Real World Gardener Tonka Beans in Spice it Up

March 19th, 2021

 SPICE IT UP

Tonka Bean

If you have thought that vanilla was a flavour all on its own, you would be wrong. Here is another bean that not only qualifies as a substitute for vanilla, but also for nutmeg.

Common Name: Tonka Bean, sometimes known as Brazilian teak.
Scientific NameDipteryx odorata
Family: Fabaceae
Fruit:The highly fragrant bean from a flowering tree in the pea family
Height: 25-30 metres. Grey outerbark with inner red wood.

Qualities: the presence of coumarin in the beans give the seed its odour or perfume.

Flavour: Marzipan like
Tonka_Beans.jpg

 

 
Like a lot of members of the pea family that are trees, tonka beans starts as a pod on a tree. 
The pod contains a single bean which is dried like so many other spices.
It’s used in the same dishes that you used vanilla or nutmeg for, like shortbread biscuits, custards, cream brulee' and so on.
 
To harvest the pods, they are picked when fully mature and have fallen to the ground.  Then they are broken open with a hammer to reveal a wrinkled oblong 2.5cm seed.
When this bean is cut in half lengthwise, it has a creamy white centre.
  • These beans are placed in the sun to dry, activating the enzymes within the bean.
  • But did you know this bean has been banned in America since 1954 because of the coumarin present? Coumarin is also present in cinnamon and that's not banned!

Tonka beans may be grated like nutmeg before adding to a recipe or soaked in warm water or milk to infuse the flavour.

  • Tonka is a strong spice, so only use in similar proportions to nutmeg.

I you wish to grow the tree yourself, it's a very pretty flowering tree suited to the tropics and sub-tropics. Not a tree for frost prone areas. The plant itself is not available for sale, but you can buy the seeds from overseas sellers.

 
Tonka%2Bbean%2Btree%2Bin%2Bflower.jpg

 

I am talking with Ian Hemphill from www.herbies.com.au
Let’s find out more

If you have any questions either for me or for Ian you can email us Realworldgardener@gmail.com or write in to 2rrr, PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.

 
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