Hymenaea courbaril (courbaril and West Indian locust) is a tree common in the Caribbean, Central America, and South America. It is a hardwood that is used for furniture, flooring, and decoration. Its hard fruit pods have edible dry pulp surrounding the seeds. Its sap, called animé, is used for incense, perfume, and varnish.
Although it is sometimes denominated "Brazilian cherry" and "South American cherry", it is not a cherry tree but a legume of the Fabaceae family. It is also known as "stinking toe", "old man's toe", and "stinktoe" because of the unpleasant odor of the edible pulp of its seed pods.
Its fruit, also known as locust, was a major food for indigenous peoples. Those who eat it do not consider the odor unpleasant. The pulp, in spite of its somewhat disagreeable odor, has a sweet taste; is consumed raw; may be dried and transformed into powder to be incorporated into cookies, crackers, and soups; and may be mixed with water to prepare a drink called "atole". The pulp inside the hard shells appears like miniature soluble fibers that dissolve easily in water or milk, which it thickens. Some add sugar to it for more sweetness. If consumed raw it tends to stick inside the mouth like dry dust. It is one of the richest vegetable foods known because of its high concentrations of starches and proteins. It is further an excellent concentrated feed for animals.
The tree produces an orange, soft, sticky resin or gum, denominated "animé" (French for "animated", in reference to its insect-infested natural state). The resin has a specific gravity varying from 1.054 to 1.057. It melts readily over fire, and softens even with the heat of the mouth. It diffuses white fumes and a very pleasant odor. Insects are generally entrapped in it in large numbers. It is insoluble in water, and nearly so in cold alcohol. It is similar to copal in its nature and appearance, and a copal from Zanzibar is sometimes given this name.
The production of animé may be encouraged by wounding the bark. The resin collects between the principal roots. It can be obtained from other species of Hymenaea growing in tropical South America.
The wood is very hard, measuring 5.6 on the Brinell scale and 2,350 lbf (10,500 N) on the Janka scale, approximate measurements of hardness. For comparison, Douglas fir measures 660 lbf (2,900 N), white oak 1,360 lbf (6,000 N), and Brazilian walnut 3,800 lbf (17,000 N) on the Janka scale. It features a tan to salmon color with black accent stripes that over time turn to a deep and vibrant red.
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- "Hymenaea courbaril". Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Agricultural Research Service (ARS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Retrieved 27 December 2014.
- Mesoamerican Copal Resins Archived 2012-01-18 at the Wayback Machine from Brian Stross at the University of Texas at Austin
- Worldwide weird: Bite into a stinking toe from BBC Travel
- Stinking Toe from StJohnBeachGuide.com
- Frans Geilfus (1994). El Arbol Al Servico del Agricultor (PDF). 2: Guía de Especies. Turrialba. p. 147. Retrieved 27 December 2014.
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- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911), , Encyclopædia Britannica, 2 (11th ed.), Cambridge University Press, pp. 52–53