The tamarind name comes from the Arabic term tamar hindi, which means Indian date. The leguminous tamarind tree is believed to originate in Africa but has been heavily cultivated in India since antiquity. It is likely that it was brought to the subcontinent by Arabian traders. In Africa, it grows wild in Nigeria as well as in Cameroon and other countries.
Historical documents show that tamarind was cultivated in Egypt as early as 400 BC and was known to the Greeks in this time period as well.
Tamarind was introduced to Mexico and to South America in the 16th century; the documentation suggests that it was brought to Acapulco from Asia by the Spanish. Today, you can find tamarind throughout South America and the Caribbean. Tamarind trees can also be found in Hawaii, where one of the first trees was first planted in 1797. It is a staple ingredient in Mexican cuisine and is used to a lesser extent in the West Indies. Mexico has over 10,000 acres dedicated to tamarind cultivation.