Tamarind is used in desserts, as a jam, blended into juices, or sweetened drinks, sorbets, ice creams and other snacks. In Western cuisine, it is found in Worcestershire Sauce. In most parts of India, tamarind extract is used to flavor foods, in curries and traditional dishes, and tamarind sweet chutney is popular in India and Pakistan as a dressing for many snacks. Tamarind pulp is a key ingredient in flavoring curries and rice in south Indian cuisine, as well as in the Chigali lollipop. Very popular in Indian cuisine where it can be found in concentrates, sauces, pastes, pickles and chutney. Chutney is a type of thick jam often used to accompany cheese such as cheddar and Indian dishes. Tamarind can also be found as flavouring in digestive chewable tablets, in refreshing drinks, great accompaniment to Indian food.
The most outstanding characteristic of tamarind is its sweet acidic taste, the acid due mostly to tartaric acid, ranging from 12 to 23% and uncommon in other plant tissues.
It is an unusual plant acid, which is formed from the primary carbohydrate products of photosynthesis, and once formed, it cannot be further used in the plant due the absence of the necessary enzymes. Although tartaric acid occur in other sour fruits, such as grapes, grapefruit and raspberries, it is not present in such high proportions as in tamarind. It is synthesised in leaves and transfer to the fruit during ripening.
The content of tartaric acid, however, doesn’t decrease during fruit ripening, but during this time, reducing sugars increase to 30-40 % giving the sour fruit a sweeter taste. As the acidity does not disappear with ripening, but is more or less matched with increasing sugar levels, tamarind is known to be simultaneously the most acidic and sweetest fruit.
In general the dried tamarind pulp of commerce contains 8-18% tartaric acid and 25-45% reducing sugars of which 70% is glucose and 30% fructose. One half of the tartaric acid is present as potassium bitartrate.
The ascorbic acid content in tamarind is very small and even is present only in traces.
Tamarind pulp is also rich in minerals: high in potassium, phosphorus and calcium and a fair source of iron and magnesium.
It also excels in riboflavin and is a good source of thiamine and niacin but is poor in vitamin A and vitamin C.