Almost every adult in India has a tangy childhood memory attached to tamarind. Even now, merely thinking of the reddish-brown tamarind pod, the mouth fills with a gush of saliva.
In the tropical belt and in many middle-eastern countries, tamarind is a household item as essential in the kitchen as salt. But that’s not just because of the unique taste it adds to the food but also because of its impressive nutritional profile.
Tamarind pulp is loaded with non-starch polysaccharides [dietary fibre] that provides the bulk, which helps prevent constipation. Tamarind is antihelminthic, which means it helps expel worms from your system. Softened pulp also helps improve appetite.
When boiled in milk, the pulp is effective in preventing dysentery. Or, you can even have tamarind seed powder mixed with cumin seeds [equal proportion] and sugar.
Tamarind eases nausea felt during pregnancy. It is beneficial in gall or urinary stones and jaundice. Tamarind juice is used to cure bile disorders.
Tamarind pulp is often applied to painful or swollen joints for pain relief; it also relieves sprains. A poultice of tamarind leaves crushed in water helps reduce inflammation in ankle and other joints.
A fine powder made from burnt tamarind leaves, mixed with sesame oil helps heal burn wounds. The tamarind heals the wound and oil keeps moisture. The oil also prevents entry of any germs, keeping away infections. Tamarind leaves also prevent oedema.
Drops made from tamarind seed are used to find relief in the dry eye syndrome. The seed contains polysaccharide, which helps the drops stick to the eye longer.
The vitamin C, anti-oxidants and phytochemicals present in tamarind help strengthen immunity.
Fever, sore throat and infections
Tamarind pulp mixed with half the proportion of honey can alleviate fever. Tamarind water has been used for gargling away a sore throat. Rasam prepared from tamarind water, helps flush out toxins and clears blocked nasal and throat passages. The phytochemicals tannins, saponins, alkaloids present in tamarind have anti-bactericidal properties.
The tartaric acid present in tamarind is an excellent antioxidant that protects the body from free radical damage. Tamarind also contains carotenes, flavonoids and vitamin C—all of which augment its cancer-fighting ability.
Tamarind in your diet
Tamarind is predominantly used in South Indian dishes like rasam [south Indian soup], sambhar, chutneys, pickles, vegetable and lentil dishes. It is also used in non-veg gravies for the tangy flavour.
- Tamarind pulp is used in different parts of the world in soups and marinades.
- Tamarind is also used in mocktails like the Mexican Aqua-fresh in which 2 tbsp tamarind nectar is added to 2 cups of cold water and ice. The drink is then served with a lemon wedge.
- Tamarind pulp, lemon juice, sugar and olive oil mixed together make for an interesting salad dressing.
- Tamarind is added to jaggery to make confectionary.
- Tamarind pulp, dates, honey, cardamom and cloves mixed in cold water makes for refreshing drink.
- Tamarind is extensively used in preparing Worcestershire sauce, brown sauce, jams and jellies.
Use raw tamarind if you want an extreme sour taste and ripe [reddish brown] for the sweet and sour taste.
You can get fresh tamarind in summer, processed forms such as concentrates, pastes, juice and pulp are available all through the year. While purchasing the processed versions of tamarind, don’t buy old or off-smelling products.
Refrigerate the fresh pods for prolonged use. Dried tamarind stays well when kept at room temperature in an air-tight container.