Often seen as a “secret ingredient’’, tamarind is most commonly found sold in jars as a paste in the UK. Classified as a fruit & a spice of sorts, tamarind is part of the legume family alongside peanuts and lentils and is one of the special ingredients in our much loved household favourites Worcestershire and HP Sauce, giving them the zingy flavour we all love.
What is tamarind?
A fruit with a tart, acidic and sweet flavour, the sour fruity taste is a popular ingredient in many Indian and South East Asian savoury dishes but is also used around the world in jams and sweet desserts.
All parts of the tamarind tree are used with oil being created to varnish wood, used to create highly prized furniture, leaves added to curries and the red and yellow flowers sprinkled over salads. It is also used as a dye and due to the pulp having an acidic nature, even makes a good metal polish for copper and bronze!
Medicinally tamarind is thought to have a lot of health benefits and has been used to treat nausea, constipation and to help relieve sunstroke. The bark and leaves have also been used to treat wounds and help with healing.
The fruit is found in three forms – raw pods that can be opened to reveal the sticky pulp inside, pressed blocks which are compressed from the pulp with the seeds and shells removed and concentrate which is the pulp of the tamarind boiled down.
The origins of tamarind
Tamarind is a curved long large brown bean pod that contains a dark red brown sticky date like pulp, with up to 12 black seeds and it comes from a tamarind tree. It is the pulp that has the sweet and sour fruity smell and flavour which is predominantly used in cooking, although the seeds can also be used.
The young green pulp of the tamarind has a tarter taste than the ripened fruit which gives a sweeter taste with a hint of sourness and the seeds are separated from the fruit for the fruit to be turned into a paste.
Tamarind is known as the ‘date of India’ due to the pulp having a brown, sticky date like taste and appearance.
History of tamarind
Originally from Africa, the tamarind tree grows in tropical climates and is common now in India, Pakistan, South Asia, and Mexico.
How is tamarind used in cooking?
An unusual complex ingredient that will add a tartness and sour flavour to a sweet dish such as chutney and is great when added to marinades to soften tough cuts of meat such a beef before cooking.
Imagine delicious curries, soups, pad Thai, grilled chicken, fish cakes and samosas. The seeds are edible and are used ground up to make Indian cakes or as a snack in the Caribbean. Combined with sugar its made into balls and eaten as a dessert on the Caribbean Islands and is often added to jams, chutney, and drinks.
The next Ginger and Spice Festival will take place during September 2020.
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