The tropical tamarind fruit is the focus of the classic Mexican beverage Agua de Tamarindo. It has a slightly fruity aroma, and a refreshingly sour taste that pairs well with the orange we add in our recipe. Taken alone, The ripened sticky pulp of the fruit has a musky flavor and is sweet and sour due to the sugars and the acid content.
Tamarinds may be eaten fresh, but they are most commonly used with sugar and water in the American tropics to prepare a cooling drink. In Mexico, it is known as “Agua de Tamarindo”, one of the many “Aguas Frescas” (literally, fresh waters). Agua de Jamaica, Horchata, Agua de Piña, are some of the other most common Frescas.
Of all tropical fruit trees, tamarind is perhaps the most widespread. It is known across the world by many names, most of which are variations on the common english name. In Spanish and Portuguese, it is tamarindo; in French, tamarin, tamarinier, tamarinier des Indes, or tamarindier; in Dutch and German, tamarinde; in Italian, tamarandizio; in Papiamiento of the Lesser Antilles, tamarijn. In the Virgin Islands, it is sometimes called taman; in the Philippines, sampalok or various other dialectal names; in Malaya, asam jawa; in India, it is tamarind or ambli, imli, chinch, etc.; in Cambodia, it isampil or khoua me; in Laos, mak kham; in Thailand, ma-kharm; in Vietnam, me.
Most probably native to tropical Africa, the tree grows wild throughout the Sudan and was so long ago introduced into and adopted in India that it has often been reported as indigenous there also, and it was apparently from this Asiatic country that it reached the Persians and the Arabs who called it “tamar hindi” (Indian date, from the date-like appearance of the dried pulp), giving rise to both its common and generic names. Unfortunately, the specific name, “indica”, also perpetuates the illusion of Indian origin. The fruit was well known to the ancient Egyptians and to the Greeks in the 4th Century B.C.
Like Hibiscus, Tamarind has widespread use in Traditional Medicine in many cultures across the world.