Deliciously Illegal Tonka Beans


I never heard of tonka beans until last week when a farmer shared some with me.

Now I’m amazed by them.

The aroma, the flavor… heavenly.


There’s one problem: in the US, tonka beans are illegal!

Ah… the land of the free!

In yesterday’s video I share more on the deliciously illegal tonka bean… and Rachel crashes my presentation:

The reason tonka beans are illegal is because of outdated research on one compound in the beans: courmarin.

According to a quite entertaining post by Ike Delorenzo at The Atlantic:

“The fear of coumarin in the U.S. stems from the oft-repeated saw that it is a blood thinner. It’s not. Coumadin® is the blood thinner trademarked by Bristol-Meyers Squibb. To make matters more confusing, Coumadin is made, in part, by changing the chemical structure of coumarin. Doctors who spoke with me (and who were terrified of being quoted) said there they’re aware of no anti-coagulant effect from naturally occurring coumarin in general, or tonka beans in particular. In nature, only certain rare decomposition fungi can convert coumarin to the anti-coagulant molecule. Cows grazing on (pounds of) such rotting sweet clover led to the discovery of the Coumadin drug.

Humans would need to eat an unreasonably bovine amount of tonka bean to fall ill. The shavings of a single bean is enough for 80 plates. At least 30 entire tonka beans (250 servings, or 1 gram of coumarin total) would need to be eaten to approach levels reported as toxic—about the same volume at which nutmeg and other everyday spices are toxic.
So is the FDA enforcing this old law? Has anyone been busted for tonka bean possession? Yes! While the financial industry recently spun out of deregulated control, federal regulators got busy tracking down chefs using the tonka bean.”
Sounds about right. Forget going after real criminals – LET’S GO SWAT SOME CHEFS!

Uses for Tonka Bean Trees (Dipteryx odorata)

Tonka bean trees, AKA Dipteryx odorata, are nitrogen-fixing leguminous trees with beautiful, very hard wood.
The wood is particularly well adapted for use in tool handles, agricultural implements, sporting goods, and other uses utilizing its high bending strength and good shock resistance qualities. The somewhat oily nature of the wood and its hardness allow its use for bearings, cogs, shafts, and other uses in place of lignum vitae, where friction wear is a problem. It makes excellent wood for railway crossties and posts, for it is durable and does not split when exposed to the elements. This wood should also do exceptionally well as boat keels and frames, ice sheathing, industrial flooring, and specialty items requiring a strong durable wood. Small quantities have been shipped into the United States for high-grade face veneer.
Check this picture out:
That’s a shot from IBI International, a Swedish building materials corporation.
They relate that the wood is “resistant to fungi, insects and marine borers. Railroad crossties lasted from 10 to 22 years when used in well dried soils.”
Even if it weren’t for the delicious beans, this tree would be a great addition to a tropical food forest. Lumber, nitrogen-fixation and a spice. Excellent!
I hope my beans sprout.

Share this post!


  • Ah America, land of the free, home of the brave, greatest country on the face of the earth. Until, it turns to a complete nanny state, because bureaucrats, who have done nothing in life, but live off the hardwork of others, have college educations and know what’s good for you, because it feels right, aka it gets them political donations. (Tax free)

  • You guys are funny together. I love the segway, to cutting your head off. What’s in those Tonka Beans! 😉

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *