Tamarindus indica, also known as Indian date or tamarind, is a tree with seed pods traditionally used for fruit juice, chutneys, curries, and desserts in South Asia. But it is also a drought resistant source of livestock fodder, firewood, timber, and bee forage, and its lacy canopy (Figure 9) provides medium shade for other crops. Cover crops like cowpea and horse gram can be grown in its shade for erosion and weed control; so can vegetables like tomatoes that are susceptible to sunscald. Tamarind is a low-maintenance tree with no significant pest or disease problems. It grows in a wide range of soil types and between sea level and 1500 m elevation.
Tamarind timber is strong, termite resistant, and prized for furniture. It is especially useful for making mortars, pestles, axles, and other hardwear implements. The wood is good for both fuelwood and charcoal. Its deep root system and strong wood make it resistant to wind damage.
The sticky pulp surrounding the seeds contains 30 to 40% sugar with a high vitamin C content. The pulp is mixed with sugar and water for a refreshing juice and is used medicinally to soothe digestion and as a laxative. The leaves and young seed pods can be eaten as a vegetable in soups and stews. Leaves can also be used to make a red dye for woolens.
Propagation is by seed, trial packets of which are available through the ECHO Online Seed Catalog. Seedlings take 6-12 years to mature and bear fruit. Mature trees can live as long as 200 years.
Permaculture Research Institute
Fifer, G. 2017. Tamarind. ECHO Development Notes no. 137