Heliyon. 2022 May 23;8(5):e09528. doi: 10.1016/j.heliyon.2022.e09528. eCollection 2022 May.
Cashew nut production generates large amounts of cashew apple as residue. In Colombia, cashew cultivation is increasing together with the concerns on residue management. The objective of this study was to provide the first chemical, physical and thermal decomposition characterization of cashew apple from Colombian varieties harvested in Vichada, Colombia. This characterization was focused to identify the important bioactive and natural compounds that can be further valorized in the formulation of food, nutraceuticals, and pharmacological products. The results obtained in this study are helpful to portray the cashew apple as a potential by-product due to its renewable nature and valuable composition, instead of seeing it just as an agricultural residue. For that, cashew apples of Regional 8315 and Mapiria varieties were studied. The natural juice (cashew apple juice) that was extracted from the cashew apples and the remanent solids (cashew apple bagasse) were separately analyzed. The HPLC analytical technique was used to determine the concentration of bioactive compounds, structural carbohydrates, and soluble sugars that constitute this biomass. Spectrophotometric techniques were used to determine the concentration of tannins, carotenoids, and total polyphenols. Mineral content and antioxidant activity (DPPH and ABTS assays) were determined in the biomass. Also, the thermal decomposition under an inert atmosphere or pyrolysis was performed on cashew apple bagasse. The varieties of cashew apple studied in this work showed similar content of bioactive compounds, total phenolic content, and structural carbohydrates. However, the Mapiria variety showed values slightly higher than the Regional 8315. Regarding cashew apple juice, it is rich in tannins and ascorbic acid with values of 191 mg/100 mL and 70 mg/100 mL, respectively, for Mapiria variety. Additionally, the principal reservoir of bioactive compounds and constitutive carbohydrates was the cashew apple bagasse. About 50 wt.% of it was composed of cellulose and hemicellulose. Also, in the bagasse, the ascorbic acid content was in a range of 180-200 mg/100 g, which is higher than other fruits and vegetables. Moreover, alkaloids were identified in cashew apples. The maximum value of antioxidant activity (DPPH assay: 405 TEs/g) was observed in the bagasse of Mapiria variety. The bagasse thermal decomposition started around 150 °C when the structural carbohydrates and other constitutive substances started to degrade. After thermogravimetric analysis, a remanent of 20% of the initial weight suggested the formation of a rich-carbon solid, which could correspond to biochar. Therefore, the cashew apple harvested in Vichada is a valuable reservoir of a wide range of biomolecules that potentially could be valorized into energy, foods, and pharmacologic applications. Nevertheless, future work is necessary to describe the complex compounds of this residual biomass that are still unknown.