Stand aside, Baby Bottle Pops, Gushers and Skittles. My daughter and her friends enjoy snacking on tamarind balls just as much as they on do nutrient-less contemporary candies.
Tamarind balls are a sweet-sour confection that has the side benefit of adding a bit of the blood-building mineral iron to the diet. Since some store-bought varieties are chockful of cayenne or black pepper, we've learned to make our own.
The tamarind tree, also known as Indian date, is native to Asia and northern Africa. Its pods, 4 to 5 inches long, contain small seeds with a sour-sweet pulp that when dried becomes really sour. That's why recipes for tamarind balls contain quite a bit of sugar. Some people also add garlic, black pepper or cayenne pepper for flavoring. You can make tamarind balls from the pods themselves, or buy tamarind paste available in the produce department at local supermarkets.
Tamarind balls store well. Just keep them in a glass or plastic jar with a tight lid. They also fit neatly into resealable plastic bags for school snacks. Make a double batch if you really like these treats, because I know from experience they do go fast!
1/2 cup tamarind pulp
1 cup granulated white or brown sugar
Remove tamarind flesh from the seeds, by scraping with a knife or by rubbing the seeds and sugar against the sides of the bowl with a wooden spoon. Mix the tamarind flesh with the sugar, and roll into a smooth ball, about 3/4 inch in diameter, with a tamarind seed in the center. Roll the ball in granulated sugar, and store in an airtight container.
Makes 24 balls. Per ball: 42 calories, no fat, no cholesterol, no sodium.
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