Sweet 'n' sour

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TOUGH TREE Manila tamarind can be grown even in arid and denuded lands
TOUGH TREE Manila tamarind can be grown even in arid and denuded lands

Manila tamarind has several medicinal uses

Manila tamarind is Native to South America and the West Indies and gets its name because the fruit's sour taste resembles tamarind.Pithecellobium dulce, as it is known botanically, is a fast-growing, evergreen, glabrous, spiny tree with a crooked trunk, bearing small branchlets armed with short, straight, sharp, stipular spines, arising near the base of the leaves. The leaves are leathery, pale greyish green with oblique leaflets. The minute, dull white flowers are borne in small, dense, clusters at the ends of the twigs. The constricted pods are curved into a circle or a helical coil and are reddish brown when ripe, containing about six to 10 shining black seeds, enveloped in a massive pink to whitish pulpy edible aril.

Jungli jalebi

Because of the resemblance of the fruits to the Indian sweet jalebi, the plant has been given the name jungli jalebi too.The generic name Pithecellobium is derived from the Greek word "pithekos" meaning an ape and "lobos" referring to a pod and the species name "dulce" in Latin means `sweet', an allusion to the edible pulp of the pod. Pithecellobium dulce followed the Spanish galleon route through the Pacific and Asia to Africa. It is now common and naturalised in India. The tree can resist drought very well and can also withstand pruning, lopping and browsing by animals. Flowering occurs from January to March and the fruits ripen from April to July. The hard reddish brown timber is used for general construction, packing cases, fence posts, cart building and agricultural implements.


The tree is recommended for growing as shelterbelts and as windbreaks. Since the tree is capable of growing even in waste and denuded lands, ravines, pure sandy soils and along the coastal areas, it can be grown to reclaim saline and alkaline soils and wastelands. Pithecellobium dulce is also very popular in the plant sculpturing technique topiary.The pods contain a thick, sweetish, acidic pulp that is eaten raw or made into a drink similar to lemonade. The plant is reported to be a folk remedy for convulsions, dysentery, earache, leprosy, peptic ulcer and toothache.This almost forgotten yet affordable fruit can be recommended for good health. RIDLING WALLER & PAULINE DEBORAH




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