Mother nature is now channeling the end to a much appreciated and West Indian favourite,“ tamarind season”. Historically tamarind is indigenous to Africa, and was said to have been brought to Jamaica and the Caribbean through the Trans-Atlantic slave trade of the 16 and 17 century. Tamarind season is like an annual fiesta that runs from January – April, capturing the taste buds of Caribbean nationals and all willing to indulge in its tangy sensation. The joy brought to us by this tantalizing fruit cannot be contained on Kitchen shelves and snacks stalls across the Indies. So please join me in paying tribute while I explore the delicious uses and health benefits derived from this mouthwatering sweet and sour Caribbean treat.
Snack Time – “Tamarind Balls”
Saturday morning acts, after school frolic and the much anticipated break time at primary or secondary school has always been captivated by the act of picking tamarind from the neighbour’s tree, harvesting the fruit from its shells or dashing to nearby stalls and tuck shops to purchase the beloved “tamarind ball.” Whatever it may be , no West Indian childhood is complete without the presence of tamarind. To create this delight, the sticky pod fruit ranging from light to dark brown in colour is carefully removed from the covering of its brittle light brown shells. Sugar along with a touch of other spices such as nutmeg is then added before being rolled into thumb size balls.
Jams and Jellies
As expected the commercial food and beverage sector has taken advantage of nature’ gift to the Indies. But we aren’t complaining; supermarket shelves across the globe have stacked and packed our delicacy for all year access to a popular and tasty representation of Caribbean flavor through the manufacturing of Jams and Jellies. These delectable fillings are used as rich, sophisticated toppings for pancakes, toast, crackers or used as main ingredient in tamarind sauce bases for Caribbean and Asian cuisines.
Not only is our beloved tamarind a rich and scrumptious treat that excites the taste buds but its properties exhibits multiple health benefits to the joy of the body . Rich in vitamin C, Calcium, Iron, B vitamins and dietary fiber among other organic compounds, tamarind is a powerful anti-oxidant and inflammatory agent. Among its major benefits is its contribution to improving digestive health. Tamarind is considered a natural laxative which means eating the fruit increases the efficiency of the digestive system allowing you to pass stool more easily. Tamarind also helps to speed up digestion by dissolving food and juices quickly.
Now that you’ve uncovered the many uses of this Caribbean favourite, take the load off, kick your feet up and enjoy this tropical Margarita, Tamarind style.
- 1 tbsp tamarind pulp*
- 3 tbsp water
- ½ cup tequila
- 2 ½ tbsp. sugar
- ¼ cup fresh lime juice
- Juice from ½ an orange
- Combine tamarind pulp and water in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir until tamarind pulp is completely dissolved; remove from heat.
- Strain the tamarind mixture into a shaker and add tequila, and sugar. Shake vigorously. Fill shaker with ice and add lime juice and orange juice. Shake again until combined. Strain into two margarita glasses.
- *Soak 14 oz tamarind block in lukewarm water for 20 minutes, push through sieve to collect pulp.