Meet sweet and sour tamarind, the most sought after cooking ingredient which we all use in umpteen Punjabi, Mughlai, South Indian, and Bengali recipes for that punchy taste.
Known as Imli in Hindi and Puzhi in Tamil, tamarind tastes wow when you add it to pani-puri, bhel papdi, chaat, dahi-vada, rasam or main course meals such as sambar, chole and many others.
Tamarind is liked by both the young and the old. Tamarind candies (sour imli and sugar combined) are very popular amongst kids, adults, and even senior citizens. Tamarind enhances the taste value of boring dishes to delicious heights. Can you ever imagine eating food without a dash of khatti meethi imli?
Knowing the Tamarind Fruit
A brown coloured elongated fruit, tamarind is covered by a pericarp, which is also brown in colour.
Tamarind is no small ingredient. The average height of a tamarind tree, which grows on roadsides in dense shade, is between 30 to 35 feet.
Talking of its nutritive value, tamarind is rich in tartaric acid and citric acid which gives a tangy feel on the taste buds. Tamarind has loads of minerals such as potassium, zinc, choline, riboflavin, thiamine, sodium, malic acid, dietary fibres. When it’s in an unripe condition, tamarind gives a bitter taste.
Health Benefits of Tamarind
Keeping aside its taste value, tamarind is the culinary ingredient that has several health benefits.
- Best Digestive Aid
Tamarind is a natural laxative owing to the natural fiber in it. Whether you eat it as a spice or fruit, tamarind empowers your digestive system. The fiber in imli adds bulk to your stools making its passage easier in your intestinal tract. In short, tamarind as a laxative is a boon for those suffering from chronic constipation.
Studies done on tamarind have shown positive signs of tamarind with respect to heart. Tamarind reduces high blood pressure and bad LDL cholesterol and ups the good HDL cholesterol.
- Blood Circulation
A single serving of tamarind provides as much as 10% of your daily requirement of iron. Once the levels of iron go up in your body, the red blood cell count goes up too which increases the supply of oxygen to various muscles and organs in the body that need so. There is no iron deficiency and no room for anemia, body weakness or fatigue. So keep eating a bit of tamarind each day to keep anemia at bay.
- Weight Trimming
Tamarind is a good source of a compound called Hydroxycitric Acid (HCA) which is related to fat loss. It is because HCA inhibits an enzyme that stores fat in the body. Also, tamarind curbs appetite and hunger pangs by increasing the levels of serotonin in the body.
- Improved Functioning of Nerves
Tamarind is rich in vitamin B complex thiamine. This helps improve upon the nerve function and muscle development which maintains your reflexes and helps you stay strong.
- Diabetes Management
Tamarind helps monitor blood sugar levels through an enzyme that prevents absorption of carbohydrates or sugars in the body. Excess of carbs in the body has a negative effect on the insulin and glucose levels in the body, which can lead to diabetes.
The essential oils present in tamarind reduce the chances of joint pain, swelling, rheumatic conditions, gout and inflammation of body parts. It also reduces irritation in eyes and brings a soothing effect when it comes to reducing inflammation.
- Enhances Immunity
The Vitamin C present in tamarind boosts your immune system effectively protecting you from fungal and microbial infections. Tamarind is also effective in its antiseptic properties and has been known to remove stomach worms in kids especially in tropical terrains where tamarind is grown.
Medicinal Benefits of Tamarind
Naturally grown wonders are not only good in taste, they contribute to health too. Tamarind is one such cooking ingredient of tremendous value in fighting the common cold and cough to heat stroke, diarrhoea and others.
1. Treating Fever
When you have high fever, soak 25 gm tamarind in water and leave it overnight. The following day, strain the tamarind water and put Isabgol powder in it. Drink this solution twice a day to achieve best results.
2. Treating Sun Strokes
Summers virtually drain your body of water and energy and can often cause sun strokes. Take tamarind, grind it in moderately cold water and apply the paste on your forehead. This is a wonderful technique to ward off sun strokes.
3. Treating Headache
In cases of even a minor headache, most of us have the tendency to pop pills. Nature gives you the best alternative remedy to say goodbye to headaches. Just soak in 5 to 10gm of tamarind in water. Crush and strain the solution after it becomes soluble and pulpy. Add 2-4 tsp of sugar in this concoction and drink it twice a day for best results.
4. Treating Diarrhoea
Upset stomach is very upsetting, especially when you have a hectic day outdoors lined up. Tamarind comes to your aid in the distressful situation of diarrhoea.
All you need to do is boil 10 leaves of tamarind in 500 ml of water till the water reduces to one-fourth and drink it to bring relief.
Alternatively, you can grind peel of tamarind seeds with cumin seeds and add jaggery and take this twice daily.
5. Treating Urinary Disorders
Soak a few tamarind seeds in milk. After three days, take off the peel of tamarind, make a solution out of it, and for consecutively two days take 6 gm of this solution with water or cow’s milk.
6. Treating Throat Inflammation
In order to reduce throat pain, boil 5 gm of tamarind in 2 litres of water. Cook this solution over medium flame till the quantity reduces to half. Now get some rose water and put 10ml of it into this mixture. Strain the solution and gargle with it in order to get best results.
Miscellaneous Uses of Tamarind
- Tamarind proves its worth in culinary dishes such as chutneys, jams and pickles.
- It is also used in several meat preparations, barbecue and Worcestershire sauce.
- The tamarind plant leaves are used to feed silkworms and as livestock fodder.
- The tamarind pulp is used in the coagulation of rubber latex and as a dyeing fixative.
- Mix tamarind pulp with butter in order to prepare an ointment which is effective in treating parasites on pets and livestock.
Side Effects and Warnings
Pregnant women should avoid excess of tamarind consumption. Also breast-feeding women should stay away from it. Add tamarind by all means in food recipes but in moderation.
Tamarind is not just an edible plant but is one with countless benefits. Make the most of it in your everyday diet and see your preventive practices give you the benefit of good health.