TAMARIND - Tamarindo

TAMARINDIf you see a large, graceful tree with ferny, acacia-like leaves next to a Maya home, there's a good chance it's a Tamarind Tree, Tamarindus indica, a native of tropical Africa. And if the tree bears dangling fruits looking like brown, bloated, green bean pods like those at the right, then it's definitely a Tamarind.

Tamarind trees deserve being planted if only because they are such handsome trees and provide good shade. However, they're also famous for their pods, which actually are legumes, since Tamarinds are members of the Bean Family. A cracked-open pod is shown below.

I say "cracked open" because the pods' coverings are hard and brittle. Inside the pods you find the large beans typical of a Bean-Family member, but the beans are embedded in a soft, brownish pulp through which a few tough fibers run. It's the pulp people like, for it's extremely sour, and makes a lemonade-type drink when mashed in water and sweetened.

TAMARIND cracked pod

To make the drink, remove pulp from about a dozen good-sized pods, dissolve the pulp in about 1½ cups of warm water, strain it, add about a quart of cold water, then sweeten to taste. To dissolve the pulp you may need to squish it with your fingers or else remove the seeds and use a blender until you have a thick sauce.