How Are Cashews Harvested?

A pile of cashews gathered during the harvest

The harvesting of cashews is the first step of many until the delicious nut makes it to your store. The process begins with collecting the fruit that houses the cashew nut. This is typically done by hand and involves two parts; the nut and the cashew apple.

In this blog post, we’ll take a closer look at the technique of harvesting cashews, from start to finish.

The Process of Harvesting Cashews

Since cashews are taken from the tree until they reach the consumer, there are a lot of steps. But contrary to popular belief, the harvesting part is not difficult. The most challenging part of this industry is processing the cashews, which happens right after. 

But when it comes to harvesting, it’s actually quite simple. The nuts just have to be picked, gathered, and separated from the cashew apples. 

Collecting the cashews

When you look at a cashew tree, the nut shells protruding from the bottoms of the fruits contain the delicious “meat” that we know as the cashew. 

Picking the cashews can be done in two ways; either by hand while they’re still on the tree, or by gathering them from the ground after they have fallen. The second method is more common, as it requires less work and, at the same time, ensures that the cashews are ripe.

How it’s done depends on different factors, such as the producer’s preference and tree size. The newer dwarf tree varieties are smaller, but remember that the traditional cashew tree can grow up to 40 feet (10 meters) tall! Picking the “apples” by hand can be tricky in that case.

Removing the nut from cashew apples

After gathering the nuts in piles, the harvesters remove the cashews from the fruits. The cashew apple is not wasted; it’s used to make various products, such as jams, juices, and even alcoholic beverages.

Harvesters twist and pull the nut shells to remove the cashew from the apples. The nuts are then packed and ready for transportation.

What Time of Year Are Cashews Harvested?

The cashew harvest season occurs two months after the apple fruits have set. Harvesters recognize the telltale sign of the apple turning a vibrant pink or red as an indication that harvesting time is near. 

The actual “nut” that is visible at the bottom of the fruit will take on a gray color. Harvesters must prepare roughly three months after flowering takes place, during December or January. The harvesting window in the countries responsible for most of the world’s cashews lasts from February through May.

Where Are Cashews Harvested?

Cashews can only be harvested in tropical climates. Frost is the enemy of cashews, which excludes many areas of the world! They are mainly harvested in parts of Asia, Africa, and South America. 

Countries like Vietnam and India are some of the world’s largest cashew producers and harvesters. But there are more countries producing cashews with a large industry around this nut.

How Many Cashews Are Harvested per Year?

There are around 4 million metric tons of cashews harvested every year. This number has been rising in recent years, as the cashew demand continues to grow. Most of the world’s supply comes from India, Vietnam, and Ivory Coast. 

What Is the Average Yield of Each Tree?

The amount of cashews that can be harvested from a single tree depends on several factors, such as the tree variety. But the main thing determining the cashew yield is the tree’s age. 

The older the tree is, the more cashews it will produce. A young 5-year-old tree will produce around 2 pounds (0.9 kg) of cashews. A 10-year-old can have up to 11 pounds (5 kg), and a 15-year mature tree can produce up to 22 to 33 pounds (10 to 15 kg).

Some varieties yield much more than the traditional cashew tree. A good example of that is the Vengurla-5, which can produce up to 77 pounds (35 kg) of cashews each year)

What Equipment Is Used When Harvesting Cashews?

Since harvesting cashews is a straightforward procedure, there’s no need for special tools. Essential equipment may be used, depending on the region and especially on which picking method is being performed:

When picking cashews from the floor

A harvester with a basket full of cashews

If the harvesters pick them from the floor, a basket is needed to gather the cashews. Some harvesters also use a metal stick, known as the “cashew picker”, which essentially pierces the cashew apples on the floor until it’s full and looks like a “cashew skewer”.

Some producers use mechanized harvesters to speed up the process, but that’s not very common. These machines are essentially large vacuums that suck the cashews off the floor into a holding container. Cashew harvesting happens mostly in developing countries, where mechanized equipment is not as common or accessible.

When picking cashews from the trees

If the cashews are being picked from the trees, a simple harvesting knife is all that’s needed. The blade cuts the stem to which the cashew apple is attached. The fruit will then drop to the ground, and workers can pick them up. 

Sometimes, that blade is attached to a rod to reach the ones that are too high.

Some harvesters may use a ladder to reach the higher cashews if the tree is very tall.

Conclusion

People around the world enjoy cashews because they’re delicious and nutritious. But before they end up in our supermarkets, they must first be harvested.

Harvesting is quite simple and doesn’t require any special equipment. In most cases, a basket is all that harvesters need to gather the nuts.

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