Brown, hollow-sounding, unassuming pods; at a glance, one would probably eye it curiously then grab a more familiar fruit. Those in the know however, will fill as big a bag as they can, already envisioning some tasty snacks, juice, cooking paste or perhaps even medicine! The tamarind fruit is so versatile and a real treat to our taste buds.
The tamarind fruit grows on the branches of large, shady trees, turning from green to brown. A seasonal event, children often scale the branches to snip off the pods as soon as they start turning, hoping for some delicious treats. Inside the crackly shells, pulp-coated seeds await extraction. The most popular use – at least in my house growing up – was to soak the pulpy goodness overnight in water, then straining and squeezing. After adding sugar, we’d be drinking a deliciously unique, tart and refreshing juice.
Another common treat, especially for children, is the tamarind candy. After removing the seeds, the pulp is rolled in sugar and formed into balls. The crunchy sugar crystals meld with the tart fruit paste, an irresistible treat that even adults indulge in. Finding them at the corner shops selling homemade is an instant throwback to childhood.
Catapulting the tamarind into an adult-style beverage is that delicious mix of tequila and triple sec. Yes, we’ve even managed to find a way to booze it up – mix some tequila, unsweetened tamarind juice, triple sec and a splash of simple syrup, a dash of lime juice and shake it up. Pour into salt rimmed glass filled with ice and you have yourself a fantastic, exotic tamarind margarita.