Fresco of the year: Carao aka Stinking Toe!

The spanish name is carao. Google it and see what comes up…”natural cure for anemia?”, “central american miracle fruit” and “blood builder”. Ask locals and they say that doctors prescribe it for patients with anemia and constipation. In Creole English they call it stinkin toe and as soon as you crack it open you smell why! The preferred way of ingesting it is to make a fresco and drink it, but it is a bit of a process. Here’s how:

1. Most of the stinkin toe pods hang from the high, far ends of the tree branches. I collected a dozen from a second-story rooftop that our tree hangs over. They are long, veiny, phallic-looking things that turn woody and dark brown when ready to be picked (penis joke temptation…hard…to resist!). The best way to pick them is to chop them off with a machete or, of you are afraid of falling off a second-story roof with a sword in your hand, you can resort to the ol twist, twist, twist, yank method.

2. Resist the temptation to start swinging the stinkin toe pod like a bat. If you make contact with anything, it will explode into a hundred gooey shards.

3. Get a hammer and get ready to bust this nut.

4. The top of the carao pod has a single ridge that runs the length; the bottom has two side by side. Place the stinkin toe pod on a hard surface (like the floor) with one of the ridges up and whack it with the hammer. The dark brown husk will start to chip off and the woody ridge will crack apart. Move down the line with blows from the hammer and eventually the ridge will come off giving access to the seeds in the center.

The seeds are light brown and clean but surrounded with a drippy tar that smells like dark chocolate gym socks. These can be sucked on raw. Locals love it.

5. The best way I have found to make fresco is to break the pod into small chunks about 4″ or less and throw em into a pot with just enough water to cover the mess. The stinkin toe tar can be scraped out with a butter knife or spoon as well, but this is very tedious. The goo is very water soluble, so swishing them around in a pot of water works well. Put it to boil for a few minutes stirring constantly to help separate the goop from the woody pod.

6. Pour the brown, stinking, stinking toe water through a strainer into a bowl. If you are easily confused about this part, remember this little rhyme: brown water good, woody debris bad. Note: if you drink this “as is”, expect the contents of your toilet bowl to look the same as the contents of your kitchen bowl.

7. Your kitchen house will now probably smell like cocoa and old shoe. Get a glass, it’s time to take a drink! Mix 3 parts carao water with 1 part milk and a spoon of sugar to taste. Cool it down or serve over ice and take a sip.

Not bad eh? The toe taste is only a fleeting hint in the background…most people will think they are drinking a new brand of iced chocolate, as if there is something strangely familiar about it that they can’t put their finger on.

Stinkin toe/carao is seasonal. Our tree puts puts out green pods at the beginning of the year and they mature by April – June. I can’t find any scientific evidence to support the locals’ claims of hemoglobin production in the blood, but there is a bit of circumstantial evidence on the interwebz about it. Funny, no wikipedia page!





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