Tamarind is obtained from the bean-like pods of the tamarind tree. Tamarind trees can remain productive for up to 200 years. The long, rust-coloured pods contain a dark brown, sticky, and very fibrous pulp surrounding the seeds. The pulp has a high tartaric acid content which accounts for its wide use as a souring agent.
Native range East Africa
Major producers India, Southeast Asia, West Indies
Harvesting The tamarind pods are dried and the fruit is extracted from the brittle outer shell of the pod and pressed into flat cakes. Further processing results in tamarind paste and concentrate.
Taste and aroma Tamarind has little smell. The taste is sour with an underlying astringency.
Culinary uses Tamarind is a standard ingredient throughout India and Southeast Asia in curries, chutneys, lentil and bean dishes, and the famous hot and sour soups of the region. Tamarind gives many hot south Indian dishes such as Goan vindaloo and Gujarati vegetable stews their characteristic sourness. In the Middle East and the West Indies tamarind juice is used in drinks. It is also an essential ingredient in many condiments including Worcestershire sauce.
Other uses Tamarind is used as a laxative and for stomach upsets. It is also an antiseptic and used in eye baths and for the treatment of ulcers. Tamarind can even be used to clean copper and brass, a common practice in colonial times.
Storage In all processed forms tamarind keeps almost indefinitely.