Tamarind is a fruit scientifically known as ‘Tamarindus indica’ from the family ‘Fabaceae’, and it is mainly used as a spice. The fruit is in the form of a pod- a brown shell filled with fibrous pulp and seeds in it.
Tamarind is an important spice used for souring many cuisines in South and Southeast Asia. Apart from being used in curries to add a sour flavour, it is also used to make pickles, sauces, and dessert pastes.
Tamarind has certain medicinal properties that make it a folk medicine and is used as a laxative for stomach disorders. Tamarind is rich in magnesium, sugar, tartaric acid and contains B vitamins like thiamine and folate. It can also reduce bad cholesterol.
The name tamarind is supposed to have come from the Arabic word ‘Tamar Hindi’ which means Indian date, while the spice is believed to have originated from Madagascar and been in use for the past many centuries, as per the records of its uses by the ancient Greeks and Egyptians in the 4th century BC.
The naturally propagated tamarind plants/trees take up to 6-8 years from planting to start producing the fruits, while vegetatively propagated or grafted plants take only half of the time. The trees prefer a dry and windy climate and flourish in fertile alluvial soils. They grow up to 40 to 60 feet in height and continue bearing the fruits for many years.
The tamarind or the fruit is sometimes called a pod. And they grow up to 12 to 15 cm in length. The fruits have fleshy, juicy pulp acidic in taste and may contain 6 to 12 seeds. Normally the harvest season is January-April, and on average, around 150 kg of fruits are obtained from a mature tree.
India is the largest producer of tamarind in the world, followed by Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Myanmar. The largest exporter also is India who exports the spice to nearly 60 countries. The other major exporters are Malaysia, Thailand and Sri Lanka. And United Arab Emirates, Bangladesh and Thailand are the main importers.
In India Tamil Nadu is the largest producer of tamarind with more than 45% of the country’s total production share. Other major producers are Karnataka, kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra.
Some of the main trading markets of tamarind in India:
Tamil Nadu (Dharmapuri,Vellore,Salem,Endur)
Names of tamarind in different Indian languages: