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Tamarind leaves are small and oblong with rounded edges, averaging 10-20 pairs of fern-like leaflets that are 1-3 centimeters in length and 5-6 millimeters in width. The dense, feathery, foliage is bright green on the surface and dusty red-brown on the underside. Tamarind leaves grow pinnately and have the unique characteristic of folding at night. The tree is known to be evergreen, but depending on the climate it may briefly shed leaves. Tamarind leaves are best consumed when the leaves are young and tender and have yet to develop a fibrous texture. They have a subtle tart and tangy flavor.
Tamarind leaves are available in the spring.
Tamarind leaves, botanically classified as Tamarindus indica, come from one of the largest trees of the tropics that can reach up to thirty meters in height with a canopy that spans twelve meters across and belongs to the Leguminosae family. Also known as Tamarindo in Spanish and Portuguese, Tamarandizio in Italian, Tamarinde in the Philippines, Tamarin or Tamarinier in French, Ambli, Imli, and Chinch in India, and Ma-Kharm in Thailand, Tamarind trees are known for their sweet and sour fruits which are used in cooking to add a piquant bite. The leaves are also an important culinary ingredient and are a commonly used green for soups, stews, and curries in parts of Asia, Africa, and other tropical climates.
Tamarind leaves are an excellent source of vitamin A and vitamin C. They also contain calcium, iron, fiber, and potassium.
Tamarind leaves are commonly ground into a paste or dried and soaked in water to create a sour flavoring agent. They can be added to soups, stews, dal, curries, chutneys, and rasam. Tamarind leaves are also cooked with the tamarind flower buds as a vegetable side dish or are pickled for extended use. They can also be consumed raw in salads or used as a garnish. Tamarind leaves pair well with meats such as fish and chicken, aromatics such as garlic and onion, dried red chilies, cumin seeds, peanuts, and apricots. They will keep up to a week when stored in a sealed container in the refrigerator. Dried leaves will keep for a couple of months when stored in a cool, dry, and dark place.
The tamarind tree is associated with many myths around the world. Some African tribes hold the tamarind tree to be sacred and there is a superstition that it is harmful to sleep or to tie a horse beneath one. Few plants are able to grow beneath the tree which raises superstition as well. In Burma, the tree is believed by some to be the dwelling-place of the rain god and some hold the belief that the tree raises the temperature in the area surrounding it. In addition to legends surrounding the tree, Tamarind leaves are also used medicinally in India as a blood purifier and as an anti-inflammatory for swelling and injuries. In the Philippines, the leaves are steeped in boiling water and are made into a tea to help reduce fevers.
Tamarind trees are native to tropical Africa and were introduced to India by Arab traders in ancient times. The fruit was also well known to the ancient Egyptians, spread to the Greeks in the 4th century BCE, and was brought to the United States and Mexico in the 16th century. Today the tamarind tree has been naturalized in Hawaii, Florida, Bermuda, the Bahamas, the West Indies, Mexico, Asia, Southeast Asia, Africa, and throughout Central America.
Recipes that include Tamarind Leaves. One is easiest, three is harder.
|Sailu's Kitchen||Chinta Chiguru Pappu – Tender Tamarind Leaves-Dal|
|The Chef and Her Kitchen||Chinta Chiguru(Chintaku) Podi | Tamarind Leaves Powder|
|Sailu's Kitchen||Chintachiguru kobbari pachadi – Tender Tamarind Leaves Coconut Chutney|