All About the Tamarind

Tamarind is a fruit that is leguminous in nature, growing on a tree.

Description of the Fruit

Tamarind trees are indigenous to Africa’s tropical regions and part of the Tamarindus genus. This is the only species in the genus. The tree produces fruit in the shape of pods, containing a pulp.

Changes to the Fruit Over Time

Experts believe that the tamarind tree first grew in tropical Africa. However, it has been on the Indian subcontinent long enough that many people claim the tree is indigenous there as well. It most likely reached South Asia via human transportation at several thousand years B.C.E. It arrived in Mexico during the 16th century, quickly becoming a staple to the diet.

Description of Taste

The fruit or pods in tamarind is a legume inside a hard brown shell. The pulp is juicy, fresh, and acidic. African variations have shorter pods while those in Asia have longer pods. The fruit tastes sweet and sour. It is common in various savory dishes around the world.

Is It Used in Desserts?

Tamarind is a common ingredient in syrups, lollipops, candies, and other sweets. Multiple cultures have variations of tamarind sweet balls that are sticky and combine the fruit with sugar.

Pop Culture References

Tamarind is commonly found in a range of foods. It can even be used for pickling or to make otherwise poisonous foods safe for humans. In Western food, tamarind paste is an ingredient in HP sauce and Worcestershire sauce.

Other Uses

In addition to tamarind paste, tamarind is commonly used for polishing metal. It is also part of traditional medicines. People extract tamarind seed oil from the fruit’s seeds, with people using the oil for sizing textiles and making adhesives. The wood is also commonly used in woodworking. Indian cuisine also uses the tender young leaves from tamarind trees.

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