Thursday, September 27, 2012

All About the Manila Tamarind

Indians know this fruit as a “Manila tamarind” despite bearing no relation to the tamarind. The other name is “Madras thorn,” though it has no roots in Madras/Chennai, India.

The camachile is native to Mexico, S. America and C. America. They came over to India, where it has several names: Korkalikka is the local Tamil name, also called “jungle jilebi.”

Availability of Camachile in India:
Though these plants are durable and grow like weeds (especially in India), they’re not a common commercial crop.

They bear fruit from March through May.

Where to find Manila Tamarind in India:
You have better luck coming to a tree by happenstance or coming across a vendor on the highway selling them by the bag from his farm behind him.

Checking for Ripeness in Manila Tamarind:
Manila tamarinds are ripe when they go from green (their natural color on the tree) to a lovely pinkish gold color. Another indication of ripeness is that the fruit should be exposed: seeing the white flesh peeking out from the peeling skin isn’t a sign that the fruit’s gone bad—it’s a sign that it’s ready to eat.

Taste of Camachile:
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 as well.The texture is chewy, doughy and a bit grainy—it dissolves well on the tongue. Like the tamarind, each pod has a large seed surrounded by flesh. The white flesh in a camachile is the edible portion.

Nutritional Value in Manila Tamarind:
From Purdue University’s horticulture department, the nutritional value of a manila tamarind is, per 100g:

78 kcal
The composition of the fruit is:
77.8% water
3% protein
.4% fat
18.2% carb
1.2% fiber
.6% ash
13 mg calcium (1.3% RDI)
42mg phosphorous (4.2% RDI)
.5mg iron (2.7% RDI)
19mg sodium
222mg potassium (6.3% RDI)
15mg vitamin A
.24mg thiamin/B1 (16.6% RDI)
.10mg riboflavin/B2 (5.8% RDI)
.60mg niacin/B6 (3% RDI)
133mg vitamin C (221% RDI)

Health Benefits of Manila Tamarind:
-Manila tamarinds are 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 stabilization.
-In Eastern Nepal, it’s a medicinal plant used 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 off liver disease (hepatic oxidative dysfunction, to be specific).

How to open/cut:
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, camachiles have a softer skin that requires peeling almost like a green bean.

Manila Tamarind Recipe Ideas:
-Manila tamarind juice is common, though de-seeding them is a laborious task.
-Make a paste for sauces, soups and stews by adding the pounded, sticky tamarind pulp with jaggery, water, salt, and a dash of chili powder.
-Make a stir fry by adding the paste above to sautéed tofu and vegetables.
-Turn into a candy or soak it

Personal Experience:
Though I love tamarinds, I have yet to try the camachile.

Random fact:
One charming blog post unflatteringly described the taste of a camachile “like paper.”



  1. Mmmmmm....yummy , today i happen to have this fruit after my childhood. Of course ripen fruits are very tasty. Thanks for insisting on the medicinal and nutritional information.

    1. Oooh, could you do me a favor and describe the taste of it? I haven't had it, and it was REALLY hard finding information on what people think of the taste!

  2. To me they taste sorta like sweet coconut flesh.

  3. I have a big tree of camachile at my farm house and i would like to correct the ripping season of the fruit, its from march to may. I love it and would also describe the taste as juice coconut flesh. I would also like to add that the one that are red inside are more juicy and sweet then the one that are white. Also the white one can cause throat irritation sometimes.

    1. Thank you so, so much for correcting this--I'll also update the season and taste!

  4. I have had a fruit in Madras called ``Kodukapulli", which looks mighty reminiscent of the fruit you have up here. Upon doing some spadework,
    I found ``my" fruit is also called Pithecellobium Dulce. Perhaps the Tamil
    name you have up above is just a variant.
    Quite interestingly the street vendor who had it (Summer 2010, Pondy Bazar)
    said its taste was nothing much, but it was consumed mostly for ``time passing". Its taste, in my opinion, was a little better but certainly
    not delectable

  5. Hai, Catherine, nice article, only today i read in deccan hearld, written by some one along ur similar lines, so i just chkd it out, and come across ur blog,
    Ohw! its exotic fruit to me, when i was a litle girl,when in holidays, in Channnapatna, i wud get to see, these circular, colorful, de color is Crimson, its not pink, and tasted delicious, all mixture of sweetness, textury, and toungue cleansing ...xcuse spellings... , this article and todays made me go back ... thank u for bringing those sweet colors and unique taste...
    -sheera bharath

    1. Thanks so much for calling this to my attention! This was an unfortunate example of pretty blatant plagiarism.

      On a brighter note, thanks as well for describing this very interesting fruit--camachiles are quite funny, aren't they? I'm glad you have fond memories of them!