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). It 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 1970â€™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 Fernandezâ€™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 donâ€™t happen to live near a fruit bearing tree.