Sweet Tamarind (TAM-uh-rihnd) Indian Dates Tamarindus Indica L.
Thought to have originated in Africa, the sweet tamarind is known as the "Dry Date" of India where it has grown for thousands of years. It later spread to Arabia and Southeast Asia where it thrives in the hot climates. It is was brought to the Americas by Spanish settlers and quickly took hold in the islands, Mexico and the Southwest.
Grown on large, spreading evergreens the tamarind occurs in two varieties, sweet which is great for deserts and the green variety with chilies and used in sauces and dips. In the west the most recognizable use of tamarind is in Worcestershire Sauce.
The skin of the fruit is dark brown and the fruit is shaped like a pea pod; curved and irregular between three and six inches long. The inner white flesh is sweet, fibrous and succulent surrounding several dark brown seeds. It grows in clusters on trees that grow to a height of 100 feet.
The leaves of the tree which are sour in flavor are used in Asian dishes, like hot and sour soup known as kaeng som or in fish salad. The tamarind's yellow flowers with red stripes, may be eaten raw or cooked, they also have a sour taste that compliments chilies or fish.
Selecting and handling Select fruit with velvety smooth skin that is not wrinkled or discolored. To cut into the fruit take a sharp knife and slit lengthwise. Scoop out the pulp and remove the seeds.
Season December through February