Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Tamarind and an Indian Meal

The many ways Indians use their fruits, vegetables, herbs, and spices simply astounds me. With the increasing privatization of healthcare and costs being at an expensive level for most poor people, it is important to value the knowledge of the tribal people and medicine women of villages with regard to plant use. This knowledge is centuries old and is actually rather effective. The fruit of the tamarind tree is just one of the many healing agents in India that is used for multiple purposes. The tree itself is leguminous and acts as a nitrogen fixer for the soil, promoting healthy growth of plants organically. The pod of the fruit is used to season rice, fish, chutneys, curries, sauces and many other foods in India. The fruit itself is also eaten as a treat when it is fresh, dehydrated, made into a paste, or a sugary pulp. Medicinally, the many parts of the tamarind tree are used for cooling fevers, aiding digestion, as a laxitive, to cool inflammation on the skin, are gargled to relieve sore throats, and can even help relieve leprosy and bring sensation back to those suffering from paralysis. The fruit is also used to dye material. Superstitions decree that it is taboo to fall asleep under a Tamarind tree because no other plants grow there and many Hindus will only eat tamarind fruit after the tree has been cross-pollinated with a mango tree.

An average Indian meal is also made up of many different products of the earth that have multiple nutritious benefits. Indian food is known for being spicy in comparison to the bland food eaten in the US. One good reason for it to be so spicy is because this allows for better digestion and helps your body to deal with the many parasites and other unwanted things that might be in the food and could harm your body. In an average meal here there will be a type of bread, a type of grain (usually rice or millet in my experience), curd, dal, and at least one other type of curry. In a cookbook I bought and glanced through, one type of chicken has at least 10 different ingredients and this tends to be the trend throughout the book. The food here his not only spicier that the food in the US, there are overall more flavors in each dish and all different aspects of the palate is considered. The dal and meat are usually savory, the chutney is sometimes sweet or bitter, curd is a little sour, and there is usually some type of sweet included. In the US usually the main dishes are savory and salty and the dessert is sweet, not including the bitter or sour aspects into account. It will be amazing to see how this has affected my taste buds with regard to food at home, I may start adding more spices to my food and incorporate more bitter and sour aspects into my meals.

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