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Stinking Toe Fruit
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The Stinking Toe fruit, otherwise known as the Locust fruit or Jatobá, is the fruit of the West Indian Locust, the largest tree in the Caribbean. The fruit is contained within a large brown pod that is shaped somewhat like a toe. Stinking Toe fruit is roughly 3 to 5 inches in length, oblong and slightly kidney-shaped. The shell of the pod is very hard and is about 5 centimeters thick. An odor is released when the shell of the pod is broken; the smell is described as “off-putting” and the recommendation is generally to avoid the aroma. Within the shell is a cream-colored, powdery flesh surrounding an average of 3 to 6 seeds. Each seed is individually covered with the flesh. The texture is very dense and dry and the flavor is sweet, like powdered sugar. Each of the seeds are the same general shape as the outer-shell, just much smaller and should be discarded.
Stinking Toe fruit is available in the summer months.
Stinking Toe fruit is a tropical delicacy from the humid tropical rainforests of Central America. The fruit and the tree it grows on are botanically known as Hymenaea courbaril, and have a long history of being both medicinally and economically valuable to the indigenous people of tropical South and Central America. Though the fruit earned the nickname “Stinking Toe” for its aroma and look, the fruit is known locally as Koubari or Courbaril in Creole, or Carao in Asia.
The bark, leaves and flowers of the West Indian Locust tree have been used by indigenous tribes in the South American, Brazilian, Peruvian, and Central American rainforest for thousands of years, specifically the Karaja Indians and the Creole of Guyana. It was first mentioned in Brazilian herbal medicine in the 1930s.
The Stinking Toe fruit requires a bit of force to open, such as a brick or a hammer. Generally, in the tropics, they are broken open with rocks against a hard surface. Once the pod is broken, the fruit can be removed. Consuming raw Stinking Toe fruit may require some water – the texture is very dry. The flesh can be grated over a sieve or strainer and the seed removed. This Stinking Toe fruit “flour” can be added to baked goods or smoothies. The nutritional and health benefits of Stinking Toe lend well to any bread, biscuit, or morning smoothie.
Every part of the West Indian Locust tree has nutritional or medicinal benefits. The fruit themselves are very low in calories, and high in carbohydrates. They have been said to be an appetite enhancer, and an aphrodisiac. The smelly fruit is high in vitamin A and iron. Studies done on the flesh of the Stinking Toe fruit show that it has antimicrobial, antifungal and antibacterial properties.
The Hymenaea genus includes over two dozen species of tall trees in the rainforest. One of the tallest trees in the canopy, the Locust tree is not only a source of nutrition, but a source of economic benefits as well. In Brazil, the tree is known as Jatobazeiro. The wood from the tree is used for carpentry and the resin from the tree is used as a violin varnish. The large bell-shaped, white flowers of the West Indian Locust tree are pollinated by bats flying high in the rainforest canopy. The tree generally produces the pods after 8-12 years, so cultivation requires time. The fruits mature during the rainy season, and are ready to harvest once the rains have stopped. Gravity is generally the best way to harvest the pod from the trees. Outside of tropical Mexico, Central and South America, Stinking Toe trees grow in Jamaica and in some of the Caribbean islands. The trees are also grown by some rare and tropical fruit growers in Southern California.