The fruit of the Tamarind evergreen tree (Tamarindus indica) is a seed pod that contains a fragrant but sour pulp. While the tamarind is native to Africa, it spread to India as early as the prehistoric days and is now grown all over the tropical world. Tamarind has been used historically as a medicine, but it also has an extensive culinary history.
Tamarind pods grow in clusters and contain very small beans which are surrounded by a sour pulp. The pulp is compressed into a cake and can then be turned into a paste or syrup/concentrate. The processed tamarind can then be used in many different culinary applications. For instance, many Indian dishes such as chutneys and curries contain tamarind paste; the syrup can also be diluted with sweetened water and made into a drink; and, with the addition of honey or sugar, the pulp can be made into a sweetmeat candy. The majority of Westerners, however, probably know the taste of tamarind without even realizing it because it is a key base ingredient in the ever-popular Indian inspired but very British condiment, Worcestershire Sauce.
" a few groceries bought at a store. Red rice, coconuts, peanuts, white rice, tamarind, ginger, spices, and various tropical nuts . . . ."
Advertisements for imported groceries abound in the 18th century newspaper The Maryland Gazette and proves that tamarind, along with other foreign goods, were highly sought after in the colonial market town of Annapolis.
Recipe for Tamarind Drink
1 Quart Water
1 - 1 1/2 Cups Granulated Sugar
1/2 Cup Tamarind Paste (click here for link to purchase this)
- In a saucepan, mix 1 cup of the sugar into the water and bring to a boil. Whisk to make sure all of the sugar is dissolved.
- Add the tamarind paste and whisk. Taste and add more sugar, if desired.
- Refrigerate this mixture until completely chilled.
Alan Davidson, The Penguin Companion to Food. New York: 2002.
Michael Twitty, Fighting Old Nep: The Foodways of Enslaved Afro-Marylanders, 1634-1864, 2006.