While bearing large quantities of delicious fruit, the tamarind still remains one of the lesser known tropical fruit trees in Florida.
While its origin is tropical Africa, many consider it indigenous to India due to its long heritage there. From India the tamarind traveled to the Persians and Arabs. There it was called “tamar hindi”, meaning Indian date, because the ripe pulp appears similar to the date. From this term its species name, Tamarindus indica, was derived. Today the tamarind is naturalized throughout most subtropical and tropical regions including southern Florida.
This evergreen tree bears cinnamonbrown velvety bean-like pods. The pods are usually 3-6” long and 3/4” wide. Upon ripening, the pulp turns brown and the skin becomes brittle. As the pulp dehydrates in the pod it turns into a sticky paste and shrinks away from the shell.
The ripened fruit is eaten fresh and has a delightful tangy flavor. The pulp is commonly used in chutneys, curries, and sauces. Tamarindo is a refreshing drink made with ripened pulp, water and sugar. The fruit is high in calcium, iron, phosphorous, and vitamin B. In Florida, tamarind pods usually ripen between April and June.
Tamarind will grow in a wide variety of soil types but does poorly in waterlogged areas. Though slow-growing it can become impressively large, up to 50’ tall with a spread of 35’. It is both drought and wind resistant.
To learn more, call ECHO’s Global Bookstore & Nursery at 239.567.3304