanuts nor cashews are actually nuts. Peanuts, which actually grow underground, are considered legumes. And cashews are botanically considered a “drupe” (think stone fruit).

Other Interesting Facts About Cashews

A cashew grows at the end of a “cashew apple” in a hard shell (Google it! It looks pretty funny!), protected by a poison ivy type toxin called urushiol (Did you know cashews are actually part of the poison ivy family?).

After being shelled, cashews must be heat treated (by roasting, boiling, or steaming) to deactivate/remove the oil. That means that even “raw” cashews you buy are not really raw, so they don't contain active urushiol (“raw” cashews are actually steamed or boiled).

Another interesting fact is that you can also find urushiol in the shell of raw pistachios, and in the skin of some mangos. So if you find you have an allergy/sensitivity to cashews, you may also have a sensitivity to mangos & pistachios.

We happen to have a cashew/pistachio sensitivity in my extended family. I get a tingly throat every time I eat something with cashews, and I immediately break out in a rash after pistachios, so I usually try to avoid both of those. And I’m certainly going to pay more attention next time I eat mango…

Do you have a sensitivity to one, two or all three of these? I’d be interested to know. (I feel like pistachio is the number three "nut" allergy, based on inquiries we get here at the bakery).