The Pacay Shaker – A Rattle That Grows On A Tree

pacay shaker on redMany musical instruments are made from natural materials.

A few actually are the raw materials and can be played as instruments in their natural form.  For instance, the pacay shaker is the seed pod of a large, beautiful tree that also creates the pacay fruit and bean – both foods used by Central and South American people dating back to Incan times!

So, what is a pacay tree?  When fully grown, it can tower up to 60 feet and produces long seed pods – some over a foot in length.  The ripe, bright green fruit are picked and eaten in two ways.  The white fiber between the seeds is eaten as the fruit and the seeds are used in much the same way as any bean.  A website called Phoenix Tropicals has lots of great growing tips about this warm climate tree for anyone interested in growing it outside of it’s native Central or South America.

pacay fruit - ripeWhat does the fruit of the pacay taste like?  It’s sometimes called the ”ice cream bean” and people describe the fiber as “sweet” and “refreshing”. The seeds are also eaten. In Central America, the seeds are cooked and served like a bean or other vegetable.  In Mexico, the seeds are roasted and sold as snacks or treats.  And – obviously – if the seed pods are left to dry, the beans dry inside the pod and create the shaking and rattling sound that turns this from a food into a musical instrument.

Pacay Shaker in Josef's HandHow do you play a pacay shaker?  Rattle it back and forth up and down, start slowly and build a crescendo.  Hold it in one hand and tap it against the other.  Or just sit back and admire it as a work of art of nature – one more of it’s beautiful and useful creations.

Links

Wkipedia Page Containing Historic Information on the Pacay Tree

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inga_feuilleei

Phoenix Tropicals – Growing Tips and Good General Information on Pacay Trees

http://www.phoenixtropicals.com/pacay.html

Green Pacay Fruit Picture (above) used by permission from Phoenix Tropical

 

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