Botanical Name : Tamarindus indica
Family: Fabaceae
Subfamily: Caesalpinioideae
Tribe: Detarieae
Genus: Tamarindus
Species: T. indica
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Fabales

Synonyms: Imlee. Tamarindus officinalis (Hook).
Common Names: Tamarind, Imli, Tantul in Bengali

Part Used: The fruits freed from brittle outer part of pericarp.

Habitat:Tamarind is native to India; tropical Africa; cultivated in West Indies.

Description:  Of all the fruit trees of the tropics, none is more widely distributed nor more appreciated as an ornamental than the tamarind, Tamarindus indica L. (syns. T. occidentalis Gaertn.; T. officinalis Hook.), of the family Leguminosae. Most of its colloquial names are variations on the common English term. In Spanish and Portuguese, it is tamarindo; in French, tamarin, tamarinier, tamarinier des Indes, or tamarindier; in Dutch and German, tamarinde; in Italian, tamarandizio; in Papiamiento of the Lesser Antilles, tamarijn. In the Virgin Islands, it is sometimes called taman; in the Philippines, sampalok or various other dialectal names; in Malaya, asam jawa; in India, it is tamarind or ambli, imli, chinch, etc.; in Cambodia, it is ampil or khoua me; in Laos, mak kham; in Thailand, ma-kharm; in Vietnam, me. The name “tamarind” with a qualifying adjective is often applied to other members of the family Leguminosae having somewhat similar foliage.

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The tamarind, a slow-growing, long-lived, massive tree reaches, under favorable conditions, a height of 80 or even 100 ft (24-30 m), and may attain a spread of 40 ft (12 m) and a trunk circumference of 25 ft (7.5 m). It is highly wind-resistant, with strong, supple branches, gracefully drooping at the ends, and has dark-gray, rough, fissured bark. The mass of bright-green, fine, feathery foliage is composed of pinnate leaves, 3 to 6 in (7.5-15 cm) in length, each having 10 to 20 pairs of oblong leaflets 1/2 to 1 in (1.25-2.5 cm) long and 1/5 to 1/4 in (5-6 mm) wide, which fold at night. The leaves are normally evergreen but may be shed briefly in very dry areas during the hot season. Inconspicuous, inch-wide flowers, borne in small racemes, are 5-petalled (2 reduced to bristles), yellow with orange or red streaks. The flowerbuds are distinctly pink due to the outer color of the 4 sepals which are shed when the flower opens.

The fruits, flattish, beanlike, irregularly curved and bulged pods, are borne in great abundance along the new branches and usually vary from 2 to 7 in long and from 3/4 to 1 1/4 in (2-3.2 cm) in diameter. Exceptionally large tamarinds have been found on individual trees. The pods may be cinnamon-brown or grayish-brown externally and, at first, are tender-skinned with green, highly acid flesh and soft, whitish, under-developed seeds. As they mature, the pods fill out somewhat and the juicy, acidulous pulp turns brown or reddish-brown. Thereafter, the skin becomes a brittle, easily-cracked shell and the pulp dehydrates naturally to a sticky paste enclosed by a few coarse strands of fiber extending lengthwise from the stalk. The 1 to 12 fully formed seeds are hard, glossy-brown, squarish in form, 1/8 to 1/2 in (1.1-1.25 cm) in diameter, and each is enclosed in a parchmentlike membrane.

A mature tree may annually produce 330 to 500 lbs (150-225 kg) of fruits, of which the pulp may constitute 30 to 55%, the shells and fiber, 11 to 30 %, and the seeds, 33 to 40%

Food use :

The food uses of the tamarind are many. The tender, immature, very sour pods are cooked as seasoning with rice, fish and meats in India. The fully-grown, but still unripe fruits, called “swells” in the Bahamas, are roasted in coals until they burst and the skin is then peeled back and the sizzling pulp dipped in wood ashes and eaten. The fully ripe, fresh fruit is relished out-of-hand by children and adults, alike. The dehydrated fruits are easily recognized when picking by their comparatively light weight, hollow sound when tapped and the cracking of the shell under gentle pressure. The shell lifts readily from the pulp and the lengthwise fibers are removed by holding the stem with one hand and slipping the pulp downward with the other. The pulp is made into a variety of products. It is an important ingredient in chutneys, curries and sauces, including some brands of Worcestershire and barbecue sauce, and in a special Indian seafood pickle called “tamarind fish”. Sugared tamarind pulp is often prepared as a confection. For this purpose, it is desirable to separate the pulp from the seeds without using water. If ripe, fresh, undehydrated tamarinds are available, this may be done by pressing the shelled and defibered fruits through a colander while adding powdered sugar to the point where the pulp no longer sticks to the fingers. The seeded pulp is then shaped into balls and coated with powdered sugar. If the tamarinds are dehydrated, it is less laborious to layer the shelled fruits with granulated sugar in a stone crock and bake in a moderately warm oven for about 4 hours until the sugar is melted, then the mass is rubbed through a sieve, mixed with sugar to a stiff paste, and formed into patties. This sweetmeat is commonly found on the market in Jamaica, Cuba and the Dominican Republic. In Panama, the pulp may be sold in corn husks, palmleaf fiber baskets, or in plastic bags.

Tamarind ade has long been a popular drink in the Tropics and it is now bottled in carbonated form in Guatemala, Mexico, Puerto Rico and elsewhere. Formulas for the commercial production of spiced tamarind beverages have been developed by technologists in India. The simplest home method of preparing the ade is to shell the fruits, place 3 or 4 in a bottle of water, let stand for a short time, add a tablespoonful of sugar and shake vigorously. For a richer beverage, a quantity of shelled tamarinds may be covered with a hot sugar sirup and allowed to stand several days (with or without the addition of seasonings such as cloves, cinnamon, allspice, ginger, pepper or lime slices) and finally diluted as desired with ice water and strained.

In Brazil, a quantity of shelled fruits may be covered with cold water and allowed to stand 10 to 12 hours, the seeds are strained out, and a cup of sugar is added for every 2 cups of pulp; the mixture is boiled for 15 to 20 minutes and then put up in glass jars topped with paraffin. In another method, shelled tamarinds with an equal quantity of sugar may be covered with water and boiled for a few minutes until stirring shows that the pulp has loosened from the seeds, then pressed through a sieve. The strained pulp, much like apple butter in appearance, can be stored under refrigeration for use in cold drinks or as a sauce for meats and poultry, plain cakes or puddings. A foamy “tamarind shake” is made by stirring this sauce into an equal amount of dark-brown sugar and then adding a tablespoonful of the mixture to 8 ounces of a plain carbonated beverage and whipping it in an electric blender.

If twice as much water as tamarinds is used in cooking, the strained product will be a sirup rather than a sauce. Sometimes a little soda is added. Tamarind sirup is bottled for domestic use and export in Puerto Rico. In Mayaguez, street vendors sell cones of shaved ice saturated with tamarind sirup. Tamarind pulp can be made into a tart jelly, and tamarind jam is canned commercially in Costa Rica. Tamarind sherbet and ice cream are popular and refreshing. In making fruit preserves, tamarind is sometimes combined with guava, papaya or banana. Sometimes the fruit is made into wine.

Inasmuch as shelling by hand is laborious and requires 8 man-hours to produce 100 lbs (45 kg) of shelled fruits, food technologists at the University of Puerto Rico have developed a method of pulp extraction for industrial use. They found that shelling by mechanical means alone is impossible because of the high pectin and low moisture content of the pulp. Therefore, inspected and washed pods are passed through a shell-breaking grater, then fed into stainless steel tanks equipped with agitators. Water is added at the ratio of 1:1 1/2 or 1:2 pulp/water, and the fruits are agitated for 5 to 7 minutes. The resulting mash is then passed through a screen while nylon brushes separate the shells and seeds. Next the pulp is paddled through a finer screen, pasteurized, and canned.

Young leaves and very young seedlings and flowers are cooked and eaten as greens and in curries in India. In Zimbabwe, the leaves are added to soup and the flowers are an ingredient in salads.

Tamarind seeds have been used in a limited way as emergency food. They are roasted, soaked to remove the seedcoat, then boiled or fried, or ground to a flour or starch. Roasted seeds are ground and used as a substitute for, or adulterant of, coffee. In Thailand they are sold for this purpose. In the past, the great bulk of seeds available as a by-product of processing tamarinds, has gone to waste. In 1942, two Indian scientists, T. P. Ghose and S. Krishna, announced that the decorticated kernels contained 46 to 48% of a gel-forming substance. Dr. G. R. Savur of the Pectin Manufacturing Company, Bombay, patented a process for the production of a purified product, called “Jellose”, “polyose”, or “pectin”, which has been found superior to fruit pectin in the manufacture of jellies, jams, and marmalades. It can be used in fruit preserving with or without acids and gelatinizes with sugar concentrates even in cold water or milk. It is recommended as a stabilizer in ice cream, mayonnaise and cheese and as an ingredient or agent in a number of pharmaceutical products.

Food Value

Analyses of the pulp are many and varied. Roughly, they show the pulp to be rich in calcium, phosphorus, iron, thiamine and riboflavin and a good source of niacin. Ascorbic acid content is low except in the peel of young green fruits.

Other Uses

Fruit pulp: in West Africa, an infusion of the whole pods is added to the dye when coloring goat hides. The fruit pulp may be used as a fixative with turmeric or annatto in dyeing and has served to coagulate rubber latex. The pulp, mixed with sea water, cleans silver, copper and brass.

Leaves: The leaves are eaten by cattle and goats, and furnish fodder for silkworms–Anaphe sp. in India, Hypsoides vuilletii in West Africa. The fine silk is considered superior for embroidery.

Tamarind leaves and flowers are useful as mordants in dyeing. A yellow dye derived from the leaves colors wool red and turns indigo-dyed silk to green. Tamarind leaves in boiling water are employed to bleach the leaves of the buri palm (Corypha elata Roxb.) to prepare them for hat-making. The foliage is a common mulch for tobacco plantings.

Flowers: The flowers are rated as a good source of nectar for honeybees in South India. The honey is golden-yellow and slightly acid in flavor.

Seeds: The powder made from tamarind kernels has been adopted by the Indian textile industry as 300% more efficient and more economical than cornstarch for sizing and finishing cotton, jute and spun viscose, as well as having other technical advantages. It is commonly used for dressing homemade blankets. Other industrial uses include employment in color printing of textiles, paper sizing, leather treating, the manufacture of a structural plastic, a glue for wood, a stabilizer in bricks, a binder in sawdust briquettes, and a thickener in some explosives. It is exported to Japan, the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.

Tamarind seeds yield an amber oil useful as an illuminant and as a varnish especially preferred for painting dolls and idols. The oil is said to be palatable and of culinary quality. The tannin-rich seedcoat (testa) is under investigation as having some utility as an adhesive for plywoods and in dyeing and tanning, though it is of inferior quality and gives a red hue to leather.

Wood: The sapwood of the tamarind tree is pale-yellow. The heartwood is rather small, dark purplish-brown, very hard, heavy, strong, durable and insect-resistant. It bends well and takes a good polish and, while hard to work, it is highly prized for furniture, panelling, wheels, axles, gears for mills, ploughs, planking for sides of boats, wells, mallets, knife and tool handles, rice pounders, mortars and pestles. It has at times been sold as “Madeira mahogany”. Wide boards are rare, despite the trunk dimensions of old trees, since they tend to become hollow-centered. The wood is valued for fuel, especially for brick kilns, for it gives off an intense heat, and it also yields a charcoal for the manufacture of gun-powder. In Malaysia, even though the trees are seldom felled, they are frequently topped to obtain firewood. The wood ashes are employed in tanning and in de-hairing goatskins. Young stems and also slender roots of the tamarind tree are fashioned into walking-sticks.

Twigs and barks: Tamarind twigs are sometimes used as “chewsticks” and the bark of the tree as a masticatory, alone or in place of lime with betelnut. The bark contains up to 7% tannin and is often employed in tanning hides and in dyeing, and is burned to make an ink. Bark from young trees yields a low-quality fiber used for twine and string. Galls on the young branches are used in tanning.

Lac: The tamarind tree is a host for the lac insect, Kerria lacca, that deposits a resin on the twigs. The lac may be harvested and sold as stick-lac for the production of lacquers and varnish. If it is not seen as a useful byproduct, tamarind growers trim off the resinous twigs and discard them.

Medicinal Uses:

Medicinal uses of the tamarind are uncountable. The pulp has been official in the British and American and most other pharmacopoeias and some 200,000 lbs (90,000 kg) of the shelled fruits have been annually imported into the United States for the drug trade, primarily from the Lesser Antilles and Mexico. The European supply has come largely from Calcutta, Egypt and the Greater Antilles. Tamarind preparations are universally recognized as refrigerants in fevers and as laxatives and carminatives. Alone, or in combination with lime juice, honey, milk, dates, spices or camphor, the pulp is considered effective as a digestive, even for elephants, and as a remedy for biliousness and bile disorders, and as an antiscorbutic. In native practice, the pulp is applied on inflammations, is used in a gargle for sore throat and, mixed with salt, as a liniment for rheumatism. It is, further, administered to alleviate sunstroke, Datura poisoning, and alcoholic intoxication. In Southeast Asia, the fruit is prescribed to counteract the ill effects of overdoses of false chaulmoogra, Hydnocarpus anthelmintica Pierre, given in leprosy. The pulp is said to aid the restoration of sensation in cases of paralysis. In Colombia, an ointment made of tamarind pulp, butter, and other ingredients is used to rid domestic animals of vermin.

Tamarindpepper rasam is also considered an effective home remedy for a cold in South India. Dilute 50 mg tamarind in 250 ml of water. Boil the diluted tamarind water for a few minutes with a teaspoon of hot ghee and half a teaspoon of black pepper powder. This steaming hot rasam has a flushing effect, and should be taken three times a day. As one takes it, the nose and eyes water and the nasal blockage is cleared.

Tamarind leaves and flowers, dried or boiled, are used as poultices for swollen joints, sprains and boils. Lotions and extracts made from them are used in treating conjunctivitis, as antiseptics, as vermifuges, treatments for dysentery, jaundice, erysipelas and hemorrhoids and various other ailments. The fruit shells are burned and reduced to an alkaline ash which enters into medicinal formulas. The bark of the tree is regarded as an effective astringent, tonic and febrifuge. Fried with salt and pulverized to an ash, it is given as a remedy for indigestion and colic. A decoction is used in cases of gingivitis and asthma and eye inflammations; and lotions and poultices made from the bark are applied on open sores and caterpillar rashes. The powdered seeds are made into a paste for drawing boils and, with or without cumin seeds and palm sugar, are prescribed for chronic diarrhea and dysentery. The seedcoat, too, is astringent, and it, also, is specified for the latter disorders. An infusion of the roots is believed to have curative value in chest complaints and is an ingredient in prescriptions for leprosy.

The leaves and roots contain the glycosides: vitexin, isovitexin, orientin and isoorientin. The bark yields the alkaloid, hordenine.

Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.


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