Tamarindus indica Tamarindus. Br.
"Tamarinds are the fruits of Tamarindus indica, Linn., freed from the brittle outer part of the pericarp and preserved with sugar." Br. The preserved pulp of the fruit of Tamarindus indica Linné (Fam. Leguminosae)." N. F.
Fructus Tamarindorum; Tamarinier, Fr. Cod.; Tamarin Pulpe brute de Tamarins, Fr.; Pulpa Tamarindorum cruda, P. G.; Tamarindenmus, Tamarinden, G.; Tamarindo, It.; Tamarindo (Pulpa de), Sp.
The tamarind tree (Tamarindus indica) is the only species of this genus. It rises to a great height, sends off numerous spreading branches, and has a beautiful appearance. The trunk is erect, thick, and covered with a rough, ash-colored bark. The leaves are alternate and pinnate, composed of many pairs of opposite leaflets, which are almost sessile, entire, oblong, obtuse, unequal at their base, about half an inch long by a sixth of an inch broad, and of a dark-green color. The flowers, which are in small lateral racemes, have a yellowish calyx, and yellow petals beautifully variegated with red veins. The fruit is a broad, compressed, reddish ash-colored pod, much curved, from two to six inches long, with numerous brown, flat, quadrangular seeds, contained in loculi formed by a tough membrane. Exterior to this membrane is a light-colored acid pulpy matter, between which and the shell are several somewhat branched tough ligneous strands, running from the stem to the extremity of the pod, the attachment of which they serve to strengthen. The shells are fragile and easily separated.
The tree appears to be a native of the East and West Indies, Egypt, and Arabia, though believed by some to have been imported into America. Barth, the African traveller, found it abundant in the interior of Africa. De Candolle was doubtful whether the East and West India trees are of the same species. It is stated by writers that the pods of the former are much larger than those of the latter, and have a greater number of seeds, the East India tamarinds containing six or seven, those from the West Indies rarely more than three or four; but this seems not to be correct.
Calcutta appears to be the chief emporium for the tamarinds of the European markets. Tamarinds are also sent from the West Indies and Ecuador to England; when from this source they are preferred. The latter are known as American tamarinds, and are obtained from T. indica, var. occidentalis Gartn. They are of a light brown color, less cohesive and possess less acidity than the tamarinds from the Old World. Tamarinds are brought to us chiefly from the West Indies, where they are prepared by placing the pods, previously deprived of their shells, in layers in a cask, and pouring boiling syrup over them. A better mode, sometimes practised, is to place them in stone jars, with alternate layers of powdered sugar. They are said to be occasionally prepared in copper boilers. In the East Indies tamarinds are often prepared for market by stripping off the outer shell and pressing the pulpy interiors into a mass; sometimes they are packed as in the West Indies.
Properties.—Fresh tamarinds, which are sometimes, though rarely, brought to this country, have an agreeable, sour taste, without any mixture of sweetness. In the United States they are usually met with only in the preserved state, this is a dark-colored adhesive mass, consisting of syrup mixed with the pulp, membrane, strong, somewhat branching fibres or string-like strands, and seeds of the pod, and having a sweet acidulous taste. The brown, flattish, quadrangular seeds, each enclosed in a tough membrane, should be hard, clean, and not swollen, the string-like fibers tough and entire, and the odor without mustiness. Tamarind is officially described as "a reddish-brown, moist, sugary mass, containing strong branched fibres, and brown, shining seeds, each enclosed in a tough membrane. Taste agreeable, subacid. The pulp yields no characteristic reactions for copper." Br.
"A pulpy mass of a light reddish-brown color, changing with age to a dark brown, containing some branching fibers and numerous reddish-brown, smooth, oblong or quadrangular, compressed seeds, each enclosed in a tough membrane. Odor distinct; taste sweet and agreeably acid." N. F.
From the analysis of Yauquelin, it appears that in 100 parts of the pulp of tamarinds, independently of the sugar added to them, there are 9.40 parts of citric acid, 1.55 of tartaric acid, 0.45 of malic acid, 3.25 of potassium bitartrate, 4.70 of gum, 6.25 of pectin, 34.35 of parenchymatous matter, and 27.55 of water. K. Muller, after analyzing nine commercial varieties, states that only traces of citric and malic acids are present, but that tartaric acid and acid potassium tartrate are present in considerable amount. Copper may often be detected in preserved tamarinds, derived from the boilers in which they are prepared. Its presence may be ascertained by the reddish coat which it imparts to the blade of a spatula or other steel implement immersed in the tamarinds.
Uses.—Tamarinds are laxative and refrigerant, and infused in water form a highly grateful drink in febrile diseases. Convalescents often find the pulp a pleasant addition to their diet, and useful when a laxative action is desirable. It is sometimes prescribed in connection with other mild cathartics. Though frequently given with infusion of senna to cover its taste, it is said to weaken its purgative power, and the same observation has been made of its influence upon the resinous cathartics in general. For a formula for fluidextract of tamarind, see Nat. Drug., 1892, 101.