Tamarind – Tamarindus indica

Tamarind pods
Tamarind pods

The exact origin of this Pea family tree is unknown, but is thought to be eastern Africa. Although India has had it under cultivation for so long that it is often thought of as indigenous there. The specific name is ‘indica’ showing that belief.

 

If you have gas or a sore throat and you happen to be in tropical America look for one of the young boys that will be selling bags of the pods. The fruit is good for relieving intestinal gas; it improves digestion, acts as a mild laxative and soothes sore throats. In the Philippines the leaves are made into a tea for relief of fever, being employed for malaria.

 

For food the tart pulp is used to make chutney, curries, beverages and sauces. The pulp is also an ingredient in making the popular seasoning Worcestershire sauce. It is also part of a favorite Indian dish Tamarind fish, which is a pickled product. The young leaves, flowers, and seedlings are cooked and eaten as greens. In Zimbabwe the leaves are added to soups and flowers added to salads.

 

Because few plants survive living under a Tamarind tree there is an old superstition that it is unwise to sleep under one or to tie your horse beneath one! African tribes in some areas held the tree sacred. And in Burma the tree is believed to be the dwelling of the Rain God.

 

In dying the leaves and flowers are used as mordants. The leaves provide a yellow dye for wool, and turns indigo dyed silk green.

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