Tamarind is the brown, tart flesh from the pods of a tree in the pea and bean family. The flesh surrounds the brown shiny seeds within the sausage-shaped pod.
Tamarind scientifically known as (Tamarindus Indica) is a sticky, sour-tasting fruit that grows in large brown pods on the tamarind tree, a common fruit tree that grows all over Asia and also in Mexico. The fruit is removed from the pods and must be separated from the seeds in order to use it. The taste of tamarind fruit is very sour, so whatever recipe you’re making will need sugar or some kind of sweetener. The texture of tamarind is very sticky and paste-like, and the color of tamarind fruit is dark brown.
Tamarind or Tamar-I-hind, the ‘date of India’ as the Arabs described it, is one of the most widespread trees of the Indian subcontinent. It may have originated in Africa, but its history in South Asia is ancient and it is widespread in the region.
It is widely used to provide a sweet and tart flavour to savoury meat and vegetable dishes and in juices and deserts in South Asia. India is the top producer, growing tamarind in orchard-like plantations for domestic use and export.
People living in tropical Asia, the Caribbean and Latin America know that eating tamarind means eating healthy.
Tamarind seeds are used traditionally to treat diabetes, fevers and intestinal infections. They are also used in the treatment of both diarrhea and as a laxative. This activity could be associated with a group of protein compounds known as lectins that are present in tamarind.
The pulp from the seed pods is applied to painful joints and is mixed with salt and used as a gargle to treat sore throats. It is given to people who are suffering from sunstroke and those who have had too much alcohol to drink.
The leaves are boiled and applied to swollen joints, boils and sprains. Infusions of the leaves are used to treat jaundice.
The sour fruit reduces fevers and provides protection against colds. Make an infusion by taking one ounce of pulp, pour one quart of boiling water over this and allow to steep for one hour. Strain and drink tepid with a little honey to sweeten, this will bring down the temperature by several degrees.
Finally, tamarind is a good source of antioxidants that fight against cancer. Tamarind contains carotenes, vitamin C, flavanoids and the B-vitamins.
Tamarind is available in specialty food stores worldwide in pod form or as a paste or concentrate if you feel the need to try out the health benefits of the tamarind fruit.