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The reddish brown, curved seed pods of a lovely tropical tree hold several large seeds encased by moist, sticky, dark brown flesh that varies from being very sweet to very sour. Tamarind is a large, handsome, symmetrical spreading tree. It has small compound leaves with yellow flowers and brown fruits. The fleshy pulp of the fruit is acidic. The tamarind fruit is used as a food crop and as a flavoring ingredient in a wide range of foods.
The tamarind fruit is encased within a brown pod. Inside the pod of the tamarind is a soft, brown pulp with hard-coated black seeds. It is this pulp that people eat to get all the nutritional and health benefits of the tamarind. The pulp of the tamarind has a very sour taste while it is young, but as it ripens the pulp gets sweeter. Though the pulp will sweeten with age, the tamarind generally has a sour, acidic taste.
Tamarind water can also be made and used for a variety of recipies. Below is the procedure to make tamarind water.
· Crack and open the brittle shells and peel back from the seeds and pulp. Peel off the long strings or fibers and cut the pulp away from the seeds.
· Discard the seeds from the pulp. Soak the pulp in very hot water and work the tamarind with your fingers, mashing the soft parts until they melt into the water to make a thick, reddish brown fluid, which is called "tamarind water".
· Using a fine strainer, press out all the juice from the pulp and add water to make tamarind water or you can also use the strained pulp in recipes calling for tamarind extract or paste.
· The pulp has a pleasing flavor, tasting strongly of apricots, dates, and lemons, and is high in both acid and sugar
How to Select
Tamarinds are available fresh from April to July. And many markets carry tamarind paste and frozen concentrate year round. When buying tamarind, squeeze the package and select one that is as soft as possible and that has a pleasing dark reddish brown color.
During the ripening process, tamarind fruit becomes dehydrated and brittle. It is easily cracked open to expose dark brown, pasty pulp that encloses hard, shiny brown seeds. Hence check on the freshness and quality.
· Tamarind is used in many candies and dishes
· Ripe tamarind may be used in preparing a number of different desserts or sweet drinks.
· It is also used as a spice in curries, for which purpose it is particularly popular in parts of India.
· In Asia, grated green tamarinds are often mixed with hot peppers and salt and eaten as a salad.
· When separated from the shell and seeds, the mature, brown sticky pulp can be made into chutney. The tamarind chutney made with jaggery and cumin seeds is a tasty accompaniment with samosas or pakodas.
· It is also an ingredient in Worcestershire sauce.
· One of the primary souring agents in Thai cooking, imparting a delicious fruity tartness to soups, salads, stir-fries and sauces.
· Sour tamarind is used as a souring agent that adds a pleasant fruity taste. Like lime juice, it also tenderizes.
· Chop and incorporate them into a tamarind chilli sauce
Instead of preparing tamarind pulp every time it is needed, you can prepare it in bulk and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator, to use as and when required. To prepare 1/2 cup of soaked tamarind pulp, soak 1/3 cup deseeded tamarind in 1/4 cup of warm water and keep aside for 15 to 20 minutes. Mash it lightly using fingers.Strain using a muslin cloth or a sieve (adding little water if required).
Tamarind water: To make 1 cup of tamarind water, add ½ cup of water to the prepared tamarind pulp and mix well.
How to Store
Tamarind pods can be stored at room temperature for several weeks, if tightly packaged. To keep them dry and fresh, sprinkle a little salt over them and then store. This will keep it intact and avoid stickiness.
· Snacking on tamarind or eating tamarind jelly or other tamarind- related products can be very beneficial to your health.
· Tamarind is a rich source of vitamins, fiber, potassium, magnesium and other nutrients necessary for good health.
· Tamarind is a good source of antioxidants that fight against cancer and also contains carotenes, vitamin C, flavonoids and the B-vitamins
· Being rich in vitamin C cures scurvy.
· It is beneficial for treating fevers.
· Gargle of tamarind water is helpful in sore throat fevers and provides protection against colds
· Tamarind is used to treat bile disorders
· Tamarind lowers cholesterol and promotes a healthy heart.
It is commonly used to induce sourness in a recipe. It is majorly used in South India to make sambhar, rasam, chutneys etc. Fresh tamarind is soaked in warm water for around 15 to 20 minutes. Once soaked, squeeze well to get fresh tamarind pulp/ paste. If it is diluted with more water, you get tamarind water.