Imli (tamarind), which is also known as aamli, is a fruit originating in Africa, but it is also grown in India and in many other regions with tropical climates, including parts of North America.
This “Indian date” is brown and has irregularly curved pods that are 3 – 8 inches long. When fully ripe, the shells of the pods are brittle and easily broken, while the pulp inside turns a reddish-brown. The imli pulp has a delicious sweet and sour flavour and is high in both acid and sugar. It is also contains minerals and fibre.
Imli is a versatile ingredient: it can be eaten raw as a bean, used for flavouring like a spice, and enjoyed as chutney, a condiment, and even as a refreshing beverage. According to the Canadian Nutrient file, ¼ cup (8-10 pods or 30 grams) of raw imli pulp has 75 Calories, 1.5 grams of fibre and 17.5 grams of natural sugar (simple carbohydrates). It has at least 5 per cent of the daily value of iron, magnesium and potassium.
Although imli has a sour flavour, unlike other sour fruits, it has almost no vitamin C.
Three things to do with imli:
- Choose fresh: a few peeled pods of fresh imli sprinkled with a touch of chili powder make a great appetizer or post-meal treat.
- Imli chutney: Soak ⅓ cup of imli pulp in ¼ cup of warm water for 15–20 minutes and blend to make a sauce. There is no need to add extra sugar, but adding a little chili powder and salt to this mixture can turn this into a chutney which can be added to soups, curries, or even used as a marinade for meats.
- Imli juice: Soak one cup of imli pulp in three cups of warm water and strain any seeds or fibres. Add some flavour such as cinnamon, grated ginger, or lime, then blend and serve over ice for a refreshing beverage.
Due to the high natural sugar content of imli, it should be consumed in moderation and not eaten daily. By preparing your own paste or juice rather than buying processed imli, you can also control the amount of sugar and salt that are added.