Strange Fruits: Tamarind Or Tambran Pods & Three Cheers for Fruit Season!

Winter is a bit of dry spell for fruit variety here in Belize.  Sure you can always access oranges, bananas, grapefruit and watermelon.  During the holiday season, apples seem to be shipped in from the USA in large quantity.  And it’s fine.   But they say “variety is the spice of life” and, I’ll be honest, I can hardly even look at a banana anymore much less eat it.So, over this past week, I’ve been happy to see some fruit variety come to the local road side produce stand.  Yesterday the strange and delicious custard apples.  Not the world’s most photogenic fruit but if you are looking for something healthy that tastes strangely like ice cream?  This is it.

They are accidentally posing next to a banana.  Why is it that local bananas are covered with that powdery, sticky stuff?  Something natural that is probably power washed off with bleach & lye by Dole before it ships to the states?

I also saw some small plums…delightful.  Just about two bites, they are the perfect snacking fruit.

Green mangoes are here and you can see everyone snacking on slices sprinkled liberally with hot pepper and salt.

The most interesting fruit yesterday was tamarind (or tambran as it’s called locally).  A flavor that is actually pretty common world-wide – it’s a major ingredient in Lea & Perrin Worcestshire sauce, Britain’s HP Sauce and many Indian chutneys.  Tamarind is a tree common to Africa and was introduced into Mexico in the 16th century.  That tree produces a large juicy, sticky seed inside a brown pod.

The flavor is CRAZY tart, SUPER sour.  The lady at the fruit stand was amused by my puckering and then gagging.  Unless you are making some sort of pickle or chutney, to even think of eating it, decent amounts of sugar need to be introduced.

Here are some more palatable products at the local store.

BetaMex.  Sounds more like a Mexican computer conglomerate than a candy.  It is a strange sticky tamarind covered straw rolled in chile and sugar.  Lancita de chile.

More to my liking is this Tamarind concentrate.  Mostly sugar, it makes the VERY BEST and seemily exotic mojitos and caipirinhas.  Use this instead of sugar for something sweet, sour and delicious.  Or a splash with rum and soda?  Yum.

To make the juice from scratch, you need to cover 2 cups of tamarind pulp (apparently it’s okay to leave the seeds in since you strain it later) with 2 quarts of boiling water.  Mix in sugar or honey to taste and allow to sit for a few hours or overnight.  Strain through a cheese cloth or fine strainer, add in more sugar and water to taste and voila!  Served over it over ice.

Sounds like too much work to me.

So…a big Hip hip hooray for fruit season.  Spring and summer will bring all sorts of goodies and…well look at that!  I’ve posted about many in the past.  If you are interesting:  SoursopDragon Fruit, Passion Fruit, Craboo and Seagrapes, beautiful cashew fruit and wax apples (the latter also now available) and Kinep.