Monday, March 27, 2006

You call this a date ?

Last week was Norooz/Nowrooz (Persian new year) and my Iranian friend brought some food to the office. When explaining what went into it he said he didn't know what it was called in English but in Farsi it was called "Tamr-Hindi". "Tamr-hindi" ? Tamarind ?

Yes, it turns out that the word Tamarind is derived from the Persian/Arabic for "Indian Date" : Tamr=Date and Hindi=Indian. And further, everybody from the Portuguese to the Latvians to the Japanese refer to it by some variant of "Tamarind".

But they're all wrong, according to this site:

Native to tropical Africa, the tree grows wild throughout the Sudan and was so long ago introduced into and adopted in India that it has often been reported as indigenous there also, and it was apparently from this Asiatic country that it reached the Persians and the Arabs who called it "tamar hindi" (Indian date, from the date-like appearance of the dried pulp), giving rise to both its common and generic names. Unfortunately, the specific name, "indica", also perpetuates the illusion of Indian origin.


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