Tamarind is the strange brown pod that makes me think of Latin America. In Mexico, there is a popular iced drink made of the sweet syrup of the tamarind plant called agua de tamarindo. It also makes its way into sauces, ice creams and other dishes of the Latin kitchen.
To my surprise, however, the tamarind plant is from tropical Africa, particularly Sudan. Its name comes from Arabic تمر هندی (tamr-hindī) meaning date of India. Tamar means date palm in Hebrew and is the origin of the girls name Tamara.
In Sudan they do speak Arabic, but why would they call it the date from India? Although the pod is native to Africa, Southeast Asia has adopted it as its own. Some say it might have made its way to India as early as 2000 BC. Arabic speakers who got most of their tamarind from India cemented its name as the date from India.