The tamarind tree (Tamarindus indica) is a leguminous tree bearing edible fruit that is probably indigenous to tropical Africa. Of all the fruit trees of the tropics, none is more widely distributed nor more appreciated as an ornamental than the tamarind tree.
Tamarind tree fruit
The fruit is harvested by pulling the pod from its stalk. The fruit has a fleshy, juicy, acidic 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 shorter pods (containing one to six seeds).
This tree seedling is an Asian variety. The fruit is best described as sweet and sour in taste, and is high in tartaric acid, sugar, B vitamins, and, unusually for a fruit, calcium.
As the tamarind tree fruit matures it becomes sweeter and less sour (acidic) and the ripened fruit is considered more palatable. The sourness varies between cultivars and some sweet tamarind ones have almost no acidity when ripe. This tamarind tree seedling is a sweet variety.
In Western cuisine, tamarind pulp is found in Worcestershire Sauce and HP Sauce.
Tamarind paste has many culinary uses including a flavoring for chutneys, curries, and a traditional sharbat syrup drink. Tamarind sweet chutney is popular in India and Pakistan as a dressing for many snacks and often served with samosa.
Tamarind pulp is a key ingredient in flavoring curries and rice in south Indian cuisine, in the Chigali lollipop, in rasam, and in certain varieties of masala chai tea.
Across the Middle East, from the Levant to Iran, tamarind is used in savory dishes, notably meat-based stews, and often combined with dried fruits to achieve a sweet-sour tang.
In the Philippines, the whole fruit is used as an ingredient in the traditional dish called sinigang to add a unique sour taste, unlike that of dishes that use vinegar instead.
Indonesia also has a similarly sour, tamarind-based soup dish called sayur asem.
In Mexico and the Caribbean, the pulp from the fruit of the tamarind tree is diluted with water and sugared to make an agua fresca drink. It is widely used throughout all of México for candy making, including tamarind mixed with chilli powder candy.
The leaves and bark of the tamarind tree are also edible, and the seeds can be cooked to make safe for consumption.
Tamarind seed oil is the oil made from the kernel of tamarind seeds.
Tamarind kernel powder is used as sizing material for textile and jute processing, and in the manufacture of industrial gums and adhesives. It is de-oiled to stabilize its colour and odor on storage.
Throughout Southeast Asia, the fruit of the tamarind tree is used as a poultice applied to the foreheads of people with fevers. The fruit exhibits laxative effects.
Tamarind tree lumber is used to make furniture, carvings, turned objects such as mortars and pestles, chopping blocks, and other small specialty wood items. Tamarind heartwood is reddish brown, sometimes with a purplish hue.
In homes and temples, especially in Buddhist Asian countries, the fruit pulp is used to polish brass shrine statues and lamps, and copper, brass, and bronze utensils.
How to take care of a tamarind tree
Like the curry leaf tree, the tamarind tree originates from a warm climate, and is not hardy in almost all parts of Europe. If you want to keep it the whole year round, it should serve as a house plant indoors when temperatures reach freezing point at night.
Only more mature trees can handle a few degrees below zero degrees Celsius.
It should receive plenty of sunlight. As soon as winter is over and there’s no more frost at night, the tree can be placed outside in a sunny spot.
This tree does very well in dry conditions, so it will not really need the use of a humidity tray when it’s inside the house in the winter.
The seeds are somewhat flattened, and a glossy brown. The tamarind tree can be propagated through its seeds, teneer grafting, shield budding, and air layering.
To ensure that it’s delivered in perfect condition, your tamarind tree will be shipped in custom plant mail-order cardboard packaging.
Questions and answers
- Do I need to re pot the tamarind tree when it arrives?
Answer: after a few weeks of acclimatization, you can re pot it to bigger pot during the growing season (May-September).
- What soil do I use for my tamarind tree?
Answer: the tree tolerates a great diversity of soil types. You can use any regular good-quality potting mix.
- Is fertilizer recommended?
Answer: they don’t need fertilizers to thrive, but when in growing season they will do better when fertilized. If you choose to use a fertilizer, we recommend that you use a liquid fertilizer.
- Do I need to prune my tamarind tree?
If you keep it in a pot in the house, yes you will need to prune it to keep it do a manageable size. Only prune in growing season.