Thursday, 16 May 2013

Food Profile - Black Velvet Tamarind

The black velvet tamarind is the fruit of a native West African tree (dialium guineense) cultivated not for its fruits but as a source of timber and fuel!

Black Velvet Tamarind aka Awin, Icheku, Tsamiyar Kurm 

Awin, as this fruit is called by the Yoruba people of Nigeria, has an orange coloured pulp which has a sweet and sour taste and a dry powdery texture. The fruit is also called Icheku by the Igbos, Tsamiyar kurm by the Hausas.

Back home, in my native Nigeria, awin is a very popular fruit snack, particularly among children, who peel the black velvet case to reveal an orange pulp which is eaten raw.

I particularly love the sweet and tangy taste of this fruit and have often wondered how I could incorporate this into my cooking. Generally this fruit is really under-utilised as a food.

I have heard of it being used to brew a drink which is not that popular for reasons that I am not so sure of because I have been able to successfully make a really refreshing drink by soaking and boiling the pulp in water with some added sugar. So I keep wondering, there has got to be something else that these lovely fruits are worth....

Awin, Black Velvet, Velvet Tamarind
Black Velvet Tamarind

Through my continuous research into this fruit, I discovered a Bioversity International Organisation report on the composition and uses of the Velvet Tamarind Tree and I was quite pleased to find out about the nutritional benefits. What I discovered further encouraged me to find a more versatile way to incorporate this fruit into my regular diet.

Nutritional Value
The report states that the fruit is rich in minerals (magnesium, sodium, iron, potassium and -carotene (Vitamin A), copper), sugars and tartaric acid, citric acid, malic acid, ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) and Niacin. As anticipated, this fruit also has high levels of anti-oxidants. The report also suggests that the fruit has properties which can be used in the management of fever, diarrhoea and palpitations, and as an antibacterial treatment.

In addition, the leaves of the velvet tamarind tree, bark and roots are also used by the natives to treat a variety of health problems. My conclusion; if the bark, leaves and roots have medicinal properties, I am convinced that the fruit will also pack a healthy punch.....

Awin, Black Velvet, Velvet Tamarind
Black Velvet Tamarind Orange Pulp
 

Try out my Black Velvet Tamarind Recipes:
1. Velvet Tamarind Compote served with Yoghurt
2. Velvet Tamarind Blush Martini/Cocktail