Tamarind beans, Indian date
Tamar hindi (Arabic and Hebrew), Tamarin (French) Tamarindo (Spanish)
It supplies ripe pods highly valued for their sweetly sour fruit pulp. Unripened pods are eaten as a vegetable, along with the pleasant tasting young leaves, and flowers. All are used to season curries, soups, and stews.
of the ripe pods forms the basis of sweet drinks and foods.
In India and Mexico, the dried pods are well-known seasoning. Tamarind is also an ingredient of the Worcestershire sauce.
The beans come from a large and beautiful everygreen tree native to tropical Africa. It had already spread to India in prehistoric times and has long been established in Southeast Asia, and now distributed throughout the tropical and subtropical regions of the world.
Having strong and pliant branches and an extensive root system, it can be grown in places exposed to high winds. This tree is also resistant to drought.
The tamarind pods grow in clusters and contain very small beans surrounded by an attractively sour, acidic pulp. They are harvested fully ripe, the shells and seeds are removed, and the pulp is compressed into cakes.
In Thailand, the pulp is eaten as a sweetmeat or squeezed with water to give a sour juice.
The roasted seeds may be used as a flavouring for compotes of young palm shoots. The Chinese in Indonesia eat the seeds roasted.
The name tamarind is also given to such unrelated plants as the native tamarind of Australia,
whose yellow, lobed fruits contain an acid jelly-like pulp used to make a refreshing drink and for jam.
The “sweet tamarinds” that grow in tropical America and bear fruits with an edible pulp are from the genus Inga.
Another Central American tree has tamarind-like pods with an edible pulp and sometimes called Manila tamarind.
Horse tamarind (Leucaena glauca – Family Leguminosae)
is a South American shrubby tree that grows to about twenty-five feet in height. It is now naturalized throughout the tropics and is usually grown as a hedge. It bears one-inch flower balls and six-inch pods that remain hanging well after the seeds have been expelled. In West Africa and Malaysia, the seeds are eaten raw when fresh.
Wild tamarind (Leucaena leucocephala)
is native to Central America. This tree or bush serves as a shade tree, fertilizer, and a source of animal fodder in the tropics. In Southeast Asia, only the young leaves, flowers, pods, and seeds are valued for cooking vegetables. The gum from the seeds is used in the food and pharmaceutical industries.
Updated December 2012