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Spice Descriptions and Uses

Tamarind Tamarindus indica Linn.

Description


Tamarindus (Tamarindus indica) is an evergreen tree, of the pea family native to tropical Africa. It is widely cultivated in other regions as an ornamental and for its edible fruit. The word tamarind literally means date of India. Tamarind, a native of East Africa, is now grown extensively in India, South East Asia and the West Indies.

Botany

Tamarind is semi-evergreen, tropical tree that grows to about 24 m (80 feet) tall and has long drooping branches with alternate, pinnately compound (feather-formed) leaves; the leaflets are about 2 cm (0.75 inch) long. The yellow flowers, about 2.5 cm across, with a red stripe are borne in small clusters. The dark brown fruit is a plump pod 7.5-24 cm long that does not split open. It contains 1 to 12 large, flat seeds embedded in a soft, brownish pulp. This pulp has a high tartaric acid content, that imparts for its sourness.

Culinary use

This portion of the fruit is widely used in the Orient in foods, beverages, and medicines. It is a standard ingredient in curries, chutneys, soups and several other dishes of India and South East Asia. The juice is made into a refreshing drink in both the Middle East and the West Indies.

Medicinal and other use

Tamarind is a good laxative and an antiseptic. It is used for tummy upsets and for the treatment of ulcers. Over-ripe fruits can be used to clean copper and brass.