Like many people, I am haunted by a can of "mixed nuts" that some neighbor or distant relation or random bloke has conferred up my household for Christmas. If you're anything like me, the stout little Planter's has been picked through, leaving only the dredges … meaning everything but the cashews.

But here's the kicker that might make you want to throw out that whole can of nuts: cashews are actually highly toxic.

Not "a little nauseated" toxic, they're "put-a-good-sized-healthy-guy-out-of-commission" toxic. At least when they are in their natural state.

The cashew hails from South America, but is now grown mostly in India. The cashews grow as a seed on an evergreen bush that is related to the poison sumac—sounds good, huh? To be processed for eating, the cashew mush be harvested, removed from the "apple" in which it grows, and cooked. It's not really the nut that is toxic, but the apple. Even the juices it leaves on the nut are caustic enough to do a person harm. When one goes to the grocery, and sees "raw cashews" they aren't really raw. Because of the liability issue, one cannot buy truly raw cashews easily.

Why call them raw when they're not? I don't know.

And don't worry about being accidentally poisoned by one. There hasn't been a case of cashew poisoning this century.

If you're going to worry, worry about nutmeg. There are people in the world who get high off of nutmeg. Most agree that one has to be desperate to resort to the seemingly innocuous spice for a buzz, but it works. Eating more than 3 nuts (or about 50mg of the powdered stuff) is enough to spawn hallucinations, kill a few brain cells, and massacre the taste buds.

No matter the fact that nutmeg can add flavor to an apple pie or dispense a buzz do not apply to open wounds! A little nutmeg in the blood system can kill a person.

Most of the people who try nutmeg for the psychotropic effects report unpleasant experiences, so I'm not advocating its use, but I can't help but wonder why a substance with very similar effect—specifically marijuana— is illegal, while nutmeg is just as potent, less pleasant, and in every granny's cupboard.

Written by Jason Bellows, posted on 05 January 2006. Jason is a contributing editor for DamnInteresting.com.
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