Tonka bean

Tonka bean (Dipteryx odorata)

Tonka bean is a black-skinned aromatic almond-like, single seed from the pod of any tall leguminous tree in Venezuela, South America.Tonka beans have a long history of medicinal use among Indian tribes in the Amazon, and are still used in Brazilian herbal medicine as an antispasmodic, emmenagogue, cardiotonic, and antiasthmatic. A solution made from soaking tonka beans in rum has been used to treat snake bites, cuts, coughs and rheumatism. The bark of the tonka tree is also used medicinally, and the durable wood is employed in construction. Even at their most popular, however, Tonka beans were relatively little known. One of its active constituents is coumarin, an anticoagulant which may be toxic to the liver and is suspected of being carcinogenic. The sweet fragrance has also made tonka bean a popular ingredient in perfumes, soaps, incense, and colognes, and as a flavoring for snuff and pipe tobacco. Tonka bean oil has very rich, sweet and warm fragrance, with prune, caramel undertones. It it often useed in aromatherapy: as a gatekeeper, it allows those that are ready to go forward and for those that are not ready, their experience will be unpleasant or they will get a blocked experience. Use Tonka Bean within ceremonial initiations. Tonka beans are an unusual spice that you don’t see in everyday cooking, but have a very unique flavor that has won them a lot of fans. Tonka beans taste similar to vanilla beans, but have distinctly fruity and spicy elements to them where vanilla is more floral. Also like vanilla, the flavor of the tonka bean can be very complex, but can also be very subtle when it is used in a recipe – which means that it can be difficult to pinpoint the origin of those flavors unless you know that the tonka is in there. It is not unheard of for chefs to use this ingredient in recipes (and some home chefs will find suppliers and use the beans, as well) to add another layer of flavor to something and simply not mention where some of that flavor comes from. Tonka beans make for a surprising, unusual alternative to vanilla in home-made ice cream, custard and soufflé. Typically, a few beans suffice to flavour one kg of these desserts. There are only few spicy recipes that make use of tonka beans, but Italian-style tomato sauce with tonka beans is truly great.