What a treat to be vacationing in the Philippines during May! The markets are teeming with summer fruit, among them a sweet version of the mouth-puckering tamarind. Lest this opening sentence confuses you, let me emphasize that this blog entry will focus on the kamatsile, also known as sweet tamarind.
I e-mailed my Aunt Lony, now residing in Chicago, IL, that I ate some kamatsile yesterday and today. She responded, “I haven’t eaten that fruit in 70 years.” WOW.
I would eat some of it every week, if I had my druthers. I like the sweet flavor that comes with every chew of the white, pink, or red arils. I also welcome the information that the pulp from ripe kamatsile pods can be served raw as an accompaniment with meat dishes (such as sweet pork or tocino, maybe?) and used to make a flavorful drink (called agua de huamuche).
Huamuche, guamuche, cuamúchil, words derived from the Nahuatl cuauhmochitl, eventually became camachile / kamatsile, in the Philippines. Needless to say, the fruit is native to Mexico; Nahuatl is a language informally known as Aztec. The plant most probably came to our shores via the galleon trade between Acapulco and Manila.
Indigenous Mexicans, who have been using this fruit for centuries, reportedly use the pulp and bark for remedying toothaches and gum diseases. They also consider the seeds edible, its protein content as high as 28 per cent. In addition, the seeds are a good source of oil extracts.