Tamarind pods come from the tamarind tree, which originated in Africa and now grows in many tropical regions. Tamarind is used in Asian, middle Eastern, Mexican, and South American cuisines. A tamarind tree grows very slowly and up to 100 feet tall. It bears fruits that are around 6 inches in length and look like a large, curved bean pod.
Young tamarind fruit has a pliable brown skin and the inside greenish with whitish seeds.The pulp of the young fruit is green and sour. As it ripens, the juicy pulp becomes paste-like and more sweet-sour. As the fruit matures the greenish insides turn brown and the pod becomes more bulbous. As the fruit dries out, the pod becomes stiff and brittle, the insides become pasty and the seeds turn brown.
Tamarind is a low-glycemic fruit, meaning that it will not cause a blood sugar spike.
The following is nutrition information for 1 cup of raw tamarind pulp:.
- Magnesium: 28% of the RDI.
- Potassium: 22% of the RDI.
- Iron: 19% of the RDI.
- Calcium: 9% of the RDI.
- Phosphorus: 14% of the RDI.
- Vitamin B1 (thiamin): 34% of the RDI.
- Vitamin B2 (riboflavin): 11% of the RDI.
- Vitamin B3 (niacin): 12% of the RDI.
Trace amounts of vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), folate, vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid), copper and selenium.
It also contains 6 grams of fiber, 3 grams of protein and 1 gram of fat. This comes with a total of 287 calories, almost all of which are from sugar.
Tamarind contains polyphenols, antioxidants that help control inflammation in the body. Tamarind is rich in several phytochemicals, including beta-carotene. Polyphenolic compounds found in tamarind can prevent ulcers.
While eating tamarind pulp alone does not offer pain relief, there is evidence that extracts made from many parts of the plant might help with pain.
Tamarind is rich in fiber and has no fat content. Studies suggest that eating tamarind daily can help in weight reduction since it contains flavonoids and polyphenols. Also, tamarind is loaded with hydroxycitric acid, which reduces your appetite by inhibiting amylase, an enzyme responsible for converting carbohydrate into fat.
Amino acids, the building blocks of protein, are necessary for the body to grow and repair tissues. Some amino acids are essential, meaning that the body can’t synthesize them, so people must get them from food. Tamarind contains significant amounts of all the essential amino acids except tryptophan. It meets the standards of the World Health Organization for an ideal protein for the other amino acids.
Tamarind has been used since ancient times as a laxative because of its tartaric acid, malic acid, and potassium content. Its ability to relax abdominal muscles is why it is also used as a remedy for diarrhea. So, while the fruit is used to relieve constipation, the leaves provide treatment from diarrhea, and the root and bark can be consumed to alleviate abdominal pain.
How to Buy
You’ll find that recipes either call for tamarind concentrate or tamarind paste.
Tamarind concentrate is a thick syrup that comes in a jar. Tamarind paste is made by starting with either mature pods or blocks of shelled, pressed tamarinds and then separating the pulp from the seeds and fibers and adding just enough water to make a paste.
You should be able to find the blocks of pressed tamarind in well-stocked grocery stores and international markets, especially Indian, Latin, or Southeast Asian markets. For the pods, check all of the same locations, usually from April through July.
How to Store
Store whole pods in a cool, dark place at room temperature. After opening, stored pods tightly wrapped in the refrigerator will stay good for at least three months. Simply cut off the amount you want to use with a sharp, heavy knife. Well wrapped, frozen, unsweetened tamarind pulp keeps indefinitely in the freezer.
How to Cook
Here’s how to make tamarind paste if you’re starting with a block: First, soften it by soaking it in lukewarm water. Next, use your hands to start breaking it up, loosening the pulp from the fibers and any lingering seeds (often the blocks will be labeled as deseeded, but you still might find a few stray ones). Then press that mixture through a fine mesh sieve to separate out the pulp and leave the fibers behind.
If you’re beginning with tamarind pods, you’ll need to remove the shells and separate the pulp from the seeds – often by boiling and/or soaking the internal contents of the pods in water before you get started. Like tamarind concentrate, you can also find tamarind paste in a jar. But, you’ll get the best flavor by making it yourself.