Friday, May 14, 2010

INGREDIENTS - Jambu


Jambu (Acmella oleracea) is a leafy green much used in the cooking of the state of Pará, located along the lower reaches of the Amazon river system, and which is native to that region. It's also known as agrião-do-pará which means "Pará watercress" and it is from this name that its English name "paracress" derives.

Another name in English for this Brazilian native plant is "toothache plant." This is due to an interesting medicinal property that jambu has, and refers not to the fact that the plant causes toothaches, but that it cures them. Jambu contains the compound spilanthol, which has the property of numbing toothaches and which is a component of a number of proprietary toothache creams and remedies.

The anesthetic effect is jambu is part of the culinary mystique of the plant as well, and in Pará chopped jambu leaves are added to a number of dishes not just for the flavor they have, but because of the numbing or tingling effect they have on the mouth. This effect causes a cooling feeling in the mouth as well, and jambu is considered to counteract hot chile peppers - because of the anesthetic effect, the burning sensation from chiles is lessened. In Brazil, culinary use of jambu is mostly restricted to the Amazonian rain forest, and outside this region it has limited use in cooking and gastronomy.

Although native to Brazil, jambu is now grown in other parts of the world, notably Southeast Asia and also India, where buds of the plant are used in chewing tobacco because of the spilanthol effect.

30 comments:

  1. Wow! I tried this last night when dining with some of the in-laws who were visiting Rio from Pará. Jambu really is like nothing else I've had - unfortunately I wasn't around to see them prepare it, but it seemed to have been lightly stewed with something acidic. The result was a *very* tingly, lemony sensation. I love it!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Lucky you! I've read a lot about jambu, but have never sampled it myself - I guess I'll have to wait until I can make a trip to Pará myself. Glad to have confirmation of its tingly effect.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hi, did you find jambu in Fortaleza? I'm from the North, and can't find it here in Ceara

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hi ... I haven't found jambu in Fortaleza, but people tell me that it's sometimes available at the Mercado Sao Sebastiao. You have to ask the vendors there who might have it on any particular day. Boa sorte!
    JAMES

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  5. If anyone can tell me where I can order it, I would be most appreciative, Ben, at RockNHula@aol.com in Hawaii.

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