How does tonka bean smell

Magic spiceSecrets of the tonka bean: how it tastes, works and where to buy

A new ingredient adorns the menus of hip caf├ęs and star kitchens. Tonka bean? What kind of vegetable is that? And what are beans doing in cake? In fact, the tonka bean is not a legume in the classic sense - even if it belongs to their family - but a spice! It's not just the name that has some surprises in store. The taste has also impressed chefs and culinary professionals - not to mention the beguiling effect ...


What is a tonka bean?

As already mentioned: The tonka bean is not a bean at all, but actually the seed of the fruit of the tonka tree. Never heard? The plant originally comes from South America, but can also be found in Africa. There are no tonka trees in Germany itself. Nevertheless, the bean made it into German cuisine. And not only that: the trunk should also enrich many living rooms in the form of teak wood. The tree therefore provides several valuable materials at the same time. The tonka bean itself is said to have been accepted as a means of payment in the past. Today it is considered a lucky charm!

From the outside, tonka beans are reminiscent of dates at first glance, but they are smaller and significantly harder. They are sold dry or as an extract.

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How do tonka beans taste?

You can smell a tonka tree before you see it. The beans give off a particularly attractive scent. The taste is even more intense - so that you usually only need a tiny knife tip as an ingredient. Tonka beans have an aroma of vanilla, bitter almond, and liquorice. Sounds like perfume? But also tastes beguiling! Gourmets think they even notice a slight rum note - but this may simply be due to the fact that some tonka beans are soaked in rum before drying.

Because of its intense and slightly sweet taste, the tonka bean is particularly popular as an ingredient in desserts. Chefs from all over the world are always trying new combinations - the tonka bean is also recommended as an ingredient in Christmas dishes.

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The special effect of the tonka bean

Is the tonka bean still a spice or already a medicine? In South America, the seed is established as a medicinal plant for a strong heart. The extract is also used against respiratory problems and nausea.

Not to be underestimated, however, is the psychological effect of the tonka bean: It is a natural aphrodisiac and should make you forget any stress.

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Attention: Where there is an effect, there are also side effects. The tonka bean is used very sparingly not only because of its intense aroma, but also because of its coumarin content. Coumarin is an ingredient that on the one hand can have an intoxicating effect, on the other it was suspected of being carcinogenic and damaging to the liver. Experts now assume that this concern only applies to artificially produced coumarin and in high doses that cannot be achieved by adding tonka bean extract alone. The limit is 0.1 mg coumarin per kilogram of body weight. The coumarin content is also extremely low in dried tonka beans that you can buy in the supermarket. There is therefore no risk of overdosing with normal use.


Where can I buy tonka beans?

Until recently the tonka bean was a rare product, but now you can find it in well-stocked supermarkets. Mostly whole tonka beans are sold - they are quite expensive, but last a very long time because, like nutmeg, they are grated and only used in knife tips. Tonka beans can now also be ordered online without any problems.


And what do you do with the tonka bean?

Get an appetite? The tonka bean should not be missing at the next romantic dinner. You can find inspiration for what you can conjure up from the fascinating seeds in our picture gallery: 5 tonka bean recipes that you want to try right away!

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