Tamarind

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Seasons/Availability

Tamarind is available early spring to late fall.

It is most often available in its dried form, either whole or as a paste. Fresh pods can be found at some Asian markets and farmers’ markets.

Nutritional Value

Tamarind provides essential nutrients like magnesium, copper and manganese. Additionally, it contains iron, potassium and other trace minerals along with Vitamin B-6, folate and thiamin. Tamarind also contains two important phytochemicals: tartaric acid and malic acid which have antioxidant properties that may help protect cells from damage caused by free radicals. Tamarind is also high in dietary fiber which helps to keep the digestive system healthy.

Uses

Tamarind is widely used in cuisines around the world. It is used to add a sweet and sour flavor to dishes as well as a thickening agent for sauces and curries. The pulp from the pods can also be used in jams, marmalades, chutneys and beverages. Tamarind is often added to soups, stews and other savory dishes to give them an exotic taste. Furthermore, tamarind has medicinal uses such as treating fever, digestive issues and even respiratory problems.

Preparation

Tamarind can be purchased fresh or dried in pod form. To prepare the pulp from the pods you will need to soak it in water for several hours until it becomes soft and then strain off any liquid residue before using. Alternatively, tamarind paste can be purchased in jars or cans and used directly without any additional preparation.

Cooking with Tamarind

When cooking with tamarind, it is important to remember that a little bit goes a long way. A few tablespoons of the paste or pulp are usually enough to impart a pleasant sweet-sour flavor to your dishes. It pairs particularly well with seafood, chicken, vegetables and fruits such as mangoes or oranges. Some classic recipes featuring tamarind include Indian dal (lentil curry) and chutneys for appetizers like samosas. Tamarind can also be used in marinades and glazes for meats such as pork and beef as well as in desserts like mousses, sorbets and ice cream. Tamarind can be purchased in the form of a paste, a pulp or even as a concentrate which can be reconstituted with water. It is also available dried in whole pods or as seeds. When purchasing tamarind, it is important to note that some products may have added sugar or salt so read the labels carefully before buying.

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