Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Name This Plant: Tamarind

Name This Plant

Anonymous has successfully named this plant tamarind. When I first photographed this fruit in the Big C in Bangkok, I had no idea what it was and no English labels to clue me in. It wasn't until we visited Mike in Tak and he picked these seed pods up off the ground and pulled the fruit out to share that I discovered what they were.

To me tamarind doesn't resemble any fruit I am familiar with and has a very distinctive taste. It is native to Africa but found through out Asia and Central America. According to
Wikipedia we are familiar with it in Western cuisine in Worcestershire sauce. In Thailand it is an important part of my favourite Thai dish, Pad Thai (which tastes absolutely nothing like what they served at Noodles & Company, let me tell you). Wikipedia also tells me that it is combined with some poisonous yams in Ghana to make them safe for human consumption. I am not sure how that works.

It is hard to tell from the picture below, but the fruit is the dark brown, almost black thing that you see where the outer shell has been broken. Under that are the seeds inside the fruit.


According to the
Purdue Horticulture page:
"Few plants will survive beneath a tamarind tree and there is a superstition that it is harmful to sleep or to tie a horse beneath one, probably because of the corrosive effect that fallen leaves have on fabrics in damp weather. Some African tribes venerate the tamarind tree as sacred. To certain Burmese, the tree represents the dwelling-place of the rain god and some hold the belief that the tree raises the temperature in its immediate vicinity. Hindus may marry a tamarind tree to a mango tree before eating the fruits of the latter. In Nyasaland, tamarind bark soaked with corn is given to domestic fowl in the belief that, if they stray or are stolen, it will cause them to return home. In Malaya, a little tamarind and coconut milk is placed in the mouth of an infant at birth, and the bark and fruit are given to elephants to make them wise."
— Sara

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