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Synonym: Indian date

botanical name: Tamarindus indica L





Tamarinds are the fruit of the evergreen tamarind tree, which can reach a height of over 20 m and an age of over 100 years.


Origin, areas of cultivation


The tamarind is endemic to the subtropics and tropics; it probably originated in Africa. Among the main areas where it grows today are Africa, India, Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia. The few fruits imported into Germany usually stem from Thailand, India or Brazil.




Tamarinds can be harvested almost year round. In Florida, Central America and the West Indies the ripening season lasts from April to June, while in Hawaii the fruits are ripe from late summer until autumn. The fact that their mature pods can remain hanging on the tree for weeks or even months is an advantage for the farmers, who can harvest as needed. Storage is more difficult, however; tamarinds must be kept where it is cool and there is very little humidity.

Dried fruits are available all year.


Appearance, taste, characteristics


Being legumes, tamarinds consist of a pod that surrounds the pulp and the kernels or seeds. There is a great variety of shapes: Tamarinds may be straight or curved, with more or less distinctive constrictions, rather flat or rather bent. The brown pods develop from the yellow blossoms of the tree. They are 3-20 cm long and 1.5-2.5 cm wide.


The pulp is brownish to red-black and sticky. The seeds are covered with a shiny, brown-black shell. There are both sour and sweet varieties. The pulp of sweet tamarinds is brown; that of sour varieties is reddish-black and has a flavour resembling that of lemon juice.




Analyses of the pulp yield very differing data about the nutritious value of the tamarind. This is because the countries where it grows are so varied, but above all because the ripe fruits hang for different lengths of time on the tree and lose water during this time.


In addition to a relatively high energy value, the tamarind fruit is comparatively rich in potassium, calcium and phosphorous and a good source of niacin (vitamin B3).

100 g of the edible part contain:



Tamarind, ripe pulp

Energy (kcal)


Water (g)


Protein (g)


Fat (g)


Carbohydrates (g)


Fiber (g)


Vitamin C (mg)


Vitamin A (RE) (µg)


Niacin (vit. B3) (mg)


Thiamine (vit. B1) (mg)


Riboflavin /vit. B2( (mg)


Potassium (mg)


Sodium (mg)


Calcium (mg)


Magnesium (mg)


Phosphorous (mg)


Iron (mg)



Their sour taste is due to the high amount of tartaric acid they contain. The sugar content, ranging from 35% to 50%, is responsible for the simultaneously sweet aroma.


The tamarind kernels contain a large amount of pectin, a substance that can form gels. Pectins are an important component of various products in the food, pharmacological and cosmetics industries, for which the use of gelling agents, stabilizers or thickening agents is necessary. As a purely plant substance they can serve as a substitute for gelatine.


Quality criteria, optimal storage conditions


Tamarinds must be stored cool (ca. 10°C) and relatively dry (ca. 75% relative humidity). To keep them well for later use they should only be peeled, then layered with sugar in containers or pressed into firm balls and stored, covered with cloth, in a cold, dry place. In some countries tamarinds are also peeled and preserved with salt, steamed and dried in the sun.


Dried fruits keep longer and are available all year.


Form of consumption, use, processing, practical tips for preparation


Frequently, the entire pod is dried and then eaten.


Because of their sweet-sour taste, tamarinds have various uses, either as sweet desserts, for spicy dishes, fresh, dried or pickled. They are less frequently used as a fresh fruit, however.


In Mexico and Thailand, the pulp is candied and highly seasoned and eaten as a sweet. Otherwise, syrups and purée are made from tamarinds, which are then used as ingredients in jams, soft drinks, and ice cream, but also in Worcestershire and other sauces and Indian seasonings.


The still soft, unripe pods are used in India to season rice, fish and meat.


Tamarind granules are also used; they are stirred directly into foods and dissolve.


As tamarind kernels contain a large amount of pectin, they are used industrially to produce this gelling agent. Pectin is used as a stabilizer in the production of jams, ice cream, mayonnaise, and cheese.


In Germany one can buy (at least in well-assorted Asian shops) tamarind fruits, purée, juice and a concentrate for cooking (asem).


In the countries of origin, other parts of the tamarind tree are also used as food. In some countries a tea is made from the fresh or dried leaves. Leaves and young seedlings are often eaten as a cooked vegetable in curries, soups and sauces. The blossoms are also used as a vegetable or as an ingredient in soups and salads. Honey made from the blossoms is golden yellow and tastes slightly sour.





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