14 May2005

Camachile (Pithecellobium dulce) is a common thorny tropical American tree that originated from Mexico and other Central and South American countries where it is known as Guamachil (an American Indian (Mayan not feather or dot) word that is the root word for the local name Camachile). camachileIt was introduced to the Philippines during the Spanish times and has spread throughout the Pacific (Guam, Micronesia, Hawaii, etc.). It was also introduced to Thailand and onto India where it is known as Manila Tamarind. A very common provincial tree, I associate camachile with drives through Tarlac, Pampanga and Pangasinan in the 1970’s on the way to Baguio and the Mt. Provinces. The trees lined the highways (if you could call the two lane roads that) and vendors used to sell the fruit from right under the shade of the trees. Sometimes the fruit was packed in bags that were hung from nails on the trunks of the hardy trees. I passed by these same roads just last year during the summer and the same trees and lots of vendors were still at it as they have been for the last 40+ years!

The camachile fruit or pods contain a white acidic and sweetish pulp that is eaten raw. I was never a great fan of the fruit but I know others who are so I took a picture of them at the market recently and decided to do this post. The fruit is apparently devoured by livestock in other countries as well as by humans. The bark, sap and fruit of the tree have several medicinal or astringent uses which include treatments for venereal disease(!?), tanning leather hides (!?) and making fish poison (!?) according to the Purdue University website on different plant species and Doreen Fernandez’s book on Philippine Fruit. Talk about varied uses! They are at the height of the season right now and are abundant in the wet markets in Manila if you don’t happen to live near a fruit bearing tree.



  1. carol says:

    As a child, I remember eating a lot of camachile during visits to the province. The best of them were sweet, and we’d peel the black seeds to reveal a brown coating (not the white ‘main’ seed inside, so it was very tricky) and then we’d string them into bracelets! Today we have a huge camachile tree by our gate which provides great shade but sheds leaves by the thousands, it’s an endless chore to sweep the yard. And it has grown so tall that the fruits mainly feed the birds. Its branches are weak and hollow as well that very strong winds tend to send them falling on the road.

    Camachile is also prescribed for diabetics.

    May 14, 2005 | 12:32 pm


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  3. bugsybee says:

    I like camachile too but I always take a careful look because I once almost ate a worm.
    As for its “varied uses”, do you know that when we were grade schoolers, we’d spend so much time peeling the black part of the seeds so that only the brown part remains? The little girls believed that if you make a wish and are able to peel all the black part without tearing the brown part, your wish will come true. Ha ha! I was never able to do it.

    May 14, 2005 | 1:45 pm

  4. Bubut says:

    our’s has a different version. if you peel all the black
    without tearing the brown part and you throw the seed
    in the plant clay pots it will turn into a 5 centavo
    coin the next day, w/c never happen.
    You could see a lot of camachile vendors along the road
    going to Baguio. They are selling it at P20 per plastic

    May 14, 2005 | 2:49 pm

  5. stefoodie says:

    the things that you learn here. awesome info, marketman. i had completely forgotten what these things taste like, just that i’d had them as a kid. i think i’ll be on the lookout now for these at mexican markets here.

    May 14, 2005 | 8:02 pm

  6. Rey says:

    Damortis ang tawag namin at sabi nang mga matatanda sa amin na huwag daw kakain nang marami pag hindi ka pa tuli dahil mapuno yong helmet nang patutoy mo nang apog he he he,

    May 15, 2005 | 8:02 am

  7. ces says:

    Here’s something for the kids. Peel the black skin cover to expose the seed beneath. Split the seed in two along its seam and stick it under your eyes just beside the nose. It sticks to the skin like giant “muta” (mote).

    Apr 11, 2006 | 8:12 pm

  8. Joy says:

    is this fruit similar to the tamarind? same shape though. thanks…

    Mar 1, 2007 | 8:24 pm

  9. Bi Pili says:

    In Nueva Ecija, Philippines, the cmachille pod is cooked as one the ingredients in an Ilocano dish called “inabrao”. It is truly a healthy fruit because it cures diabetes.

    May 18, 2007 | 12:56 pm

  10. maria says:

    Can the plant be grown in the US? How do I get a plant or can I grow this from seed. Yes I used to peel the skin of the black seed as a kid, it was fun.

    Jul 9, 2007 | 2:30 am

  11. Ranjan says:

    In Madurai(south Indian city) I first tasted this exotic fruit when I was in kindergarten. I had no idea that it belonged to the new world. One day a crow was flying holding this kodukapali(tamil language, meaning tamarind with a hook) I blindly shot my sling shot in the air and the crow dropped the fruit, which I later devoured. I still feel bad for the crow….Now fifty years later I am semi-retired in the Rio grande valley of Texas where the weather is sub-tropical and I see many tropical trees including guamachil. Today I stopped by an old house where an old mexican couple live and asked if I could take some seeds and I could pay for it. The old man said “If you try to pay me for this don’t ever come back”. He helped me dig up a young seedling next to the tree for free and I just planted in in my back yard with other fruit trees. As kids we also tried peeling the black skin without exposing the white kernel but in vain, those who suceeded buried in the ground and hoped a 5 rupee coin would emerge! What a beautiful time.

    Jul 14, 2007 | 10:07 am

  12. J says:

    I remember this growing up from the Philippines. My grandmother (lola) would eat these all the time since it helps lower the blood sugar for someone who is diabetic.

    Mar 19, 2008 | 3:03 am

  13. ding says:

    Does the roots of camachile has some medicinal uses. If so for what sickness? How can i plant camachile in my backyard?

    Apr 3, 2008 | 1:09 pm

  14. kaymarie says says:

    does the root of camachile has some medicinal uses. if so for what sickness?how can i plant camachile in my backyard?

    Nov 10, 2008 | 2:51 pm

  15. yolly says:

    I have a huge camachile tree and grows a lot of fruit all year long. The seeds growing like crazy under the tree. Anybody interested to grow camachile, email me.

    Jul 19, 2009 | 9:58 am

  16. dixie says:

    Camachile is not the same as tamarindo(brown).I have a goddaughter who has been diabetic for 6 yars now and her sugar has been well controlled by drinking , not eating camachile. She also lost weight doing that. we need to explore this aspect.

    Jul 24, 2009 | 2:39 pm

  17. Patchot I says:

    Camachile grows in Paoay Ilocos Norte where I was born. I used to frequent climbing the tree when I was a kid, but unfortunately I was bitten by a snake living inside a hole of the camachile tree. I stopped eating it after. I almost died because of the venomous bite.

    Sep 10, 2009 | 5:57 am


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