Bena Nakawuki
WEST Indian locust (hymenaea courbarilor), more commonly known as “stinking toe” is a brown, large seed pod that is currently in season in Jamaica – but is often overlooked as a food of choice.
It is not surprising that with a name like stinking toe, not many people gravitate to the mysterious fruit. I’m guessing the reason behind its name is that its shape is somewhat likened to a big toe. Additionally, it has an odour that most people cannot bear. In my short, but sweet experience with it, I came to learn that it is a fruit that is well-loved by many children growing up in Jamaica. I can see how it would be somewhat of a novelty as children try to break into it and discover its sweet and addictive pulp.
This fruit grows on one of the largest trees in the Caribbean, with white, bell flowers, and has a hard, brown shell-like exterior which is almost impossible to crack by hand. However, what’s inside is what really counts: it’s fruit pulp is light brown, very dry, and powdery in texture, and tastes sweet. Surprisingly, I did not find the smell unpleasant (once I eventually cracked it open). Inside the fruit or pod, which can be over six inches long and a little over two inches wide, are between two and six big, red seeds, also used for jewellery and art pieces. The West Indian Locust can also be found throughout Mexico, Central and South America.
Health and nutritional benefits
Stinking toe is packed with vitamins and minerals such as iron and calcium and has a history of being a natural energy booster.
It helps to alleviate: headaches, diarrhoea, asthma, general fatigue, constipation, rheumatism, prostate problems, athlete’s foot, laryngitis, and bronchitis as well as nail fungus.
Did You Know?
– Early Caribbean inhabitants used the whole bark of West Indian locust trees to make boats. They sewed the ends together and waterproofed the seams with a gum or resin, most likely from the same tree.
– Today, the wood of the West Indian locust tree is used for many types of carpentry, and has a natural resistance to termites and fungus.
The stinking toe tree gives us not only stinky fruits and sweet-smelling incense but also medicines, jewellery and quality lumber.
Here is a refreshing recipe that can also be paired with other fruits such as pineapple or passion fruit. In some parts of the Caribbean it is even made into ice cream.
‘Stinking toe’ Refresher
2-3 stinking toes (shelled, pulp only)
Half gallon cane juice
1 teaspoon of nutmeg or spice of choice
1 quart spring water
Juice of 1 lime (optional)
Blend stinking toes with spring water and cane juice. Add nutmeg or spice of choice and blend briefly. Serve chilled

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