The Spice Necklace Blog

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Admiralty Bay, Bequia:
June 10, 2010
A Taste for Kaka Chien?

If you do any hiking in Caribbean rain forest, you’re likely to end up with stinking toes. I’m not referring to the condition of your piggies after being cooped up too long in sweaty, mud-caked hiking shoes. In the West Indies, stinking toes are the long, fat, extremely hard seed pods of a tree in the bean family called the courbaril, locust, or stinking toe tree. Crack one of the pods open with a hammer – if you’re on the trail, smack it along its edge with a sharp rock – and you’ll know how it got its name: It emits an odor reminiscent of dirty socks, ready-for-the-garbage cheese, or worse: so bad that in Dominican Creole, the pods are called kaka chien.

We’ve seen small lacquered purses made from stinking toes that have been sawed neatly open across the top and the interior scraped clean (making them smell-free). As well, the stinking toe’s reddish-brown seeds – there are three to eight in each pod – are used in jewelry-making.

And as with the infamous stinky durian, it’s apparently possible to get beyond the stinking toe’s smell to something yummy. We’d heard its fruit – a fluffy, almost powdery white pulp that fills the hard pod around the seeds – is sweet and delicious. “We used to eat it all the time,” our Dominican friend Martin told us. “It tastes like cream.”

Uh, not to me. I thought it tasted a bit like cotton candy with the air removed and an off-odor added. Or vanilla-flavored fiberglass bits that had spent too long in the bilge. But maybe the problem was simply my age. Apparently, this is one treat that is usually enjoyed only by island kids.

Size 7 stinking toes: Nothing to sniff at
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