Tamarind pods come from the tamarind tree, which originally came from Africa, but can now be commonly found, and used in the cuisine of, Asia, Arabia, Australia, Mexico, and South America. In Mexico and some other Latin American countries, it is called tamarindo.
The sticky pulp of the brown pods is edible and has a sweet and sour flavor. It is used in dishes for a tangy component (such as in pad thai) and in desserts, beverages, syrups, sauces, and candy.
Tamarind has been a long-time folk remedy with a long list of uses, including treatment of sore throats and sun stroke. It may also have antibiotic properties. Animal studies have shown that tamarind can lower cholesterol and blood sugar levels. However, studies on humans have yet to confirm this.
Tamarind is still a source of carbohydrates, and it must be limited and factored into a well-balanced diet. It is best eaten plain in small amounts or used as a condiment to spruce up the flavor of food and beverages.
This food is an excellent source of vitamin B, vitamin C, potassium, magnesium, iron, thiamine, phosphorus, riboflavin, and fiber.
Where to Find Tamarind
Tamarind can be purchased in pod form or in a paste, sauce, or block. Many grocery stores stock it, and it can also be found in Mexican and Asian markets. There is usually no added sugar or other ingredients, but be sure to check the label. Tamarind is a popular Mexican sweet and it is made into candy, drinks, and syrup. These preparations often have a lot of added sugar.
Simple "Recipe" for Tamarind
The simplest way to enjoy tamarind is in the pod form. Break off the brown outer pod and remove the stringy part that looks like a small root wrapped around the pulp. You will be left with a long piece of pulp that has rock-hard seeds inside the size of large corn niblets. Cut it into sections and eat, nibble around the seeds and spit them out. Keep in mind too much tamarind can have a laxative effect, so don't overdo it.
The tamarind sections can be put into a baggie or container for lunch or a snack. I've even seen it put into bento lunch boxes. Tamarind is a fun ingredient to play and experiment with while cooking and can add a slightly sweet and delicious flavor to food.
A ½ cup of tamarind contains 140 calories, 38 g carbohydrate, 3 g fiber and 2 g of protein.