Atchara – Fermented Green Papaya Excellent for Digestion

Atchara is a traditional Philippine fermented dish made with unripe raw green papaya, fresh raw ginger root, and other raw ingredients in a vinegar base. As kimchi is to the Koreans, chutney to the Indians, and sauerkraut is to the Germans, so atchara is a traditional fermented dish valued in Philippine culture.

During my years living in the Philippines, I was often served this native dish, especially at holiday gatherings where a lot of food is traditionally consumed. While most Filipinos probably could not say why it was a custom to eat atchara during holiday gatherings, I suspect that the large amount of sweets (mostly rice and coconut based) and meats (mostly pork) consumed during the holidays probably contributed well to the concept of having a natural digestive aid in this fermented papaya dish.

The two main drawbacks of this dish were that it was usually made with white refined sugar and white distilled vinegar.

Knowing the nutritional value of papaya and fermented foods, Marianita and I began a quest to make a truly raw fermented atchara (as it once probably was years ago) that could take its rightful place in the market of other traditionally fermented vegetable dishes such as sauerkraut, kimchi, and chutney, which are well-known around the world. It was a journey that took more than 5 years, since this was strictly a “homemade” type of product in the Philippines.

One of our biggest challenges was developing a raw coconut water vinegar that could be consistently produced from the water of our organic coconuts. We knew this would add tremendous nutritional value to the dish. We also wanted only the best possible ingredients that the Philippines had to offer.

So finally, after more than 5 years of development, we bring to you Tropical Traditions Atchara from the Philippines, which we believe will soon become the most beloved fermented native dish the world has yet seen! The main ingredients are:

Green Papaya: certified organic unripe green papaya grown by small-scale family farmers in the Philippines. We carefully select the wild variety of “native papaya.” Japanese researchers have found that the native Philippine papaya can contain up to four times more papain (a plant-based digestive enzyme) than imported varieties of papaya in the Philippines. The papaya fruit is harvested before it reaches maturity, when enzyme activity is at its highest level, and the fruit is a strong fibrous green. Filippinos often eat unripe green papaya as a vegetable, since sugar content is low in its unripe state. The enzyme papain which is found in papaya has long been used as a plant-based digestive aid in enzyme supplements. Green papaya is also very high in antioxidants.

Organic Raw Coconut Water Vinegar: The water inside the coconut shell is packed with nutrients that nourish the nut as it prepares to germinate and start growing into a new coconut tree. Coconut water is high in many vitamins and minerals, especially potassium. Because it contains electrolytes, it is considered one of the best natural rehydrating drinks in the tropics. Pasteurized coconut water retains most of the minerals, and is frequently sold as a sports drink. In the Philippines, raw coconut water is often left in the open air to ferment, where it eventually turns into a vinegar. The fermentation process enhances the nutrients, unlike heat pasteurization.

–  Organic Whole Muscabado Sugar: We use only certified organic Muscabado whole cane sugar, grown by a cooperative of small scale family farmers in the Philippines. The sugar is also Fair Trade certified. Muscabado sugar is a whole sugar extracted from the sugar cane using traditional methods. It contains all the natural nutrients found in raw sugar cane or molasses. Our Muscabado whole cane sugar is a deep brown in colour, which gives a brown colouring to Tropical Traditions Atchara. The sugar is needed in the fermentation process, and much of it is used up during fermentation. Atchara is not sweet at all.

Organic Raw Ginger Root: Ginger is another ingredient in atchara that is known for aiding digestion. It is added raw and enhanced through fermentation in the raw vinegar. Our ginger comes from the remote areas of Mt. Banahaw in the Philippines, far away from large cities and pollution. It is the same area where most of our virgin coconut oil is produced.

Native Tagalog Garlic: This garlic is prized as a more potent and stronger garlic than larger imported varieties. We use only Tagalog garlic, and our small-scale family farmers raising this garlic are in the process of becoming certified organic. Garlic has traditionally been known as an immune supporting herb with remarkable nutritional qualities.

Atchara is best used as a condiment during meal times. The coconut water vinegar should not be discarded after all the papaya has been consumed. It can be used as any other vinegar, such as part of a salad dressing. Note: The coconut water vinegar in this Atchara is very strong! Dilute with purified water to reach the lower acidity level of standard vinegars, if desired.

Tropical Traditions Atchara is distributed by Raw Elements, and available at the Big Carrot Wholistic Dispensary (348 Danforth Ave, Toronto 416-466-8432), or email: dispensary@thebigcarrot.ca). For more info, visit www.tropicaltraditions.com or www.rawelements.ca

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