Tamarind fruit are bean-like shaped pods with a cinnamon brown to clay colored external appearance. Inside the pods, the fruit's flesh is tender, succulent and green with a highly acidic flavor when young. Its underdeveloped seeds are soft and white. As the fruit matures, the pod becomes brittle. The flesh begins to dehydrate to paste form and takes on the cinnamon appearance of the pod while also losing its acidic punch and becoming sweeter. It is at this stage of maturity that it is most often used for culinary purposes. The seeds, too change in both color and texture, becoming flat, hard and glossy brown.
Tamarind has a peak season early spring to late fall.
Tamarind is the most widely distributed fruit tree of the tropics. It is a slow-growing and long lived massive tree that can grow to 100 feet in height. The fruit of the tree are the tamarind pods that hang gracefully in abundant bunches from its leaved branches. There are types of tamarinds that are sweeter than most. One in Thailand is known as 'Makham waan' and one distributed by the USDA's Horticultural Department, known as 'Manila Sweet'.
The tamarind tree is native to tropical Africa. Its growing regions covers nearly the entire tropical belt throughout Asia, Pacific Islands and the Americas. It is cultivated most widely throughout Mexico and Asia.