fermented green papaya in raw coconut water vinegar
What is Atchara? [ot chá ra]
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 the large amount of meats (mostly pork) consumed during the holidays probably contributed well to the concept of having a natural digestive aid in this fermented papaya dish. Many Filipinos are not wealthy enough to eat meat regularly outside of these special events. Add that to the fact that most people living in the rural areas do not have refrigeration, and therefore consume meat in larger quantities during these holiday and festive gatherings (such as “lechon” - a roasted whole pig), atchara became a strong tradition at the meals of these events, as their digestive systems were not naturally used to digesting large amounts of meats on a regular basis. The two main drawbacks I saw to the product were that it was usually made with white refined sugar and white distilled vinegar in modern times.
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 to develop, 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, as you will read below.
So finally, after more than 5 years of development, we bring to you Tropical Traditions Atcharafrom the Philippines, which we believe will soon become the most beloved fermented native dish the world has yet seen!
Brian Shilhavy, Founder, Tropical Traditions, Inc.
How is Tropical Traditions Atchara Unique?
While most of the atchara available in the Philippines is made with distilled vinegar, Tropical Traditions decided to develop its own raw vinegar which is fermented from coconut water - the water inside coconuts. We used the water from the same certified coconuts used to make our Virgin Coconut Oil. After several years of research, we successfully fermented our organic coconut water into a healthy vinegar rich in all the minerals available in coconut water, and stable enough to keep it raw with the mother of vinegar present. This is truly a raw and "live" food that has NOT been pasteurized. The organic ingredients are listed below. All of these ingredients are supplied by small-scale family farmers, so you are supporting families in the Philippines when you purchase Tropical Traditions Atchara.
The High Quality Ingredients Used in Tropical Traditions Atchara
We start with 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 the amount of 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. Filipinos often eat unripe green papaya as a vegetable, since sugar content is low in its unripe state. The digestive 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. Eating Tropical Traditions Atchara is the best way to eat raw green papaya short of traveling to the tropics and eating it right off the tree. The raw coconut water vinegar preserves the organic raw papaya, as well as the other raw ingredients.
Raw Coconut Water Vinegar
The water inside the coconut shell is packed with nutrients that nourishes the nut as it prepares to germinate and start growing into a new coconut tree, which is exactly what would happen if you let a coconut fall from the tree to the ground and leave it there, given the proper moisture and soil conditions. 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. Since fresh coconut water deteriorates so quickly once it is exposed to air, it is best obtained and consumed in the tropics where it can be purchased fresh, with all the nutrients and enzymes in tact. Packaged coconut waters must be pasteurized, destroying some of the nutrients. It has been reported that during World War II coconut water was used in emergencies as IV fluids, since the nutrient-packed water is completely sterile inside the coconut until the hard shell is cracked and it is exposed to air.
In the Philippines and other tropical places, 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. The acidic environment prevents the growth of undesirable bacteria naturally. This process is a "backyard" cottage industry, however, and the final product is seldom consistant or attaining to our high standards. Therefore, Tropical Traditions worked with professors at the University of the Philippines for several years to develop an incubation system that could produce clean coconut water vinegar from our certified organic coconuts (used to make our Virgin Coconut Oil) and retain the mother of vinegar (a colony of bacteria cultures) as a truly raw product. We use the mother of vinegar to inoculate future batches of organic coconut water vinegar.
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 that is extracted from the sugar cane using traditional methods. It contains all the natural nutrients found in raw sugar cane or molasses. Sugar is needed in the fermentation process, and most other atcharas are made with refined white sugar, and the atchara is green in color due to the color of the papaya. Our Muscabado whole cane sugar is a deep brown in color, which gives a brown coloring 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.
Raw Ginger Root
Ginger is another ingredient in atchara that is known for aiding digestion. It grows well in tropical climates, and is a popular seasoning herb in many Philippine dishes, mostly cooked. As an ingredient in atchara, it is added raw and is enhanced through fermentation in the raw vinegar. Our source of 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, and the ginger is grown by small-scale family farms.
Native Tagalog Garlic
The native Philippine Tagalog garlic is much smaller than imported garlic, and prized as a much more potent and stronger garlic than larger imported varieties. We use only Tagalog garlic in Tropical Traditions Atchara, 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. The Tagalog garlic is known in Asia as one of the most potent native varieties.
Our sea salt is Philippine sea salt dried from the sea in rural island coastal areas.
Tropical Traditions 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.
I have been a regular customer of Tropical Traditions for several years now. Their products taste delicious and you always have the assurance that they are pure and processed with the upmost care. I am very interested in LIVE foods, and not a particular fan of sauerkraut. I read about Atchara from the Philippines, and took advantage of a buying club bargain several months ago. I had six jars sent to my home. That Atchara has all the enzymes and punch of the best kraut with milder taste. It can be eaten on deli sandwiches for a little kick, as well as adding it to crock pots, pot roasts, or stews. I love it! Beats the heck out of kimchee! The kids will never suspect you are medicating their food with vitamins and enzymes necessary for key metabolic processes. Overall, I have been extremely satisfied with the products, catalog descriptions, and company processing of all my orders and heartily recommend them to anyone looking for healthier food choices for their family. Deborah - Birmingham, AL