Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About

tamarind Tamarindus indica, a large and beautiful evergreen tree native to tropical Africa. It had already spread to India in prehistoric times, has for long been established in SE Asia, and is now distributed throughout the tropical and subtropical regions of the world. Having strong and pliant branches and an extensive root system it can be grown in places exposed to high winds; and it is also resistant to drought.

The tamarind is prized for its pods, which grow in clusters and contain very small beans, surrounded by an attractively sour/acid pulp. They are harvested when fully ripe, the shells and seeds are removed, and the pulp compressed into ‘cakes’. In this form tamarind provides an acidifying agent widely used in Indian and SE Asian cooking.