As a kid growing up, tamarind candy was my favorite because it was tangy and a little spicy. Tamarind candy always had chili powder and salt (plus sugar, of course!) to really satisfy all tastes. My favorite one was pure tamarind paste that came in a small plastic packet. And even though it’s easy for me to walk into a bodega or even a regular supermarket here in the Bay Area, I still get real excited when I see foods in their native land. It is very typical to see tamarind confections and eaten fresh in Mexico.

So, when I saw these shelled fresh tamarind pods when I went to Mexico City earlier this year, I was all about it.

Tamarind is an ancient food that is primarily used in Sri Lanka, India, Mexico and other tropical regions is a sticky and chewy brown fruit that grows in a paper-like skin pod. There are inedible little seeds inside the tamarind pod. Some people describe its taste between an apricot and a date. It is definitely tart with a sweet finish.

Tamarind eases stomach discomfort, aids in digestion, and is used as a laxative. Preparations are used for fevers, sore throats, and to reduce nausea in pregnancy. You can dry or boil the leaves & flowers to make poultices for swollen joints, sprains, boils, hemorrhoids & conjunctivitis.

Here’s a cool little fact, tamarind is actually a secret ingredient in Worcestershire sauce and is used in many curry dishes and meat marinades.

If you want to make a paste, it’s real simple.

  • Remove the hard shell and the strings attached to the pods.

  • Boil in water to cover for 2 minutes and allow it cool.

  • With your fingers, press the seeds from the pulp. Discard the seeds and pods.

  • Using a fork, puree the pulp with the water to create an extract.

  • The extract can be stored in a closed jar in the fridge for up to a week.

I love cracking the skin off and taking a bite right off the bat. It is nature's little candy.