Tamarind is the edible fruit of the Tamarindus Indica Tree. While it’s native to the tropical regions of Africa, the pulp has been used in cuisines across the world.
The young fruit is sour, but once ripe, it has a sweet taste that’s used to flavour drinks, jams, ice cream, and an array of snacks. Tamarind is ubiquitous in India, parts of Africa, and Asia. Unripe fruit is sometimes turned into pulp and used for pickling. In India, it’s also used in curries and chutneys.
Raw tamarind is high in several B vitamins, as well as iron, magnesium, and potassium — all vital to human health. It’s a condiment. It’s a spice. No, it’s a bean. The “Manila sweet,” as the tamarind is sometimes called, is all of the above. Tamarind seed extract, which is deliciously tangy, is one of the most highly prized foods in Asian and Indian cuisine.
Each 100 grams of tamarind contain impressive amounts of essential nutrients, including 36% of the daily recommended value in thiamin, 35% in iron, 23% in magnesium, and 16% in phosphorus. Other prominent benefits include niacin, calcium, vitamin C, copper, fiber, and pyridoxine, proving it to be a uniquely beneficial food.
Traditional uses for tamarind include relief from stomach and digestive ailments, fevers, sore throat, rheumatism, inflammation, and sunstroke.
Dozens of tamarind recipes, from simple to complex, are available on the internet for those desiring a fresh, unique culinary opportunity. An easy one is tamarind water, used in many Indian and Asian dishes: Just soak pre-packaged tamarind paste in water, strain it, and add as part of your liquid requirements to stir fries, sauces, or curries. However, consume tamarind in moderation because it contains fructose, which may be harmful to your health in excessive amounts.
Deliciously tangy and one of the most highly prized natural foods in South Asia, the tamarind – the melodic name of which comes from the Persian “tamar-I-hind,” meaning “date of India” – is gaining recognition and appreciation throughout the world. Said to be native to Africa, this exotic fruit grows on exceptionally tall trees of the fabaceae family, such as peas, beans, and other legumes, mostly in the warmer, dryer areas of Asia, Mexico, and India.
Tamarind trees produce an abundance of long, curved, brown pods filled with small brown seeds, surrounded by a sticky pulp that dehydrates naturally to a sticky paste. The pods look a bit like huge, brown, overly mature green beans.
It’s better to purchase tamarind when it’s fresh and still in the pod. Refrigeration is the best way to preserve the freshness for up to several months.