Whilst Tamarind, Tamarindus indica, is indigenous to Africa, Tamarind has been grown in S.E.Asia for thousands of years. Tamarind is known as Makham in Thailand, Asam in Indonesia and Malaysia and Sampaloc in the Philippines. Tamarind has a very wide range of uses, both culinary and medicinal where the fruit, leaves and flowers can be eaten and even the bark is useful.
Tamarind is a very large and bushy tree with fruits that vary in length between 7 and 15cm. The fruits are encased in a brittle brown shell which can be prised open easily when the fruit is ripe. Inside this shell, the Tamarind fruit can have anywhere between 1 and 12 brown seeds depending on the variety.
Tamarind fruit has a sweet and sour taste, some of the varieties more sweet than others, and is very popular eaten raw.
The fruit pulp is widely used in Chutneys, Sauces, Curries, Desserts, Jams and even Ice Cream, and is an ingredient in Worcestershire Sauce and HP Sauce. Coated with sugar, or a combination of sugar,salt and red chili flakes, Tamarind pulp is eaten as a confection. Another popular use for Tamarind fruit is to blend it into a juice which has laxative properties similar to Prune Juice.
Tamarind juice can be made by boiling the fruit pulp with a pinch of salt in water for about 20 minutes. The juice may be drunk hot or cold. To treat colds and fevers, an infusion of the leaves can be made. The leaves of the Tamarind tree are often used, after mashing in a mortar and pestle, to treat skin ulcers and sores.