Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Re-discovering the Old Camachile Tree (Pithecolobium dulce)


Dr Abe V Rotor
Living with Nature School on Blog
Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid with Ms Melly C Tenorio
738 DZRB AM Band, 8 to 9 evening class, Monday to Friday




Camachile (Pithecolobium dulce) is a medium to a fairly large tree. It is also called Manila tamaind. Its pods are eaten raw and loved by children in the province. The pods that fall to the ground are eaten by goats, fowls, and other animals. 

To the rural bred, camachile is virtually a password in summer, its fruiting season. We kids in our time, armed with bamboo pole, would eye at the dangling bright red or golden, and dehiscent pods, and under the shade of the tree feast on them to our delight.

The flesh surrounding the seeds is sweet and somewhat acrid (mapakla) because of high tannin, which is good to those suffering of diabetes and high blood, so our old folks believed. I do not know of any other way of eating camachile other than raw, help split the pod to separate the seed. Seldom is it served on the dining table. There's no recipe I am  aware of. Simply enjoy eating, no soft drinks, no sugar or salt. 

The tree is resistant to drought and grows in poor soil because it makes its own fertilizer, so to speak. It has a spreading root system that harbors nitrogen-bacteria (Rhizobium).  It is also resistant to saline condition (halophyte) and is found growing in estuaries, and in fact along the seashore with coconut trees venturing into the breakwater.

I remember old camachile trees, some perhaps fifty years old, lining the Bantaoay River in our town San Vicente, site of the historic Basi Revolt of 1807. There under their adventicious roots were the burrows of big river eels or palos (igat Ilk), while under their  overhanging branches over the river, mullets (banak Tag., purong Ilk ) would idly group in summer. Adventurous as we were then, we would hook for both igat and purong, and in Ilocano, brag of our catch, fair or big. We did not starve waiting for our fish the whole day, thanks to the benevolent camachile. What tree can beat camachile?  We got shelter, fish, fruit, firewood to broil our catch, and birdsong in its top.      
 

Trees growing along the riverbank serve as natural riprap, and those along borders make a natural fence what with its spiny stems and branches. And when planted close in a row or two bcome a windbreak against typhoon. Thus Camachile is recommended for reforestation and rehabilitation of wasteland.

On the farm the leaves serve as feeds for goat and other ruminant animals. The leaves make a good compost and is often mixed with hay or rice hull to serve as bedding of farm animals. The spent litter is then cleaned off and sent to the garden or field for fertilizer and mulch.

Nothing is wasted of the tree. Old branches are pruned for fence and firewood. Old trees make good house materials and furniture. Camachile wood is durable and make fine furniture. It can be mistaken for narra. I remember a Manila visitor who came to town to buy a sala set. All the time he was thnking of it was made of narra. "It it camachile wood, " revealed the artisan, and got a premio (token) for his honesty.

In my research in college I came to know that the bark and pulp are astringent and hemostatic, true to the claims of our folks at home. So with the natives of the tree's origin - Central America - who use the pulp and bark against gum ailments, toothache and hemorrhages. Medical science has advanced such remedies. A bark extract is used against dysentery, chronic diarrhea and tuberculosis. An extract of the leaves is used for gall ailments and to prevent miscarriage. The ground seed is used to clean ulcers, among  other uses, many of which remain to be discovered.


I shall never outgrow camachile.  It's a classic tree of childhood. It draws a curtain open for our troubled earth of returning the balance and pristine nature of our environment. ~ 


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