Saturday, September 15, 2012

Tropical Fruit: Tamarind or "Date of India"

Tropical Fruit-Tamarind 
Tamarind, Tamarindo or Tambran (Trinidadian dialect)  is a cinnamon-brown skinned, 2-7 inch long, oblong and podded fruit, native to tropical climates.  The pod starts off green however, as the fruit matures (ripens), the pod's moisture content decreases, hollows out and turns brown. The pod has a smooth texture and cracks without much force. The pulp is reddish brown, tart**, sticky and contains anywhere between 1 to 10 shiny black seeds per pod (1). However, unlike many tropical fruits tamarind when ripe has a distinctively subtle scent, which can only be described as earthy and not fruity (sweet). The high concentration of tartaric acid and other organic acids in tamarind gives it its tartness. 

Tamarind Nutrition 
Like many fruits, tamarind pulp is carbohydrate rich but a fair source of fibre. 100 grams of  tamarind pulp contains 5 grams fibre. This may account for it having a medium glycaemic index of 65 (2)(4). It is also high in potassium, phosphorus and magnesium and notably low in vitamin C, calcium and iron per 100 grams. 

Commercial Tamarind Products
The pulp is consumed and prepared in a number of ways; some eat the pulp raw others use it to make beverages and savoury/sweet side dishes or treats. Raw, unadulterated tamarind pulp is known to have a mild laxative effect in some persons (3). The pulp is also used in homoeopathic therapies to treat sore throat, bile disorders and alcohol intoxication. In Columbia, the pulp is mixed with other items and used as a tonic for domestic animals (3).  For more on the homoeopathic applications of other parts of the tamarind tree please visit page eight of the third reference and pages 75 to  81 in the first reference listed below.

Nevertheless, while many discard the shiny black seeds, others utilise them in the following ways:-
⃟ Tamarind gum is extracted from the seeds. Tamarind gum is used as a sizing agent in preparation of some textiles amongst others (3)(5).
 Tamarind seeds/kernel- The black shiny seeds are roasted and shelled to reveal a cream coloured 'seed' or kernel. This is seasoned and eaten as you would peanuts or grounded into a powder to be used as an adulterant in coffee (3) or thickening agent or used for animal feed (6).
 Tamarind Oil- The oil is extracted and used for painting dolls or statues (3).

In all, despite tamarind being a poor source of vitamin C, and iron it makes a worthy addition to ones diet once in season. Tamarind's tart flavour and odd appearance are the characteristics that make it a dynamic and versatile fruit. Seeing that, its applications extends beyond everyday sweets, beverages or savoury items. 

What are some of your favourite ways to consume this tropical fruit?

** please note tamarind can also be naturally sweet.
1) De Caluwé, E; Halamová, K and Van Damme, P. ( 2010). Tamarindus indica L. : a review of traditional uses, phytochemistry and pharmacology. Afrika Focus. 23 (1), 53-83.
2) Klapp, E. Glycaemic Index Food LIst. Available: http:/ns/ Last accessed 15th Sep 2012.
3) Loha-Unchit, K. Tamarind-Makahm. Available: Last accessed 15th Sep 2012.
4) Tamarind. Available: Last accessed 15th Sep 2012.
5) Tamarind Products. Available: Last accessed 15th Sep 2012.
6) Tamarind Pulp. Available: Last accessed 15th Sep 2012.

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