Tamarind, The Sweet and Sour Pod of the Tropics


Tamarind is an edible pod-like fruit harvested from a leguminous tree of the same name. it belongs to the family Fabaceae which is indigenous to tropical Africa.

The fruit pulp is edible with other parts of the plant being useful too. The wood can be used in furniture making and other woodworking projects. Oil can be extracted from the seeds as well.

This crop goes by other names including the original being derived from the Arabic Tamar Hindi, or “Indian date”.

In Central America, the Caribbean, and the Northern parts of South America it is known as Tamarindo. Furthermore, in the Caribbean, it is sometimes called Tamón.

Though related it should not be confused with Manila tamarind which is a different plant native to Mexico known locally as Guamúchil.

In Africa, it grows wild in areas ranging from Sudan to Cameroon, Nigeria, and Tanzania and the countries in between.

Generally, globally it is distributed all over from Africa to South Asia, Northern Australia, and all of Oceania, Southeast Asia, Taiwan, and China. The world’s leading producer of Tamarind is India.

The evergreen Tamarind tree grows to about 12 to 18 meters tall on maturity. it is a drought-resistant crop and is also resistant to airborne salt as those found in the coastal regions.

The fruit pod grows to about 12 to 15 centimeters long and bears a fleshy, juicy, acidic pulp. You can tell when it is mature by the brown or reddish brown-colored flesh.

The fruit is sweet and sour in taste and is high in tartaric acid and sugar. It is available usually around four years after being planted.

Fresh pods can be purchased mid-year in marketplaces. In stores, spice markets, and spice stores, it can be purchased all year round in the form of packaged slices, paste, compressed blocks, etc.

When purchasing be sure to look for whole pods with no cuts, bruises, or broken outer skin. It should not show signs of mold, rot, or a saggy feel. If you are buying the processed form, make sure to get the product from a well-reputed authentic store and brand.

At home, the fresh pods and pulp can be kept for several months inside the refrigerator.

Using Tamarind as a Food Item

The first step is to wash the pods thoroughly in cool running water to remove dirt and soil particles. The next step is to cut open the pod and loosen the pulp and pound it with a wooden mallet.

The seeds can then be removed manually with a paring knife. The pulp can then be soaked in warm water for a few minutes to dissolve the pulp.

Thereafter you can strain the sauce to extract the clear juice which can now be added to your cooking based on instructions from your favorite recipes.

Tamarind is used in the preparation of Chutney and curries in India and Southeast Asia. It is commonly found in vegetable and lentil dishes.

The pulp is also used in marinades and soups, especially those intended to be sweet and sour.

The pulp is also used in commercial settings to make confectioneries, candy, and solidifying agents.

Juice can be extracted from the Tamarind and drank as a refreshing drink flavored with cardamon, cloves, corianderdates, honey, sugar, and ginger depending on which part of the world the drink is being made in.

Nutritional Benefits

Tamarind is a great source of minerals, vitamins, and dietary fiber. it has strong antioxidant properties and contains 239 calories per 100 grams.

it contains no cholesterol and is low in oils and fats. It is a good source of carbohydrates and has some amounts of proteins as well.

Though it is not a very rich source of vitamins, it does have some good amounts of them. It is a pretty decent source of B-complex vitamins, especially thiamin and niacin.

Others include some amounts of folates, pyridoxine, pantothenic acid, and riboflavin. It has some amounts of vitamin C and trace amounts of vitamin A and vitamin K.

In terms of minerals, you get good amounts of potassium, copper, and calcium. There is also quite a bit of iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and fewer amounts of zinc and selenium.

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