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Tamarind (Tamarindus indica) is a leguminous tree in the family Fabaceae indigenous to tropical Africa. The genus Tamarindus is a monotypic taxon, having only a single species.

Tamarindus indica pods.JPG
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Rosids
Order: Fabales
Family: Fabaceae
Subfamily: Detarioideae
Genus: Tamarindus
Species: T. indica
Binomial name
Tamarindus indica
L. 1753
  • Cavaraea Speg. 1916
  • Cavaraea elegans Speg. 1916
  • Tamarindus erythraeus Mattei 1908
  • Tamarindus occidentalis Gaertn. 1791
  • Tamarindus officinalis Hook. 1851
  • Tamarindus somalensis Mattei 1908
  • Tamarindus umbrosa Salisb. 1796

The tamarind tree produces pod-like fruit, which contain an edible pulp that is used in cuisines around the world. Other uses of the pulp include traditional medicine and metal polish. The wood can be used for woodworking, and tamarind seed oil can be extracted from the seeds. Because of the tamarind's many uses, cultivation has spread around the world in tropical and subtropical zones.



Tamarindus leaves and fruit pod

The name derives from Arabic: تمر هندي‎‎, romanized tamar hindi, "Indian date". Several early medieval herbalists and physicians wrote tamar indi, medieval Latin use was tamarindus, and Marco Polo wrote of tamarandi.[4]

In Colombia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Peru, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Italy, Spain, and throughout the Lusosphere, it is called tamarindo. In those countries it is often used to make the beverage of the same name. In the Caribbean, tamarind is sometimes called tamón.[5] Tamarind (Tamarindus indica) is sometimes confused with "Manila tamarind" (Pithecellobium dulce). While in the same taxonomic family Fabaceae, Manila tamarind is a different plant native to Mexico and known locally as guamúchili.


Tamarindus indica is probably indigenous to tropical Africa,[6] but has been cultivated for so long on the Indian subcontinent that it is sometimes reported to be indigenous there,[7] where it is known as imli in Hindi-Urdu.[8] It grows wild in Africa in locales as diverse as Sudan, Cameroon, Nigeria, and Tanzania. In Arabia, it is found growing wild in Oman, especially Dhofar, where it grows on the sea-facing slopes of mountains. It reached South Asia likely through human transportation and cultivation several thousand years BC.[5][9] It is widely distributed throughout the tropical belt, from Africa to South Asia, northern Australia, and throughout Oceania, Southeast Asia, Taiwan and China.

In the 16th century, it was introduced to Mexico, and to a lesser degree to South America, by Spanish and Portuguese colonists, to the degree that it became a staple ingredient in the region's cuisine.[10]

Today, India is the largest producer of tamarind.[11] The consumption of tamarind is widespread due to its central role in the cuisines of the Indian subcontinent, Southeast Asia, and the Americas, especially Mexico.


A tamarind seedling

The tamarind is a long-lived, medium-growth shrub, which attains a maximum crown height of 12 to 18 metres (39 to 59 ft). The crown has an irregular, vase-shaped outline of dense foliage. The tree grows well in full sun. It prefers clay, loam, sandy, and acidic soil types, with a high resistance to drought and aerosol salt (wind-borne salt as found in coastal areas).[12]

The evergreen leaves are alternately arranged and pinnately lobed. The leaflets are bright green, elliptic-ovular, pinnately veined, and less than 5 cm (2.0 in) in length. The branches droop from a single, central trunk as the tree matures, and are often pruned in agriculture to optimize tree density and ease of fruit harvest. At night, the leaflets close up.[12]

As a tropical species, it is frost sensitive. The pinnate leaves with opposite leaflets give a billowing effect in the wind. Tamarind timber consists of hard, dark red heartwood and softer, yellowish sapwood.[13]

The tamarind flowers (although inconspicuously), with red and yellow elongated flowers. Flowers are 2.5 cm wide (one inch), five-petalled, borne in small racemes, and yellow with orange or red streaks. Buds are pink as the four sepals are pink and are lost when the flower blooms.[14]

Raw tamarind fruit


The fruit is an indehiscent legume, sometimes called a pod, 12 to 15 cm (4.7 to 5.9 in) in length, with a hard, brown shell.[15][16][17]

The fruit has a fleshy, juicy, acidulous pulp. It is mature when the flesh is coloured brown or reddish brown. The tamarinds of Asia have longer pods (containing six to 12 seeds), whereas African and West Indian varieties have shorter pods (containing one to six seeds). The seeds are somewhat flattened, and a glossy brown. The fruit is best described as sweet and sour in taste, and is high in tartaric acid, sugar, B vitamins, and, unusually for a fruit, calcium.[12]

The fruit is harvested by pulling the pod from its stalk. A mature tree may be capable of producing up to 175 kg (386 lb) of fruit per year. Veneer grafting, shield (T or inverted T) budding, and air layering may be used to propagate desirable cultivars. Such trees will usually fruit within three to four years if provided optimum growing conditions.[12]

Culinary useEdit

Tamarind balls from Trinidad and Tobago
Tamarinds, raw
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy 239 kcal (1,000 kJ)
62.5 g
Sugars 57.4
Dietary fiber 5.1 g
0.6 g
2.8 g
Thiamine (B1)
0.428 mg
Riboflavin (B2)
0.152 mg
Niacin (B3)
1.938 mg
Pantothenic acid (B5)
0.143 mg
Vitamin B6
0.066 mg
Folate (B9)
14 μg
8.6 mg
Vitamin C
3.5 mg
Vitamin E
0.1 mg
Vitamin K
2.8 μg
74 mg
2.8 mg
92 mg
113 mg
628 mg
28 mg
0.1 mg

Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA Nutrient Database

The fruit pulp is edible. The hard green pulp of a young fruit is considered by many to be too sour, but is often used as a component of savory dishes, as a pickling agent or as a means of making certain poisonous yams in Ghana safe for human consumption.[18]

The ripened fruit is considered the more palatable, as it becomes sweeter and less sour (acidic) as it matures. It is used in desserts, as a jam, blended into juices, or sweetened drinks,[19] sorbets, ice creams and other snacks. In Western cuisine, it is found in Worcestershire Sauce.[20] In most parts of India, tamarind extract is used to flavor foods, in curries and traditional dishes,[21] and tamarind sweet chutney is popular in India and Pakistan[22] as a dressing for many snacks. Tamarind pulp is a key ingredient in flavoring curries and rice in south Indian cuisine, as well as in the Chigali lollipop. Across the Middle East, from the Levant to Iran, tamarind is used in savory dishes, notably meat-based stews, and often combined with dried fruits to achieve a sweet-sour tang.[23][24]

Tamarind seed oilEdit

Tamarind seed oil is the oil made from the kernel of tamarind seeds.[25] Isolation of the kernel without the thin but tough shell (or testa) is difficult. Tamarind kernel powder is used as sizing material for textile and jute processing, and in the manufacture of industrial gums and adhesives. It is de-oiled to stabilize its colour and odor on storage.

Composition of Tamarind seed kernel

Composition Original De-oiled
Oil 7.6% 0.6%
Protein 7.6% 19.0%
Polysaccharide 51.0% 55.0%
Crude fiber 1.2% 1.1%
Total ash 3.9% 3.4%
Acid insoluble ash 0.4% 0.3%
Moisture 7.1%

The fatty acid composition of the oil is linoleic 46.5%, oleic 27.2%,
and saturated fatty acids 26.4%. The oil is usually bleached after refining.

Fatty acid composition of Tamarind kernel oil

Fatty Acid (%)Range Reported
Lauric acid (C12:0) tr-0.3
Myristic acid (C14:0) tr-0.4
Palmitic acid (C16:0) 8.7-14.8
Stearic acid (C18:0) 4.4-6.6
Arachidic acid (C20:0) 3.7-12.2
Lignoceric acid (C24:0) 4.0-22.3
Oleic acid (C18:1) 19.6-27.0
Linoleic acid (18:2) 7.5-55.4
Linolenic acid (C18:3) 2.8-5.6


Tamarind tree on the site of the founding of Santa Clara, Cuba

Seeds can be scarified or briefly boiled to enhance germination. They retain their germination capability for several months if kept dry.[citation needed]

The tamarind has long been naturalized in Indonesia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Philippines, the Caribbean, and the Pacific Islands. Thailand has the largest plantations of the ASEAN nations, followed by Indonesia, Myanmar, and the Philippines. It is cultivated all over India, especially in Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, and Tamil Nadu. Extensive tamarind orchards in India produce 275,500 tons (250,000 MT) annually.[12]

Tamarind flowers

In the United States, it is a large-scale crop introduced for commercial use, second in net production quantity only to India, mainly in the southern states, notably south Florida (due to tropical and semitropical climates), and as a shade tree, along roadsides, in dooryards and in parks.[26]

A traditional food plant in Africa, tamarind has the potential to improve nutrition, boost food security, foster rural development and support sustainable landcare.[27] In Madagascar, its fruit and leaves are a well-known favorite of the ring-tailed lemur, providing as much as 50 percent of their food resources during the year if available.[28]

Folk medicineEdit

Throughout Southeast Asia, the fruit of the tamarind is used as a poultice applied to foreheads of fever sufferers.[15] The fruit exhibits laxative effects due to its high quantities of malic acid, tartaric acid, and potassium bitartrate. Its use for the relief of constipation has been documented throughout the world.[29][30]


Tamarind lumber is used to make furniture, carvings, turned objects, chopping blocks, and other small specialty wood items. Tamarind heartwood is reddish brown, sometimes with a purplish hue. The heartwood in tamarind tends to be narrow and is usually only present in older and larger trees. The pale yellow sapwood is sharply demarcated from the heartwood. Heartwood is said to be durable to very durable in decay resistance, and is also resistant to insects. Its sapwood is not durable and is prone to attack by insects and fungi as well as spalting. Due to its density and interlocked grain, tamarind is considered difficult to work. Heartwood has a pronounced blunting effect on cutting edges. Tamarind turns, glues, and finishes well. The heartwood is able to take a high natural polish.[31]

Metal polishEdit

In homes and temples, especially in Buddhist Asian countries, the fruit pulp is used to polish brass shrine statues and lamps, and copper, brass, and bronze utensils. The copper alone or in brass reacts with moist carbon dioxide to gain a green coat of copper carbonate. Tamarind contains tartaric acid, a weak acid that can remove the coat of copper carbonate. Hence, tarnished copper utensils are cleaned with tamarind or lime, another acidic fruit.[5]


Throughout south Asia and the tropical world, tamarind trees are used as ornamental, garden, and cash crop plantings. Commonly used as a bonsai species in many Asian countries, it is also grown as an indoor bonsai in temperate parts of the world.[32]


In hens, tamarind has been found to lower cholesterol in their serum, and in the yolks of the eggs they laid.[33][34] Due to a lack of available human clinical trials, there is insufficient evidence to recommend tamarind for the treatment of hypercholesterolemia or diabetes.[35]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Tamarindus indica L.". The Plant List. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and the Missouri Botanical Garden. 2013. Retrieved 28 February 2017. 
  2. ^ Quattrocchi U. (2012). CRC World Dictionary of Medicinal and Poisonous Plants: Common Names, Scientific Names, Eponyms, Synonyms, and Etymology. Boca Raton, Louisiana: CRC Press, Taylor & Francis Group. pp. 3667–3668. ISBN 9781420080445. 
  3. ^ USDA; ARS; National Genetic Resources Program (10 February 2005). "Cavaraea Speg.". Germplasm Resources Information Network—(GRIN) [Online Database]. National Germplasm Resources Laboratory, Beltsville, Maryland. Retrieved 28 February 2017. 
  4. ^ Tamarind; Oxford English dictionary
  5. ^ a b c Morton, Julia F. (1987). Fruits of Warm Climates. Wipf and Stock Publishers. pp. 115–121. ISBN 0-9653360-7-7. 
  6. ^ Diallo, BO; Joly, HI; McKey, D; Hosaert-McKey, M; Chevallier, MH (2007). "Genetic diversity of Tamarindus indica populations: Any clues on the origin from its current distribution?". African Journal of Biotechnology. 6 (7). 
  7. ^ Abukakar, MG; Ukwuani, AN; Shehu, RA (2008). "Phytochemical Screening and Antibacterial Activity of Tamarindus indica Pulp Extract". Asian Journal of Biochemistry. 3 (2): 134–138. doi:10.3923/ajb.2008.134.138. 
  8. ^ Raghavan, Susheela (23 October 2006). Handbook of Spices, Seasonings, and Flavorings (2nd ed.). CRC Press. p. 176. ISBN 9781420004366. 
  9. ^ Popenoe, W. (1974). Manual of Tropical and Subtropical Fruits. Hafner Press. pp. 432–436. 
  10. ^ Tamale, E.; Jones, N.; Pswarayi-Riddihough, I. (August 1995). Technologies Related to Participatory Forestry in Tropical and Subtropical Countries. World Bank Publications. ISBN 978-0-8213-3399-0. 
  11. ^ Tamarind monograph; PDF format; retrieved May 2017
  12. ^ a b c d e "Tamarind - Tamarindus indica - van Veen Organics". van Veen Organics. Retrieved 2017-06-04. 
  13. ^ "Tamarind: a multipurpose tree". DAWN.COM. 2007-07-09. Retrieved 2017-06-04. 
  14. ^ " | Plant Lexica". Retrieved 2017-06-04. 
  15. ^ a b Doughari, J. H. (December 2006). "Antimicrobial Activity of Tamarindus indica". Tropical Journal of Pharmaceutical Research. 5 (2): 597–603. doi:10.4314/tjpr.v5i2.14637. 
  16. ^ "Fact Sheet: Tamarindus indica" (PDF). University of Florida. Retrieved July 22, 2012. 
  17. ^ Christman, S. "Tamarindus indica". FloriData. Retrieved January 11, 2010. 
  18. ^ "Tamarind: Tamarindus indica L.". 
  19. ^ Jed Portman. May 12, 2013. Serious Eats: Jarritos Tamarindo.
  20. ^ "BBC Food:Ingredients—Tamarind recipes". BBC. Retrieved February 23, 2015. 
  21. ^ Veg Recipes of India: Tamarind-Date Chutney;
  22. ^ The Complete Asian Cookbook. Tuttle Publishing. p. 88. 
  23. ^ Tamarind is the 'sour secret of Syrian cooking' ; PRI; July 2014
  24. ^ Joan Nathan. "Georgian Chicken in Pomegranate and Tamarind Sauce"; New York Times; 2004
  25. ^ article;
  26. ^ "Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations". 
  27. ^ National Research Council (January 25, 2008). "Tamarind". Lost Crops of Africa: Volume III: Fruits. Lost Crops of Africa. 3. National Academies Press. ISBN 978-0-309-10596-5. Retrieved July 17, 2008. 
  28. ^ "Ring-Tailed Lemur". Wisconsin Primate Research Center. Retrieved November 14, 2016. 
  29. ^ Havinga, Reinout M.; Hartl, Anna; Putscher, Johanna; Prehsler, Sarah; Buchmann, Christine; Vogl, Christian R. (February 2010). "Tamarindus Indica L. (Fabaceae): Patterns of Use in Traditional African Medicine". Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 127 (3): 573–588. PMID 19963055. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2009.11.028. 
  30. ^ Panthong, A; Khonsung, P; Kunanusorn, P; Wongcome, T; Pongsamart, S (July 2008). "The laxative effect of fresh pulp aqueous extracts of Thai Tamarind cultivars". Planta Medica. 74 (09). doi:10.1055/s-0028-1084885. 
  31. ^ "Tamarind". The Wood Database. Retrieved 22 December 2016. 
  32. ^ D'Cruz, Mark. "Ma-Ke Bonsai Care Guide for Tamarindus indica". Ma-Ke Bonsai. Retrieved August 19, 2011. 
  33. ^ Salma, U.; Miah, A. G.; Tareq, K. M. A.; Maki, T.; Tsujii, H. (1 April 2007). "Effect of Dietary Rhodobacter capsulatus on Egg-Yolk Cholesterol and Laying Hen Performance". Poultry Science. Oxford University Press. 86 (4): 714–719. ISSN 1525-3171. doi:10.1093/ps/86.4.714. as well as in egg-yolk (13 and 16%) 
  34. ^ Chowdhury, SR; Sarker, DK; Chowdhury, SD; Smith, TK; Roy, PK; Wahid, MA (2005). "Effects of dietary tamarind on cholesterol metabolism in laying hens". Poultry science. 84 (1): 56–60. PMID 15685942. doi:10.1093/ps/84.1.56. 
  35. ^ "Tamarindus indica". Health Online. Retrieved January 11, 2010. 


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