Young tamarind leaf
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.