Sweet and sticky, tamarind reminds me a little bit of sticky taffy or caramel. Definitely nature's candy with the lovely twist of actually being good for you.
It definitely satisfies the sweet tooth without the sugary overload of an actual piece of candy. You just have to be sure to carefully chew around the very interesting seeds. Tamarind pods come from the Tamarind tree, which originates in tropical regions of Africa but has made its way around the world. Tamarind trees are impressive in stature and can reach a height of up to 100 ft. producing hundreds of seed pods at a time. The pods can be left on the tree for up to 6 months without suffering any significant impact to the freshness or flavor, making them incredibly versatile.
Young pods are a bit sourer and can be used in culinary endeavors that require a more diverse flavor spectrum running from sweet to sour. More mature pods are sweet and tasty without being sugary or cloyingly sweet. Tamarind is a popular ingredient in cuisine from many cultures and shows up in the form of drinks, chutneys, jams, candies, curries, ice creams, pastes...it seems to fit into any dish imaginable.
From a health perspective, the tamarind has some very interesting properties, not the least of which is its fiber content. As a folk remedy, tamarind has been used to treat digestive issues, including nausea and even intestinal parasites. Research is revealing that tamarind has antimicrobial, antibacterial, and antifungal qualities. Studies also demonstrate that the chemical compounds in tamarind make it useful for gall bladder and liver issues, as well as, decreasing cholesterol and blood pressure.