Tamar hindi: Arabic; Dawadawa: Ghana; Bwemba: Malawi; Viwawasha: Nyanja (Zambia); Tsamiya: Hausa (Nigeria); Mkwaju: Swahili; Hamaar: Somalia
Tamarind fruit is native to tropical Africa and is the only species in its genus, totally unique. Over time, it has spread from one end of the continent to the other, its sweet and sour taste very addictive once you get to know it. From Cairo to the Swahili Coast, tamarind juice is a favorite refreshment during hot days. In Senegal, the national dish of thiebu djene is served with several whole but peeled pods of tamarind into the sauce pot. As long as you chew carefully to avoid biting down on a seed, the tamarind is one of the best parts.
Tamarind trees grow in sandy, clay and acidic soils, which makes them popular in areas with poor soil. It is also a nitrogen-fixer tree, which pulls nitrogen out of the air for use around its roots, fertilizing the soil. Hardy and resilient, tamarind trees can even live in very salty areas along the coastline, where the ground or the air has a high saline content, and can survive long years of hard drought. When they do flower, the flowers are small and hard to see, but delicious for the local bees.
The fruit itself comes from a long pod that grows on a type of thorny brush tree, not unlike an acacia. When the fruit ripens, it is already dry, like baobab fruit, and does not need refrigeration to last for months in a pantry. All that is needed is for you to remove the outer pod and submerge the tamarind pulp in very hot water, and the fruit will loosen as the water cools.