Geographical Distribution of Tamarind in Africa, Source ICRAF. Updated on 26th March 2019.
General Information and Agronomic Aspects
The fruit is edible and can also be used as a sort of spice to be added to food. Young leaves and very young seedlings and flowers are cooked and eaten as greens and in curries in India. In Zimbabwe, the leaves are added to soup and the flowers are an ingredient in salads. Tamarind seeds have been used in a limited way as emergency food. They are roasted, soaked to remove the seed-coat, then boiled or fried, or ground to a flour or starch (Morton 1987).
Climatic conditions, soil and water management
Tamarind is well adapted to semi-arid tropical conditions It also grows well in many humid tropical areas with seasonally high rainfall. It grows well over a wide range of soil and climatic conditions, occurring in low-altitude woodland, savannah and bush, often associated with termite mounds. It grows in well-drained, slightly acidic soils and although it cannot withstand stagnant inundation, it can tolerate a wide range of physical site characteristics. It prefers semi-arid areas and wooded grassland, and can also be found growing along stream and riverbanks. It does not penetrate into the rainforest. Its extensive root system contributes to its resistance to drought and wind. It also tolerates fog and saline air in coastal districts, and even monsoon climates, where it has proved its value for plantations.
Young trees are killed by the slightest frost, but older trees seem more cold resistant than mango, avocado or lime. A long, well-marked dry season is necessary for fruiting (EcoPort).
Propagation and planting
The tamarind becomes a fairly large tree, so keep this in mind when planting the tree. It should be planted in sunny areas. It is highly wind-resistant with strong, supple branches.
It may be propagated from seeds, and vegetatively by marcotting (air layering), grafting and budding. Root stocks are propagated from seed, which germinate within a week. Seeds retain their viability for several months if kept dry. Plant seeds 1 to 1.5 cm deep in containers. Seeds should be selected from viable trees with good production and quality. Germination is best when seeds are covered by 1.5 cm loose, sandy loam or by a mixture of loam and sand. Seedlings should attain at least 80 cm before being transplanted to their final location at the beginning of the rainy season. Trees begin to produce fruit in 6 to 8 years.
Outstanding mother trees are vegetatively propagated; shield and patch budding and cleft grafting are fast and reliable methods, currently used in large-scale propagation in the Philippines. Trees can also be propagated from branch cuttings, and superior clones can also be grafted onto seed-propagated rootstock. Vegetatively propagated trees come into bearing within 3 to 4 years. They produce more fruits as well as more-uniform fruits than seed propagation. Trees also seem to remain smaller - making them easier to harvest and handle (ICRAF, CRFG; Lost Crops of Africa). Young trees should be planted in large holes to accommodate the root system. They should be planted slightly higher than ground level to allow for subsequent settling of the soil and a water basin should be built around each tree to assure adequate moisture for young trees. (Morton 1987)
Young trees are pruned to allow 3 to 5 well spaced branches to develop into the main scaffold structure of the tree. Maintenance pruning only is required after that to remove dead or damaged wood (CRFG).