Sweet and tangy, tamarind is one of the widely used spice-condiments found in every South-Asian kitchen!
Botanically, the tree is among the large tropical trees belonging to the family of Fabaceae, in the genus: Tamarindus. Scientific name: Tamarindus indica.
|Tamarind pods. Note for brown color fruits (pods) hanging down from a branch.
Photo courtesy: treesftf.
|Tamarind tree (Tamarindus indica).|
Tamarinds are evergreen tropical trees native to Africa. They grow throughout tropical and subtropical regions of Africa, South Asia, South America and Caribbean islands for their fruits.
It is a large tree with long, heavy drooping branches, and dense foliage. The completely grown-up tree might reach up to 80 feet in height. During each season, curvy, bean-shaped fruit pods cover all over its branches in abundance. Each pod has a hard, outer coat (shell) encasing beaded, deep brown, soft pulp. The fruit flesh in turn envelopes around 2-10 hard, dark-brown seeds. Inside the shell, this edible fruit pulp is held together by extensive fiber network that runs its entire length from pedicle to the tip.
Tamarind fruit contains certain health benefiting essential volatile chemical compounds, minerals, vitamins and dietary fiber.
Its sticky pulp is a rich source of non-starch polysaccharides (NSP) or dietary fiber such as gums, hemicelluloses, mucilage, pectin, and tannins. 100 g of fruit pulp provides 5.1 or over 13% of dietary fiber. NSP or dietary fiber in the food increases its bulk and augments bowel movements thereby help prevent constipation. The fiber also binds to toxins in the food thereby help protect the colon mucosa from cancer-causing chemicals.
Also, dietary fibers in the pulp bind to bile salts (produced from cholesterol) and decrease their reabsorption in the colon; thereby help in expulsion of “bad” or LDL cholesterol levels from the body.
While lemon composes citric acid, tamarind is rich in tartaric acid. Tartaric acid gives the sour taste to food besides its intrinsic activity as a potent antioxidant. (Antioxidant E-number is E334). It, thus, helps the human body protect from harmful free radicals.
Tamarind fruit contains many volatile phytochemicals such as limonene, geraniol, safrole, cinnamic acid, methyl salicylate, pyrazine, and alkylthiazoles. Together, these compounds account for the medicinal properties of tamarind.
This prized condiment spice is a good source of minerals like copper, potassium, calcium, iron, selenium, zinc and magnesium. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps control heart rate and blood pressure. Iron is essential for red blood cell production and as a co-factor for cytochrome oxidases enzymes.
Further, it is also rich in many vital vitamins, including thiamin (36% of daily required levels), vitamin-A, folic acid, riboflavin, niacin, and vitamin-C. Much of these vitamins plays antioxidant as well as co-factor functions for enzyme metabolism in the human body.
Its pulp has been used in many traditional medicines as a laxative, digestive, and as a remedy for biliousness and bile disorders.
This spice condiment is also used as an emulsifying agent in syrups, decoctions, etc., in different pharmaceutical products.
|Tamarind pods. Note for brown color, tart and sweet-flavored pulp enclosed inside a semi-hard shell.|
Fresh tamarind pods are available in late spring and early summer seasons. However, processed tamarind types like compressed tamarind blocks, ready-to-use slices, paste, concentrates, balls, etc., can be more readily available in the condiment stores and spice markets.
Choose fresh unbroken pods packed in boxes. If you are purchasing processed form, buy the product from a well reputed authentic brand. Avoid old, desiccated pulp, or off-smelling products.
Once at home store the pods or pulp inside the refrigerator where it will stay fresh for several months.
|Tamarind and chili pavlova.
Photo courtesy: Rc
Delicately sweet and sour, tamarind is one of the most sought-after ingredients in Indian, Middle Eastern and South-East Asian cooking. In some Indian households, its pods are cut open, and fresh pulp is used as and when required. After loosening pulp by pounding it with “wooden stick” kept at home especially for the same purpose, its seeds are then manually removed. One may also use a paring knife to separate seeds.
In general, a small portion of the pulp is soaked in half a cup of warm water for about 10 minutes. Swirl the pulp with your fingers so that it is dissolved evenly in water to prepare a thin sauce. Strain the juice through a filter or thin cloth sieve before using in cooking.
Here are some serving tips:
Tamarind is a common ingredient all over India and South-East Asia in curries, “rasam,” chutneys, as well as in vegetable and lentil recipes.
The pulp is also favored in “hot and sour” soups as well in marinades.
Its pulp is also employed in confectionaries as a solidifying agent.
Tamarind has no known reported cases of allergic or toxicity and may be safely used in pregnancy and nursing mothers.
(Medical Disclaimer: The information and reference guides on this website are intended solely for the general information for the reader. It is not to be used to diagnose health problems or for treatment purposes. It is not a substitute for medical care provided by a licensed and qualified health professional. Please consult your health care provider for any advice on medications.)
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