Many visitors to the Ice-Creamery ask what the large tree in the centre of the garden is. It is known as an “Ice-Cream Bean Tree” (Inga Edulis). A large attractive ever-green shade tree with spreading branches, it periodically produces lovely white and yellow pompom type flowers that emit a sweet honey-suckle like fragrance. The tree has the added advantage of being nitrogen fixing and is a good choice as a fast growing shade tree. The tree is so named because it produces long pods which contain black seeds, and surrounding the seeds is a cotton-wool like pulp that tastes very much like vanilla ice-cream.
NOTE: Many people think this is where the flavouring for Vanilla Ice-cream comes from, however this is not the case. Vanilla spice used in cooking is grown on an orchid, Vanilla planifolia.
Inga edulis is native to South and Central America. It is widely grown, especially by indigenous Amazonians, for shade, food, timber, medicine, and production of the alcoholic beverage cachiri. The name ‘inga’ is derived from its name with the Tupí people of South America.
The Ice-Cream Bean Tree is tolerant of most soils and is a nitrogen fixing tree. It likes warm, humid temperatures and does not like frost. It is easy to propogate from the beans grown within the pods.