Ground Tamarind: An Overview
One of the most flavorful ingredients in Indian cooking, tamarind is the edible fruit of the Tamarind tree. The tree produces a small pod that contains tiny seeds and a sour flesh, and when dried and ground, the pulp is sweet, yet tart. Some tamarind can be quite sour.
It has numerous uses in Indian cuisine. Tamarind is used in chutneys, sauces and stews to provide a sweet, tangy flavor similar to a mix of lemons and dates.
Culinary Uses for Ground Tamarind
Tamarind is actually native to Madagascar, yet it’s much more popular in India and throughout Asia. The spice has a unique flavor profile. And that’s one reason its often used to add complexity to dry rubs, marinades and barbecue sauces.
Tamarind has many uses in the kitchen, and it’s commonly used in Indian, Thai, and Chinese cooking. A few common uses include:
- Souring Agent – Tamarind is well-known for its tangy flavor, and its natural sour flavor helps to balance spicy dishes, including curries and chutneys.
- Hot and Sour Soups – In Chinese and Thai cooking, ground tamarind is widely used in hot and sour soups, as well as tom yom soups.
- Soups and Stews – Tamarind adds a complex flavor to simmering dishes and sauces. A dash of ground tamarind provides a tangy, sour-sweet flavor that complements spicy and peppery flavors.
Around the world, tamarind is a popular ingredient. The powder is used in sweet Jamaican dishes, candies and some drinks. If you like Asian flavors, ground tamarind is a must-have spice.
The tamarind tree thrives in hot, tropical climates, and it’s grown in abundance throughout India. The tree is an evergreen species that grows very tall – up to 75 feet or taller. Tamarind grows in the wild and it is farmed. And the trees produce pods that resemble long peanuts. The pods must be husked, and the fleshy pulp is then ground and dried to make the powder.
The trees produce fruit for decades, 50-60 years on average. And each year, a single tree might produce as much as 500 pounds of the fruit.
Tamarind originates in Madagascar, but thousands of years ago, it spread throughout Africa, India and Southeast Asia. According to historians, Persian traders and explorers first propagated the fruit, and as it spread north, it became an important commodity in the spice trade.
Tamarind wasn’t introduced in the Americas for much longer. The Spanish were the first to use tamarind in the Americas, sometime around 1620. And it appeared in the Caribbean around this time as well.
The fleshy pods have many uses around the world, and have been used for centuries. Tamarind has been used in folk medicine in Southeast Asia as a laxative and fever reducer. And the lumber of the tamarind tree is a favorite wood for crafting and furniture manufacturing. Even lemurs love the sour-sweet fruit; in Africa, several species of lemur get up to 50 percent of their calories from tamarind pods.
About Our Ground Tamarind
Burma Spice sources our tamarind from the Indian state of Karnataka. Located along India’s south-western coast, Karnataka’s tropic climate provides ideal growing conditions for the tree. In fact, Karnataka produces the most tamarind of any state in the country.
In Karnataka, the tamarind trees are often planted alongside mango trees, another important crop in the region. We work with small, family-owned and operated growers throughout the state, although primarily in the Kolbar district.