Eleven Seeds … a Puzzle

Because of a crushing farming schedule, our friend Bruce was unable to attend my recent 50th birthday party. Instead, he sent me a folded note in which he’d wrapped 11 seeds, the color of dark caramel and the size of my baby fingernail.

“Dear Annabel,” it read. “I am so sorry I am not going to make it today. I hope you have a celebration worthy of the occasion. I also hope you have many more, certainly enough to enjoy the fruits of the enclosed. …”

Eleven seeds.
Eleven seeds.

When later I wrote to thank Bruce, I asked him what the seeds were. This was his reply:

“Dear Annabel … I am sorry. I LOVE puzzles and I NEVER give away the answers! But, because they are for your birthday, I will give you some clues. … [The seeds] will grow into very big trees. I’m not certain whether they are native to India or Africa (they are found in both places, and I think even the botanist jury is still out on that one). When they fruit, it won’t be the seeds you will be eating. Long before they fruit you will be able to enjoy them … well, for more than just their shade. I have some spare seeds here which I will try to propagate nearer to the rains – as back-up. I suspect I will scarify the seeds a little (scratch the coating with a nail file) to aid germination. I think they will appreciate heavier soil. Hope that helps. Enjoy.”

Not long after I received Bruce’s email, I was chatting with my Zambian assistant, Adelina Banda, when she pointed to the seeds on my desk and asked me where they’d come from. I said they were a birthday gift from Bruce, and asked her why she was interested to know.

“Those are seeds from the Musika tree,” she said, smiling. The Musika tree? I’d never heard of it. “The fruit from this tree is very tasty. It’s sweet and sour at the same time. Our children love the Musika fruit. We soak the flesh in water to separate out the seeds, and after adding a little bit of sugar and water, we freeze it in small plastic bags to make popsicles for them.”

The Musika tree, I soon found out, is the Tamarind tree. Hooray, and thank you Adelina! The Tamarind tree … in which its seeds are said to be symbols of faithfulness and forbearance in Buddhist teachings. The Tamarind pulp … which is said to consist of an almost perfect sweet and sour balance, is rich in vitamin B and calcium, but in which there is so much tartaric acid it creates sores in your mouth if it isn’t soaked first. THE MUSIKA-TAMARIND TREE!

A Tamarind tree.
A Tamarind tree.

“Dear Bruce … I’m guessing these are tamarind seeds. Why? Because Adelina Banda, with whom I work, wanted to know who gave me the seeds. I told her it was you … and she said they were seeds from the Musika tree. To Google I turned where I found out that the Musika tree was in fact Tamarindus indica L. …”

“Dear Annabel … I obviously gave you far too many clues. They are indeed Tamarind, and I look forward to your first jar of chutney (or whatever) with Tamarind pulp in it. I think the tree will give you lots of pleasure in the meantime. …”

I think it will, too. Thank you, Bruce!

Annabel Hughes is an award-winning chef and blogger, and the creator of “bush gourmet” cuisine.

0 Comments

  • We planted a tamarind tree in our garden about 6 years ago (we cheated and bought the seedling from Limilunga Nursery 😉 ) and this year it has borne fruit – very exciting!

    Reply
    • Oh, wow! Lucky you! Six years is a long time, but it’s worth the wait. I’d love to know what you’re doing with the fruit. If you need any help off-loading any, ahem, please let me know. Maybe I can surprise Bruce with an instant Tamarind Surprise!

      Reply
  • How exciting and what a unique gift!

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    • How exciting, indeed! It was a unique gift from a unique friend. I cannot wait to see what happens with the seeds once we plant them. I hope they germinate … and grow big and tall … and provide us with Musika-Tamarind pulp forever! 🙂 All the best to you, Annabel

      Reply
  • Wonderful. What a friend!

    Reply
    • Thank you, Michelle! A special friend (and gift), to be sure!

      Reply
  • Nice story! 🙂

    Reply
    • Thank you for your support and interest in my blog. It was a fun story to write! All the best, Annabel

      Reply
  • Everyone before me has said what I would like to have said. Ja what a unique and thoughtful gift. And as the trees grow you will alway she reminded of your dear friend. I love tamarind and always have some pulp in my fridge..shop bought obviously. Imagine growing your own!!
    xx

    Reply
    • Yes, Hellie … by all accounts, Tamarind is wonderful. We have some paste in our freezer, which I haven’t had the opportunity to use that often. I really look forward to broadening my repertoire when we have our own trees!

      Reply
  • Great story!

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  • and on that note we can only love Bruce for such a thoughtful gift. I hope you can master many gourmet meals with this new gift of food. miss you and lots of love! The Savilles

    Reply
    • Thank you very much for your kind comment, Fran. We miss you guys, too! Lots of love back … xo

      Reply

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