A part of the pea and bean family, tamarind is the brown, tart flesh from the seed pods of the tamarind tree. The tamarind tree is native to tropical Africa where it grows wild. It was also popular in ancient Egypt and Greece in 4th Century B.C. It was introduced to tropical America, the Bahamas, Bermuda, and India. In fact, India is now the top producer of tamarind for domestic use and export.
The tamarind fruit is used to add a sweet and tart flavor to savory dishes, drinks and desserts. It is added to vegetarian, fish and meat dishes (especially curries and sauces) in India, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Singapore. Tamarind drinks can be found in Mexico, Brazil, Guatemala, and Puerto Rico. It is also used to make fruit preserves, ice creams and sherbet.
Dried tamarinds, and tamarind paste and powder are available in Asian and Latin American grocery stores.