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Growing Tamarind: Tamarindus indica

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Overview

A member of the widespread Fabaceae (legume) family, the Tamarindus genus has Tamarind as its only species. It is distantly related to Carob, Ice Cream Bean, and Guamuchil. Tamarind is widely grown in the tropics as an ornamental and for its edible bean pod pulp.

Description

Form: Tree.
Lifespan: Up to 60 productive years, possibly living 200 years.
Leaf retention: Evergreen, but drought-deciduous.
Growth rate: Slow.
Mature Size: 15-25' high and wide.
Flowers: Four sepals, red on the outside and green to white inside, open to reveal yellow petals laced with red veins. Two petals are larger, one is smaller, two are minute. The flowers are fragrant.
Bloom: Summer.
Self-fruitful: Yes.
Years before fruiting: Grafted, 3-4. From seed, 6-8.
Fruit: Brown, irregularly curved bean pods with brittle shells. Ripe pods contain a brown or reddish, sticky paste with a sour-sweet flavor. Most varieties are primarily sour, but a few are sweet. Up to 12 large, flat, glossy brown seeds are embedded within the pulp. Indian cultivars have longer pods with 6-12 seeds, while the West Indian cultivars have 3-6 seeds.
Months for fruit to ripen: 8. Tamarind pods are sometimes left on the tree up to six months to lose water, but can be removed when first ripe.
Storage after harvest: Tamarind pods can be refrigerated, wrapped, for several months, or even frozen for up to one year. Tamarind is often shelled and layered with sugar or salt before processing. There are many recipes for tamarind pulp.
Leaves: Green leaflets, feathery, in groups of 10-20, which fold up at night. The tree provides light shade.
Stems: Thorny trunk. Branches are highly wind resistant. They droop slightly at the ends.
Roots: Taproot.
Cultivars of Note:
'Manila Sweet' / 'Sweet Tamarind' have sweeter pulp.
Wildlife: Flowers attract bees. Bean pods rarely attract animals.
Toxic / Danger: Thorns on trunk.
Origin: Tropical Africa. Tamarind is likely to have been cultivated for many thousands of years. Introduced to India thousands of years ago, it was assumed at one time to have originated there.

Cultivation and Uses

USDA hardiness zones: 9b-11. Mature trees can survive brief temperatures of 26°F intact. They are root hardy and can regrow from the roots. New trees must be protected from freezing.
Chill hours: None.
Heat tolerant: Yes, to 113°F in native region.
Sun: Full sun.
Drought tolerant: Yes, in moderate temperatures. Needs regular water in high temperatures.
Water after becoming established: Weekly in summer, monthly in winter.
Soil: Well drained, tolerant, pH 5.6-7.5 (acidic to neutral). Moderate salt tolerance.
Fertilize: Organic fertilizer monthly.
Mulch: Yes, to reduce soil temperature and lessen evaporation.
Planting: These trees will eventually outgrow a container.
First Year Care: Water every 1-3 days in hot weather. Protect from freezing.
Prune: On young trees, select the three to five strongest, best placed branches to serve as the main scaffold on a single trunk and remove the rest. In following years, remove only dead or damaged branches.
Litter: Moderate to high. Leaves, twigs, bean pods if not harvested.
Propagation: Seed is used to grow rootstocks. Cuttings from desirable selections are grafted. Air layering is also successful.
Uses: Ornamental, light shade, edible bean pod pulp used for flavoring sauces, drinks, and making candy.

Comments

Tamarind is used as a flavoring agent in many recipes. Immature whole pods are used as a sour flavoring in some dishes.



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By Tau?olunga - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5572455 flowers/leaves

By B.navez - Own work, CC BY 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=321246 pods


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