Tamarind is a sour-sweet fruit, sometimes known as the Indian date, used as a souring agent. It is available mashed and formed into a pulpy block or as a juice. In this form it is used like lemon juice.
Fresh tamarind comes in long, dry brown pods which look almost like dried broad bean pods. Inside is a long, segmented fruit, like a long brown caterpillar. Each segment contains a hard, shiny black seed. As the pods dry the fruit becomes sweeter. A visitor from Mauritius suggested shaking the tamarind and, if you could hear that the fruit had detached and was rattling a little inside the pod, you would find that the fruit was sweet. All you need to do is to remove the pod and then chew the fruit, discarding the seeds.