Tallow wood (Ximenia americana) has many common names such as tallow plum, tallow nut, sea seaside plum, and sea lemon. The fruits of this sprawling, thorny large shrub or small tree (to about 20′) are bright yellow drupes. Inside the fragrant pulp is a “pit” or “stone”.
This seed is said to have purgative properties, so purge nut is yet another common name.
The seeds contain ximenyic acid, an oil rich in polyunsaturated fats used in the production of soaps, shampoos, and such. Roasted seeds are said to have an almond-like flavor but don’t eat too many given their purgative properties and their hydrocyanic acid, the source of the almondy flavor.
Like acorns, the seeds of purge nut are very variable in size and shape, sometimes round, subglobose (roundish), or ovoid (egg-shaped).
Purge nuts (or tallow wood seeds) float. Only 1% of seeds are said to have this property, and they sometimes are called “sea beans”. The annual sea bean symposium will be held at the Cocoa Beach Library on October 18 – 19, 2019. Click here to learn more about sea beans (a.k.a drift seeds).
Ed Perry, co-author of the marvelous book Sea-Beans from the Tropics: A Collector’s Guide to Sea-Beans and Other Tropical Drift on Atlantic Shores writes: “After the fleshy portion of the tallow nut seed is lost, the endocarp becomes buoyant and capable of floating long distances. Maximum flotation under test conditions is approximately 1 year. The only North American records we have are from Florida east coast beaches.”
Look for these seeds when beach-combing around here!