Who has not relished the tamarind-soured sinigang (sour stew) or the sinampalalukang manok (chicken in tamarind)? Sampalok, salamagi, sambagi, tamarindo, or tamarind is a great taste-maker!
Scientifically called Tamarindus indica (of the plant family Leguminosae), tamarinds are perennial, tropical trees native to Africa, South Asia, South America, and Caribbean Islands.
The tree can reach a height of 80-100 feet. It has heavy drooping branches and dense foliage. Each tree bears irregularly curved pods in abundance all along its branches. It produces edible, pod-like fruits. The mature fruit has a hard brown shell with a sweet and sour juicy pulp inside that is used in many cuisines worldwide. Its tender leaves and young flower buds can be eaten while its seeds can be roasted and ground as coffee substitute.
Generally, tamarind has a variety of health benefits. It is rich in tartaric acid which accounts for its sour taste. (Trivia: tartaric acid is said to be an antioxidant.)
The fruit is also rich in vitamins such as vitamins A and B. Count in minerals like copper, calcium, selenium, zinc, magnesium, potassium, and iron. Its pulp is a good source of dietary fiber, which helps prevent constipation. Sampalok is widely used because of its safety. There are no known reported cases of allergies or toxicities. Some sources state it is proven safe in pregnancy and breastfeeding.