miscellany

Finding a fruit of many benefits

Recently, I noticed a push cart vendor on that street selling this colourful bean shouting, “Gorka pilli Gorka pilli”, on top of his voice. I was amazed by the unique name and recalled seeing it and munching on it a few decades back. As a child, I would climb the thorny trees in Bangalore and eat the raw pulp of the bean.

After a few years, I did not notice this tree anywhere in Bangalore. Later, I found out that this fruit is known as Manila tamarind or pithecellobium delce, despite bearing no relation to the tamarind. The other name for the fruit is Madras thorn, though it has no roots in Madras. The thorny camachile plant is native to Mexico, South America and Central America. Though these plants are durable and grow like weeds, to a height of 10 feet, and they’re not a common commercial crop. The fully grown tree resembles a tamarind tree and bears fruit from March through May.

Though the fruit carries the name tamarind or resembles tamarind, the beans are sweet and tastier. Manila tamarinds ripen when they go from green to a lovely pinkish gold colour. Another indication of ripeness is that when the fruit is exposed, one can see the white flesh peeking out from the skin, which is a sign that it’s ready to eat. Like the tamarind, camachiles are opened by peeling off the thin exterior and eating the flesh surrounding the large black seed. Unlike the tamarind, though, this fruit has a softer skin that requires peeling almost like a green bean.The Manila tamarind has a sweet, musky acidic taste, bearing resemblance to coconut flesh. The redder ones have a more desirable taste than the green ones. The texture is chewy, doughy and a bit grainy — dissolving well on the tongue. Like the tamarind, each pod has a large seed surrounded by the flesh. The white flesh in a camachile is the edible portion. A ripe fruit has high nutritional value, high in water content, proteins,carbohydrates, fats, vitamins A, B and C, sodium and iron.

Manila tamarinds is exceptionally high in vitamin C, which bolsters your immune system, staves off strokes and reduces phlegm. It’s also full of cancer-fighting antioxidants. Its high thiamine content also helps the body convert sugars into energy, which has a great impact on one’s mood: the greater the conversion, the better your body’s nervous system and stress level stabilisation. In Eastern Nepal, the camachile is used as a medicinal plant meant to combat fever. The stem is used to treat dysentery. The leaves help with intestinal disorders and possibly, tuberculosis. Some researchers have found potential in the camachile’s antioxidants’ ability to fight liver disease.

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