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The Tamarind is an immense tree reaching heights of 30 meters with a canopy that spans 12 meters across. The mass of bright-green, fine, feathery foliage is composed of fern-like leaves which fold at night. The tree is normally evergreen but the leaves may be shed briefly in very dry areas during the hot season. The best time to gather leaves is in the spring when they are young and tender and have yet to develop a fibrous texture. They have a dusty magenta underside and lime green surface. Tamarind leaves have a subtle tart flavor without being overly bitter or sour.
Fresh young Tamarind leaves are available in the spring.
Tamarind leaves come from one of the most prolific and massive trees of the tropics which is botanically classified as Tamarindus indica. Known as Tamarindo in Spanish speaking countries, the tree’s sweet and sour fruits are commonly used to flavor Mexican candies. The pulpy fruit is also one of the many ingredients in Worcestershire sauce, adding a piquant bite. The utilitarian fruit is not the only edible part of the tree, the leaves are also an important culinary ingredient. They are a commonly used green for soups, stews and curries in parts of Asia, Africa and in other tropical climates.
Tamarind leaves are rich in Vitamin A. A decoction of the young leaves is used to treat ulcerated skin, reduce coughs, and as bath to treat fever and recover from childbirth or illness.
Fresh young Tamarind leaves add a pleasant sour taste to soups, stews and curries. They may also be dried and ground into a powder for use in the off season. Though they may be eaten raw, the leaves are best when cooked so as to integrate their tartness into dishes that have a richer quality.
Some African tribes hold the Tamarind tree to be sacred. Few plants will survive beneath the tree and there is a superstition that it is harmful to sleep or to tie a horse beneath one. In Burma, 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.
Tamarind trees are native to tropical Africa, India and other tropical climates of southern Asia. The leaves have been an important part of Southeast Asian cuisine for centuries. The fruit was well known to the ancient Egyptians and to the Greeks in the 4th Century B.C. Today the Tamarind tree has been naturalized in Hawaii, Florida, Bermuda, the Bahamas, the West Indies, Mexico and throughout Central America. In India there are extensive Tamarind orchards producing 275,500 tons annually.
Recipes that include Tamarind Leaves. One is easiest, three is harder.
|The Chef and Her Kitchen||Chinta Chiguru(Chintaku) Podi | Tamarind Leaves Powder|
|Sailu's Kitchen||Chinta Chiguru Pappu – Tender Tamarind Leaves-Dal|
|Sailu's Kitchen||Chintachiguru kobbari pachadi – Tender Tamarind Leaves Coconut Chutney|