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- “​Gal Seembala - An instant link to the distant past

All about the Gal Siyambala fruit from Sri Lanka

Y​ou just have to weep, when you see good things vanish before your eyes

45w ago

G​al Seembala is what this is called in the vernacular. Known in English as Velvet Tamarind, it is a fruit. Unlike regular tamarind, it doesn’t grow in a pod. And that is where the issue lies. But more of that later.

A​ dark brown shell that really is very velvety to the touch, hides a delicate, creamy fleshy pod, which encases a tough little seed. Crack the shell open, pop the fleshy pod into your mouth and revel in its tangy, sharp taste.

T​hey say you cannot eat the shell. They say you shouldn’t swallow the seed. I’d leave experimentation up to you!

D​iscarded Gal Seembala shells. The amount in the bowl kept growing

D​iscarded Gal Seembala shells. The amount in the bowl kept growing

A​ long time ago, gal seembala season lasted from May to July. Every street corner had a gal seembala seller. It was available outside every school gate and was a hit with most of us. These days not so much. Yes. It still remains a hit, but a 100gms of it retails for a LOT more than we paid for it all those year ago, even allowing for inflation.

The reason is tragic.

The gal seembala tree grows in the jungles, where they have time to mature and reach proper fruit bearing age. But the jungles have been and are being ravaged. Illegal deforestation and “development” has seen to that. Gal Seembala is threatened with habitat loss in the few countries it grows in. Not just ours. The other thing about this fruit is that its really hard to harvest. Each fruit is about the size of your thumbnail, so breaking thousands off a tree, that can grow up to 15 Meters tall, individually, is impractical. So the harvesters break branches off and shake them. Good for gal seembala aficionados who savour the fruit - bad for the trees.

As far as I know, no one has grown plant either in orchards or estates. The reason for this is it takes long to mature. Yet another reason why this fruit is ‘endangered’

I​t truly is hard to think of conservation when something is this good - but....

I​t truly is hard to think of conservation when something is this good - but....

T​oday, we enjoyed a little bag of gal seembala. Today we decided to save the seeds and to plant them. Maybe a hundred years from now they would bear fruit and it would be loved and cherished by a generation who would have long forgotten about us.

N​B: Seembala is the way we pronounce it. It has been pointed out that its spelled Siyambala... go figure! Thanks Darling Dilu.

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Comments (2)

    • 10 months ago
  • @ Johann Raymond, the half Sinhalese side of me came out in that one!!! 😁

    Grew up picking and eating the deliciously ripe Siyamblas, that fell off the trees, in our aachchies garden. Unfortunately there weren’t any Gal Siyambala trees but we relished on the massang, damson, dhang( that little purple/ bluish ball of colourful goodness) billing mango and Ambarella ( refereed to as HOG PLUMS😄here in Australia) .... of course, making an Achchaaru with one or all of the above.

      10 months ago