If you’ve been to Antigua Guatemala’s Mercado (Market) lately, you’ve probably noticed your share of exotic fruits and produce. One you should try is jocote de marañon, better known outside Guatemala as marañon, or by its name in English, cashew apple – its scientific name is Anacardium Occidentale.

This fruit, with origins in Brazil, is very popular here, though nowhere more so than in neighboring El Salvador – there, it’s known as “Fruta de la memoria” (memory fruit). Cashew apples are loaded with calcium, iron, and up to five more times the amount of vitamin C than your average orange. It’s used to make drinks, jams, chutneys, and even alcoholic beverages. The cashew apple is known as an accessory fruit, as the seed grows outside, rather than inside the fruit.

Since jocote de marañon is available everywhere right now, I figured I’d pick some up to photograph and figure out later what to do with it. I later learned that this fruit is in season during Spring and Summer, which is why I was able to bargain the price down easily, from three for 5Q, to four for 5Q.

Jocote de marañon looks very similar to peppers, but the nuts give it away

In season, you can probably buy cashew apples here for 1Q ($0.12) each

My wife picked up the best of the bunch. They felt a bit heavier than peppers – the seller advised us that when the fruit is too firm, it’s not quite ready yet – softer is sweeter. Once I got home, it was time for a quick photoshoot.

Such a colorful fruit!

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You need about three cashew apples to make a liter of juice.

Close up of the cashew nut

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While you may not be familiar with the fruit itself (it bruises easily, so it’s hard to transport to northern countries), you probably recognize its seed, the cashew nut, which sits atop the fruit. Each cashew nut contains exactly one cashew. Now, before you attempt to crack the nut, you should know that the inside of the shell is very toxic – it has an acid known as urushiol, which is the same component as poison ivy, which produces the same skin-irritant effect. The cashew nut must be roasted at a high temperature to get to the cashew inside – the smoke is also toxic, which will get rid of the acid and destroy the both shells.

It’s best to peel this fruit if you want to consume it raw, as the skin has trace amounts of urushiol. In some countries, cashew apples are boiled whole for five minutes to get rid of the toxic. Since I had no idea, I sliced the fruit, skin and all, and took a bite. My wife cautioned me that it would “grab the tongue” – I had no idea what she meant, as it’s one of the phrases she uses that can mean anything. After taking a bite, I immediately knew what she meant by “grab the tongue.”

Since the seed is on the outside, most of the fruit is edible

While sweet (it reminds me a bit of mango, pineapple, and a bit of lime), the fruit has an astringent taste – it will dry your mouth quickly, and you’ll feel your throat slightly close up. A strange sensation at first, but it quickly goes away – all which can be minimized if you peel the skin before consuming.

I found a Guatemalan jocote de marañon recipe online, which I adapted. Remove and throw away cashew nut, peel skin, cut cashew apple into 1-inch chunks. Blend pieces with about a cup of water for every cashew apple, add a teaspoon of brown sugar per apple and squeeze the juice of one lime. Once you blend it well, strain (or not) to remove pulp. It will be enough to make a bit over one liter of a delicious tropical drink. Serve over ice and enjoy!

Fresco de jocote de marañon

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Have you tried cashew apple yet?

Share your favorite recipe below.