Tamarind, the fruit of a leguminous tree, tamarindus Indica, the common and botanical name being derived from the Arabs, who, having learned of the fruit from the Hindoos, called it tamare-hindi, the Indian date. The tree is indigenous to various parts of Africa, and probably also to India, and it grows wild in several of the East Indian islands; it was early introduced into the West Indies, and is completely naturalized there, and also in portions of Brazil and Mexico. There is only one species of the genus. It is a large handsome tree, 60 to 80 ft. high; its compound leaves, of 10 to 20 pairs of small oblong leaflets, form a dense foliage; the flowers, white when they first open, but soon turning yellow, have purple and brown stamens, are borne in racemes, and are fragrant; the fruit is an indehiscent legume or pod, 3 to 6 in. long, straight or curved, thick, and with a hard, brittle exterior shell; the seeds, from 4 to 12, are each surrounded by a tough papery membrane, outside of which, and between it and the shell, is a firm, juicy, very acid pulp, traversed by strong woody fibres, which start from the fruit stalk and run through, throwing off branches, to the opposite end (apex) of the pod.
The ripeness of the pods is known by the brittleness of the outer shell; they are picked, and in the West Indies deprived of the shell and packed in a cask, and boiling sirup is poured over them until the vessel is full; when cool the package is headed up and is ready for market. A better kind, rarely found on sale, is prepared by packing the shelled fruit in stone jars, with alternate layers of sugar. In the East Indies the fruit is usually preserved without sugar; the shell is removed and the pulp and seed are kneaded into a mass, and in this form tamarinds are chiefly used on the continent of Europe. The pulp has a brisk acid taste, modified more or less by the amount of sugar used; it contains tartaric, citric, and other acids, and some principle not well ascertained which gives it a laxative property. Tamarinds are used, especially in tropical countries, to prepare a refreshing drink, by pouring boiling water over the fruit; this drink is also used as a laxative and refrigerant in fevers. By boiling the preserved fruit with a small quantity of water, and sifting, the pulp is obtained pure; it is used as an article of diet, and it enters into the composition of a popular laxative, the compound confection of senna. The wood is useful for timber, and makes a fine charcoal.
The shell of the seeds is astringent and contains tannin; their-kernels are used as food in India in times of scarcity.
Tamarind (Tamarindus Indica).