Look up into the canopy of trees in any large compound in Bengulu and your eyes are bound to be assailed by the parrot green of fresh tamarind leaves interspersed with yellow flowers.
Many of us Bangaloreans have fond memories of eating raw and ripe tamarind surreptitiously picked off the trees in our schools across the city with great nostalgia.
Jean Wintle Hereford says: “In St John’s School and Church compound we hid a cycle in the tamarind tree and the boy who climbed up to get it fell through the branches and broke his arm. I think it was his ego more than his arm that took a bruising.”
“Our tree was outside the cycle stand in St Joseph’s,” says Christopher Mendens. “That was a high visibility area so actually getting any tamarind was a mark of extreme courage. Our favoured modus operandi was to position oneself nonchalantly with football in hand, then sharply chuck upwards and let things fall. Then while walking by whistling tunelessly, gather them up with sweeps of the foot.”
The tamarind or Indian date according to Wikipedia is indigenous to Africa.
The genus Tamarindus has only a single species and produces edible, pod-like fruit which is used extensively in cuisines around the world.
Monisha Cardoso shares, “We used to have lunch and play dodge-ball under the tamarind tree in Sacred Heart School.
“We weren’t supposed to pluck the tamarind because the school sold the fruit, but we did anyway.”
“Studying in St. Joseph’s Indian High school, we had to wait for about an hour to take the second van trip home,” says Balasubramaniam Thyagarajan.
“United Breweries opposite had tamarind trees. We used to tie stones to strings and bring down the tamarind. We always enjoyed the green tamarind with salt and chilli powder “borrowed” from the cart vendor.”
Marita D’Sa remembers, “Sophia High School had tamarind trees flanking both sides of its driveway. The trees were sold and we were strictly told not to “rob” tamarinds. However we had one girl to distract the watchman, another to keep the stray walkers away from the falling stones and tamarinds, apart from the actual stone throwers and tamarind pickers. We managed to acquire some delicious loot to be shared by the whole gang. I'm not sure tamarind bought from a store will ever be as tasty. The thrill added to the taste of the literally forbidden fruit!”
The tamarind tree originated in Madagascar and is now extensively cultivated in India says the Indian Spice Board site. In India, it is chiefly grown in Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.
“We had a beautiful tamarind tree when we lived on Brigade Road diagonally opposite All Saints Bakery,” says Cynthia White. “My brother Mark and I used to spend so many hours in that tree eating ripe tamarind till the skin peeled off our tongues and our teeth got on edge.”