Other Names: Tamarindo, Indian Date
Medicinal Uses: Laxative, Digestive aid, Wounds, Sore throat, Ulcers, Liver disease
Tamarind (Tamarindus indica) , romanized tamar hind, “Indian date”) is a tree in the family Fabaceae. The genus Tamarindus is monotypic (having only a single species).
The tamarind is a long-lived, medium-growth, bushy tree which attains a maximum crown height of 12.1 to 18.3 metres (40 to 60 feet). The crown has an irregular, vase-shaped outline of dense foliage. The tree grows well in full sun in clay, loam, sandy, and acidic soil types, with a high drought and aerosol salt (wind-borne salt as found in coastal area) resistance.
Leaves are evergreen, bright green in colour, elliptical ovular, arrangement is alternate, of the pinnately compound type, with pinnate venation and less than 5 cm (2 inches) in length. The branches droop from a single, central trunk as the tree matures and is often pruned in human agriculture to optimize tree density and ease of fruit harvest. At night, the leaflets close up.
The tamarind does flower, though inconspicuously, with red and yellow elongated flowers. Flowers are 2.5 cm wide (one inch), five-petalled, borne in small racemes, and yellow with orange or red streaks. Buds are pink as the four sepals are pink and are lost when the flower blooms.
The fruit is an indehiscent legume, sometimes called a pod, 12 to 15 cm (3 to 6 inches) in length, with a hard, brown shell. The fruit has a fleshy, juicy, acidulous pulp. It is mature when the flesh is coloured brown or reddish-brown. The tamarinds of Asia have longer pods containing six to 12 seeds, whereas African and West Indian varieties have short pods containing one to six seeds. The seeds are somewhat flattened, and glossy brown.
The fruit pulp is edible. The hard green pulp of a young fruit is considered by many to be too sour and acidic, but is often used as a component of savory dishes, as a pickling agent or as a means of making certain poisonous yams in Ghana safe for human consumption.
The ripened fruit is considered the more palatable, as it becomes sweeter and less sour (acidic) as it matures. It is used in desserts as a jam, blended into juices or sweetened drinks, sorbets, ice creams and all manner of snacks. It is also consumed as a natural laxative.