Tamarind tree can grow up to 20 metres in height. The leaves consist of 10 to 20 leaflets per leaf. A unique feature of the leaf is that the leaflets close up at night. The flowers are produced in racemes and are yellow with orange or red streaks. The fruits are 3 - 8 inch long, brown, irregularly curved pod-like legume, which contains a soft acidic pulp with 3 to 12 hard-coated seeds.
When fruits became fully ripe, the shells are brittle and can be easily broken. The pulp dehydrates to a sticky paste enclosed by a few coarse stands of fiber. The pulp are edible and has a pleasing sweet or sour flavor and are high in acid and sugar; And also are rich in vitamin B and calcium. To store it for long periods, the blocks of pulp will be first steamed or sun-dried for several days.
Mature tamarinds can be eaten fresh, but they are mostly used to flavor preserves and chutney, to make meat sauces and to pickle fish. In Egypt, there is a popular acidic chilled summer-time drink made from tamarind, and is called as "tamr hindi". In Philippines the leaves are used in a soup called sinampalukan soup.
A simple method to produce an 'Ade' from tamarind is to shell the fruits, place 3 or 4 in a bottle of water, let stand for a short time, add a tablespoonful of sugar and shake vigorously. For a richer beverage, a quantity of shelled tamarinds may be covered with a hot sugar sirup and allowed to stand several days (with or without the addition of seasonings such as cloves, cinnamon, allspice, ginger, pepper or lime slices) and finally diluted as desired with ice water and strained; And is called as 'tamarind ade'.
The seeds can be scarified to enhance germination. Roasted and powderd seeds and seed coat are used as a substitute for, or adulterant of, coffee. Also the seeds can be used as livestock feed after processing. The processed seeds and seed coat has greater pharmaceutical value as they are used as an ingredient or agent in a number of pharmaceutical products.
The leaves can be eaten by cattle and goats, and furnish fodder for silkworms; the fine silk is considered superior for embroidery.
The leaves have been used in herbal tea for reducing malaria fever. The leaves and flowers, dried or boiled, are used as poultices for swollen joints, sprains and boils. The lotions and extracts made from them are used in treating conjunctivitis, as antiseptics, as vermifuges and treatments for dysentery, jaundice, erysipelas, hemorrhoids and used in various other ailments. In Ayurvedic Medicine, tamarind is used for gastric/ digestion problems and for cardioprotective activity.