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Sunday, March 18, 2012


This mimosa tree has other botanical names, among them, Mimosa glauca or Leucaena glauca, which makes it a member of the same family as Albizia lebbeck or the siris tree, Acacia nilotica, babul, Mimosa pudica Tickle Me and the MonkeyPod tree. They are members of the broader Fabaceae or Leguminoseae family as they are pod bearing, which makes them relatives of dhak, the pongam tree, ashoka (Saraca indica), jhand, lentils, indigo, the butterfly pea, chickpeas, carob, soya beans, lupins  and the Indian Coral tree to name but a few.  It is used sometime as a shade tree in coffee and cacao plantations and as a support for bananas, vanilla, yams, Cinchona or quinine-bearing trees, the betel nut vine and black pepper vines as well as for other climbing plants.
  The gum which exudes from the trunk when it is cut is similar to Gum Arabic, while red, brown and black dyes are obtained from its pods, leaves and bark. Its seeds are strung together to make necklaces, and it is a valuable nitrogen fixer, enriching the quality of the soil. It can also be used to form a living hedge and is so hardy that it can produce new growth from a charred stump after a fire. The tree grows to around 20 metres and is fast-growing, and it has a slender trunk with a crown of tufty branches, making it a good nurse tree for other saplings. It is evergreen and has white flowers, followed by seed pods.
  The lead tree (called Ipil-Ipli in the Philippines), is native to Mexico and Belize and Guatemala in Central America, and it is believed to have been introduced into the Philippines sometime in the 15th century. From there it spread throughout the tropics until today it is a pan-tropical tree which grows in the Pacific islands, Australia and south-east Asia.
  In Thailand people eat the very young shoots although this is not recommended as they contain mimosine which is toxic to all mammals other than ruminants, so cattle can feed on this tree. It causes hair loss in donkeys, horses and other animals which eat its leaves unwittingly. It is also used in tempe lamtoro in Indonesia, a food made from the fermented seeds of the (white) lead tree. The seeds are also roasted and ground to use as a coffee substitute. However it should be noted that in its countries of origin, the pods and seeds have been used in medicine and for food since ancient times.
  In Belize, Mexico and Guatemala the bark has been eaten to subdue internal pain and a decoction of the root and bark has been used as a contraceptive, although experiments on cattle have shown no reduction in fertility. It is also used as an emmenagogue, for menstrual problems, and as a hair remover.
  The leaves are useful for cattle fodder as it is comparable with alfalfa in protein and food value. However it is prized in the Philippines for its medicinal value, as the roasted seeds are emollient and soothe and soften skin, and the mucous membranes. The seeds are also used for psoriasis.
  The wood burns without giving off much smoke and does not spark as does the eucalyptus, and produces very good charcoal. It is also a source of paper and used in the production of rayon. Timber from this tree is also used for mine props and for parquet flooring and furniture, so the whole tree has value.

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