Often hard to distinguish, the tangy taste of tamarind works synergistically with the ingredients it is paired with. These long, brown, curved and slender pods are found high in the tree tops of the tamarind tree and are a member of the fabaceae family along with beans, peas and other legumes.
A native of Africa, the tamarind is a highly prized fruit in South Asia and is utilized in several different ethnic cuisines. Along with its popularity as a souring agent in many dishes, the tamarind has been used medicinally for centuries.
Known traditionally to quell many digestive woes, the fruit has also been used as treatment for sore throats, fevers, rheumatism, inflammation, and sunstroke while the leaves and flowers have often been incorporated into healing topical poultices.
The unique pod of the tamarind houses small seeds and a sticky pulp which will dehydrate to form a brown paste. A 100 gram serving of the tamarind provides 36 percent of the daily requirement for thiamine, 35 percent of iron, 23 percent of magnesium and 16 percent of phosphorus as well as a fair serving of niacin, calcium, vitamin D and copper.
Along with its high vitamin and mineral content, the tamarind’s sticky paste also provides a wealth of polyphenols and flavonoids, each contributing numerous health benefits. One study noted that the combination of these potent compounds have an anti-diabetic affect, leading researchers to investigate potential tamarind-based diabetic medications in the future.
And other research suggests one specific phytochemical, geraniol, may play a role in suppressing pancreatic tumor growth, warranting further investigation into new potential cancer treatments.
Along with tamarind’s antidiabetic and anti-cancer properties, research has found that the fruit also has an antibacterial effect. Both the inner pulp and the stem bark have been noted to exhibit these properties.
Purchasing tamarind may be easiest at an Asian foods or specialty store, though some grocers may carry the processed version of the fruit which has been compressed into a ball and drizzled with a sweet sugary syrup. The fruit may also be sold as whole dried pods, compressed blocks including the pulp and seeds, frozen unsweetened pulp, frozen nectar or a concentrated paste.
Tamarind is most often used as a souring agent and brings a different flavor to every dish. It can be found simmered into curry sauces, marinades, dips or chutneys, incorporated into drinks or sorbets or served as a desert paste with sweetened syrup. Extremely potent, a little tamarind goes a long way, but don’t be afraid to experiment with this unique paste as it’s nutritional profile is as diverse as its flavor.
- 1 tablespoon organic coconut oil
- 1 teaspoon organic cumin seeds
- 1 teaspoon organic ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon organic cayenne pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon organic fennel seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon organic garam masala
- 2 cups filtered water
- 1 1/8 cups organic sugar
- 3 tablespoons organic tamarind paste
Heat the oil in a saucepan adding the cumin seeds, ginger, cayenne pepper, fennel seeds, and garam masala. Cook and stir for about 2 minutes. Slowly stir the water into the pan along with the sugar and tamarind paste. Bring to a boil, then simmer over low heat. The mixture will turn a deep chocolaty brown. After about 20 to 30 minutes, it should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Remove from heat and allow to cool and thicken. Serve with the gluten-free bread or chips of your choice.
- 1 tablespoon organic coconut oil
- 1½ teaspoon organic fennel seeds
- 1 medium organic onion, chopped
- 1 can organic chopped tomatoes
- 3 organic green chillies, seeded and quartered
- 2-3 tsp organic sugar
- 1 teaspoon organic paprika
- 1 teaspoon organic turmeric
- 1 can organic chickpeas
- 1 tablespoon organic tamarind paste
- 1 tablespoon organic chopped fresh coriander
- Organic baby spinach leaves
Heat the oil in a saucepan and add the fennel seeds and the onion, allowing to cook for 8-10 minutes until golden. Mix in the tomatoes, chillies, sugar, paprika, turmeric and chickpeas. Bring the mixture to a boil and then simmer for 10 minutes. Slowly stir in the tamarind and coriander. Once well-blended, add the spinach leaves just until they’ve wilted. This dish can be served with organic yogurt if desired.
-The Alternative Daily