Thursday, 3 December 2009

The tonka bean

Photo credit: mecredis
Since discovering the Tonka bean, I've become somewhat obsessed with it. The seeds of a Dipteryx odorata (a tree native to northern South America) are not particularly well-known in the UK and even illegal in the USA. This is because they contain small amounts of coumarin, an anticoagulant that can be toxic in large doses. However, don't be put off; I'm told you'd have to eat an absurdly large amount of the beans to have a reaction.

The inch-long, black, wrinkly seed has a hard shell but once grated, releases an unusal perfume, a grassy almond-like scent. Used to flavour pipe tobacco, it also makes a great change from vanilla if you want to enhance the flavour of baked goods with a slightly more exotic taste. 

If you fancy a little bite of this fabulous bean, I can highly recommend Artisan du Chocolat's tonka bar. If you'd like to buy the beans direct, the Spicery is a good online store (50g for £3.60). You can also find the beans available on many alchemy/wicca sites, as they are used in casting spells for love, courage and money...I wonder if cooking with them has the same effect?

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