A seasonal treat | Bangkok Post: lifestyle

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A seasonal treat

Although not a Philippine native, the tree's fruit is a strong childhood memory

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I posted a picture of Manila tamarind from the recent Kaset Fair on Facebook, and was surprised at the response it received from my Filipino friends. Many were nostalgic for the fruit, and lamented that they haven’t tasted it for decades. Many of my friends and former classmates have migrated to various parts of the world, so this is understandable; the fruit is seasonal and no one has found a way to preserve it. Unless they visit the Philippines or Thailand when it is in season, they won’t be able to eat it. What is surprising is that even those who live in the Philippines said they haven’t seen it for years. 

When I was in grade school, Manila tamarind (Pithecellobium dulce), known as makham thet in Thai, was the most common tree along provincial roads in the Philippines. The trees have thorns and grow to the height of a two-storey house or more, with wide, spreading branches, and my friends and I would use a long bamboo pole to get at the fruit, which comes as a turgid pod curled up in a spiral and turns from green to red when it is ripe. The pod pops open on the tree when it is fully ripe and ready to eat, revealing white or reddish pink, spongy and rather dry edible pulp surrounding flat, shiny black seeds. The pulp is only mildly sweet, sometimes even astringent, but Filipino children loved it and generation after generation grew up eating it.

taste of nostalgia: Apart from its nutritive value, the Manila tamarind has been found to have anti-diabetic properties and other medicinal uses.

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