SARRAPIA. Tonka Bean

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It is one of the best kept secrets among the Venezuelan spices and is my favourite.

This wonderful tree is the pride of the Bolivar state in Venezuela. In the year 1847 Guayana (the venezuelan one) starts the exporting of this fruit, reaching its peak production by 1942, sadly the industry declined in the year 1965. Hundreds of shipments used to departure from the port of Ciudad Bolivar to all over the world.

Sarrapia is also known locally as: yape or sarrapio. This tree can reach up to 30 mts high, its harvest time is from january til april. Even though its wood is of great value, the most valuable part of it are its seeds. This almond like seed (only in appereance) has a fragrance reminiscent of vanilla, cloves and cinnamon…. but not quite (once you smell it you will know what I mean!!). It is often used as an additive for: tobbaccos, perfumes, soaps, spirits and desserts (mainly in France). Nowadays is mostly used by the cosmetic industry. to obtain 1 kilo of sarrapia 300-400 fruits are needed.

I am very proud of this flowering tree, a native to our mighty Orinoco river banks… it deserves its own entry on my blog. Its usage in the kitchen is grated (using a microplane grater preferably) since its fragrance is very powerful and only a tiny bit is required.

For the spanish speakers here it is a video of the chef Tamara Rodriguez, explaining more about this gorgeous tree

I can only hope that you get hold of some of it on your next trip to Venezuela, or from anywhere in the world you may come across it. I am quite sure you will enjoy having it among your most exotic kitchen spices.