Tamarind (Tamarindus indicus) is a semi-evergreen tree with large alternately arranged and pinnately compound leaves. It may reach a height of 10 to 20 m. The flowers are pale yellow and streaked with red. When the tree is in full bloom, the flowers give a yellowish color to the tree. The fruits are thick, rough pods that are 4 to 13 cm long and usually curved. Each pod contains 1 to 10 seeds embedded in a brown, sticky, fibrous edible (but sour) pulp surrounding the seeds. Tamarind is widely planted in the tropics and subtropics not only for its fruits, but also as an ornamental shade tree. Tamarind trees are sometimes clipped into gnarled bonsai in Thailand. (Little and Wadsworth 1964; Vaughan and Geissler 1997; Mabberley 2008)
Tamarind grows wild in the drier parts of tropical Africa, where it is probably native. It has now spread to Africa, India, and tropical Asia, as well as South America, the West Indies, and major islands in the Indian Ocean (Diallo et al, 2007). Tamarind seeds contain 63% starch, 16% protein, and 5.5% fat. They can be eaten as a pulse , but Tamarind is better known for the pod pulp, which constitutes around 40% of the pod. The pulp, which is rich in vitamin C and contains tartaric, malic, and citric acids as well as sugars, has a sweet-sour flavor and is used in drinks, sweetmeats, curries, and chutneys. It is an essential ingredient in Worcestershire sauce . The fruit pulp is the richest known natural source of tartaric acid (8 to 18%) and is the main acidulant (i.e., food additive used to increase tartness or acidity) used in the preparation of foods in India. (Shankaracharya 1998). Tamarind pulp is rich in protein (around 8%); it has a crude fat content of around 1% and carbohydrate content around 56% (Amoo et al. 2012).
The main commercial production of Tamarind fruits occurs in Asia and the Americas, but Tamarind plays an essential subsistence role in rural West Africa. Van der Stege et al. (2011) explored the importance of Tamarind in traditional diets of rural communities in Benin, Mali, and Senegal. Tamarind adds vitamins and minerals, as well as its distinctive sour taste, to drinks and meals. It is consumed daily and year-round by many rural West Africans. Van der Stege et al. (2011) includes detailed descriptions of Tamarind processing and traditional meal preparations of Tamarind fruits, seeds, flowers, and leaves.
Shankaracharya (1998) report that Tamarind yields 150 to 500 kg of fruits per tree each year, with annual production in India of about 300,000 metric tons.
Parvez et al. (2003) found that Tamarind root exudates are potent allelochemical(s), which may explain the weed-free zone often observed around Tamarind trees.
El-Siddig et al. (1999) reviewed various aspects of the origin, botany, ecology, propagation and cultivation, genetic improvement, and main uses of Tamarind.
- Amoo, I.A. and A.V. Nkechi. 2012. Nutritional and functional properties of Tamarindus indica pulp and Zizyphus spina-christi fruit and seed. Journal of Food, Agriculture and Environment 10(1): 16-19.
- Diallo, B.O., H.I. Joly, D. McKey, M. Hossaert-McKey, and M.H. Chevallier. 2007. Genetic diversity of Tamarindus indica populations: Any clues on the origin from its current distribution? African Journal of Biotechnology 6(7): 853-860.
- El-Siddig, K, K., G. Ebert, and P. Ludders. 1999. Tamarind (Tamarindus indica L.): a review on a multipurpose tree with promising future in the Sudan. Journal of Applied Botany/Angewandte Botanik 73(5-6): 202-205.
- Little, E.L. and F.H. Wadsworth. 1964. Common Trees of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, Agriculture Handbook No. 249. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. Washington, D.C.
- Mabberley, D.J. 2008. Mabberley's Plant-Book, 3rd edition [2009 reprint with corrections]. Cambridge University Press, New York.
- Mertl-Millhollen, A.S., K. Blumenfeld-Jones, S.M. Raharison, D.R. Tsaramanana, and H. Rasamimanana. 2011.Tamarind tree seed dispersal by Ring-tailed Lemurs. Primates 52(4): 391-396.
- Parvez, S.S., M.M. Parvez, Y. Fuji, and H. Gemma. 2003. Allelopathic competence of Tamarindus indica L. root involved in plant growth regulation. Plant Growth Regulation 41:139–148.
- Shankaracharya, N.B. 1998. Tamarind - Chemistry, technology and uses - A critical appraisal. Journal of Food Science and Technology-Mysore 35(3): 193-208.
- Van der Stege, C., S. Prehsler, A. Hartl, and C.R. Vogl. 2011. Tamarind (Tamarindus indica L.) in the traditional West African diet: not just a famine food. Fruits 66(3): 171-185.
- Vaughan, J.G. and C.A. Geissler. 1997. The New Oxford Book of Food Plants (revised and updated edition). Oxford University Press, New York.