Food History: Tamarind

1024px-Tamarind21024px-Tamarind_candyTamarind (Tamarindus indica) (from Arabic: تمر هندي‎, romanized tamar hindi, “Indian date”) is a leguminous tree in the family Fabaceae indigenous to tropical Africa. The genus Tamarindus is a monotypic taxon, having only a single species.

The tamarind tree produces edible, pod-like fruit which are used extensively in cuisines around the world.

Tamarindus indica is probably indigenous to tropical Africa,[1] but has been cultivated for so long on the Indian subcontinent that it is sometimes also reported to be indigenous there.[2] 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 prior to the Common Era.

In the 16th century, it was heavily 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.