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:
The composition of the fruit is:
13 mg calcium (1.3% RDI)
42mg phosphorous (4.2% RDI)
.5mg iron (2.7% RDI)
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
Though I love tamarinds, I have yet to try the camachile.
One charming blog post unflatteringly described the taste of a camachile “like paper.”