The Tamarind: A tree well-traveled

When the roots are deep there is no reason to fear the wind - African proverb Having spent most of my childhood in Africa and acquired a fair knowledge of African cuisine and culture, I was blown away by what I did not know about the most widely distributed fruit tree of the tropics, the tamarind tree. Indigenous to tropical Africa, Tamarindus indica, has been cultivated for centuries on the Indian subcontinent and is often reported to have originated there. From India, it spread to Persia and Arabia where it is referred to as the “tamar hindi” (Indian date) and it derived its specific name “indica” which further lends to the illusion of Indian origin. It is now understood to be native to Africa and grows wild in sub-Saharan African countries such as Sudan, Cameroon, Nigeria, Kenya, Zambia, Somalia, Tanzania, and Malawi. India remains the largest producer of tamarind in the world at present time. The Tamarind - Fruit within shell (Photo credit: Taste of Home) The tamarind fruit hanging from tree (Photo credit: souschef.co.uk) The tamarind has a vast array of uses world over from cooking, baking, juices and drinks, with cultural and spiritual rituals, and beliefs surrounding this peculiar tree, fruit and seed. With a sweet and sour or tangy taste, I learned it is a key ingredient in Worchestershire sauce! I must confess I do not remember seeing a tamarind tree or its fruit used for any of these purposes in Cameroon, but given my Caribbean roots, my curiosity was peaked when I learned the tamarind drink is popular in Jamaica and other parts of the Caribbean. Even though I remember drinking a locally made tamarind drink while in Senegal, I had never seen it made or knew what ingredients were used in making this drink. The tamarind is called "daahar" in wolof, the most commonly spoken language in Senegal, and it has been suggested this word is associated with the origin of the name of Senegal's capital city, Dakar. This tree has long been naturalized in…

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Soulful Senegal

(This blog post is updated and revised to include Covid-19 specifics) It is another rainy evening in Florida as I start writing this blog post. I had always wanted to visit Dakar. I had a few Senegalese friends and was always intrigued by the new reporters who got assigned to cover West African news and would often report from a location in Dakar. Growing up we talked about getting our hair braided "Senegalese style" which often indicated a microbraids or micro twists at the time. My initial impressions of Senegal were later reinforced by my husband who had visited a few times before. I looked forward to this trip and meeting his Senegalese friend of whom he often spoke. They met one summer in Paris during a semester studying abroad and had remained great friends for over 25 years now. In the fall of 2019 we were fortunate to have mom stay with the kids while I seized the opportunity to visit and experience Dakar for the first time. We arrived in the afternoon on a direct flight from JFK, New York. We typically try to stay at a locally owned hotel when we travel and because it was just the two of us, we chose a modest option located downtown, Le Ndiambour hotel et residence. It attracts all kinds of visitors as it has standard rooms and suites with kitchenette options, conference rooms, full-service restaurant with an amazing breakfast buffet (pre-pandemic), a rooftop gym and swimming pool. It can accommodate short or long term stay with standard wi-fi accessibility and friendly, helpful staff. It is located 2blocks from the corniche heading west and is within walking distance to several restaurants, coffee shops, and open markets.  When traveling with children, the resort Terrou Bi would be my choice for a relaxing and fun stay. Located along the corniche on Boulevard Martin Luther King in the Fann Hock neighborhood, it is conveniently located on a private beach and has more amenities than one could wish for.  It has rooms with seaside…

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