The tamarind tree produces pod-like fruit that contains an edible pulp used in cuisines around the world. Other uses of the pulp include traditional medicine and metal polish. The wood can be used for woodworking and tamarind seed oil can be extracted from the seeds. Its leaves are used in Indian cuisine, especially in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. Because of tamarind’s many uses, it is cultivated around the world in tropical and subtropical zones.
The tamarind is a long-lived, medium-growth tree, which attains a maximum crown height of 12 to 18 metres (39 to 59 ft). The crown has an irregular, vase-shaped outline of dense foliage. The tree grows well in full sun. It prefers clay, loam, sandy, and acidic soil types, with a high resistance to drought and aerosol salt (wind-borne salt as found in coastal areas).
The evergreen leaves are alternately arranged and pinnately lobed. The leaflets are bright green, elliptic-ovular, pinnately veined, and less than 5 cm (2.0 in) in length. The branches droop from a single, central trunk as the tree matures, and are often pruned in agriculture to optimize tree density and ease of fruit harvest. At night, the leaflets close up.
As a tropical species, it is frost-sensitive. The pinnate leaves with opposite leaflets give a billowing effect in the wind. Tamarind timber consists of hard, dark red heartwood and softer, yellowish sapwood.
The tamarind flowers (although inconspicuously), with red and yellow elongated flowers. Flowers are 2.5 cm wide (one inch), five-petalled, borne in small racemes, and yellow with orange or red streaks. Buds are pink as the four sepals are pink and are lost when the flower blooms.