Once a year, our tamarind trees fruit so we collect them to sell. The boys and men in the family will climb the trees to pick the fruit and the women will sort out the flesh of the tamarind from the seeds. Every part of the tamarind is sold on to third parties who then on-sell them to larger markets in Taungyi.
The flesh can be kept for a year if sealed in airtight packing and the seeds can be sold to people who make coffee mix. The seeds are ground with low-grade coffee beans and can fetch about K100 a pound. Tamarind can be used in cooking where you soak it in a little hot water and use as a gravy base. Some people drink the tamarind infused water to keep their bowels regular, or it is made into sweet and sour tasting snacks. It’s a very good laxative also. Some people even pickle the tamarind when it’s unripe, to eat as a condiment. We don’t really eat tamarind that much in Shan state, it’s more popular in middle Myanmar. Shan people love tomatoes, it’s in the base to all our cooking and we also don’t use as much MSG because it changes the taste of our food. We prefer natural tasting cooking.
My cousin and younger sister also live in this house with me. My sister and I are both unmarried. She is a high school teacher but the schools are closed for holidays right now so both of us earn a little bit more money this way. She also works for hire in farms and tomato plantations from time to time. If our tamarind trees are not plentiful, we offer hire to other friends and family to do this same work. Some years, the trees don’t fruit at all. The weather is so unpredictable these days and water is getting scarce.
Times are definitely changing. So far we have reaped the benefits of having a main, paved road established through our village. We used to only use candles but now we are connected to the electricity grid. The road has helped immensely where now we can motorcycle into Nyaung Shwe. We use to have to ride our bicycles on unpaved road and it could take up to an hour to get there.
Ma Mya Yin
Maing Tauk village