Origin of Kokum
Though some place kokum’s origins to Africa, others state kokum is indigenous to the Western Ghats of India. Either way, the fruit has been a part of the country’s history for centuries.
Availability of Kokum in India
Kokum is commercially grown throughout the western coastal regions of India from Maharashtra to Kerala. The trees flower from November to February, and the fruit season lasts through March, April and May.
Where to find Kokum in India
When in season, vendors and emporiums sell kokum readily. Locals living in the areas where the fruits grow—such as Goa—often have kokum trees in their yard or within the neighborhood.
During the offseason, dried kokum skins and kokum syrups are available.
Checking for Ripeness in Kokum
Ask kokum ripens on the tree, it turns from green, to yellow, to red, and finally, to a dark mauve color. The thick skin is initially hard and firm. When ripe, the fruit can be gently pried open.
Avoid selecting fruits with noticeable dents, blotched skin and bruises. Bruising causes the bitter latex in the skin to permeate the edible portion of the fruit, thereby rendering the whole fruit inedible. The fruit should be shiny and its shape perfectly round.
Taste of Kokam
Kokam is sweet, but acidic. It has a juicy texture common amongst others in the mangosteen family: each of the fruit’s five to eight sections has edible, watery yet potent flesh surrounding a malleable flat seed.
The fruit is seldom consumed raw and is instead used as a flavoring agent in curries or drinks.
Nutritional Value of Kokum
Kokum has not undergone a formal nutritional analysis. It is, however, high in vitamin C, low in fat and calories, low sugar and high in fiber.
Health Benefits of Kokum
Kokum has many traditional medicinal uses:
--Its juice aids digestion an wards off heatstroke
--Its butter treats burns and various wounds
According to the book, “Molecular Targets and Therapeutic Uses of Spices,” kokum has several applications in Ayurveda including the treatment of inflammatory issues, rheumatoid pain and bowel problems, intestinal parasites, delayed menstruation, dermatitis, ear infections and sores.
Like its cousin, garcinia cambogia, kokum possesses a compound called hydroxycitric acid. This substance has a number of benefits including reducing the appetite, improving heart health and the immune system, lowers fat formation and stabilizes cholesterol levels. For more information on HCA, see Garcinia cambogia.
The scientific community has discovered and verified several benefits of kokum:
--The Indian Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences published 2011 study indicating that the fruit’s polyphenols have moderately high antibacterial activity.
--The “Journal of Food Biochemistry” published a study revealing kokum’s liver protecting properties
--The Journal of Food and Agriculture Activity published the findings of scientists in Japan showing kokum’s possibility as an antiulcer drug
--A “Food Microbiology” article cites kokum’s extracts show antifungal activities. Its ability to ward off aflatoxins makes it a strong candidate as a natural food preservative.
--Kokum contains a substance called garcinol. According to the book, “Molecular Targets and Therapeutic Uses of Spices,” garcinol reduces inflammation responsible for certain cancers, diabetes and neurological disorders. Garcinol is also an antiviral, antibacterial, anticarcinogenic, and antiulceration.
How to Open/Cut:
Open kokum by gently pressing on both sides of the fruit with the thumb and index finger. If the fruit is ripe, the skin will be pliable, allowing the fruit to open. If the fruit is underripe, the thick skin will not yield. Once the fruit’s soft, thick skin is “cracked,” opening the fruit and removing the white fleshy pods inside is effortless.
Some prefer using a teaspoon to gently pry into the kokam and create a small indentation. This indentation makes it easy to apply force with one’s fingertips to open the fruit.
Keep kokam at room temperature and enjoy within a few days of ripeness. In the refrigerator, the fruits will keep up to one week. Do not freeze kokams, as their flavor and texture are adversely affected.
Place dried kokam in an airtight container to avoid moisture. Refrigeration is not required.
|Many uses of kokum|
Kokum Recipe Ideas and Uses:
--Eat kokum raw like the locals: Use a toothpick and poke holes in one location on the kokum. Roll the fruit in a combination of salt and sugar; then suck the juice from the kokum.
--Sun dry the kokum skin and use as a souring agent in curries.
--Pulverize sundried skin and add the powder as a sweet and sour food additive
--Substitute kokum for tomato or tamarind for an alternative zestier dal or curry.
--Make kokum rasam by soaking and boiling the peel in water. Use 1 cup of water for every 2 kokum peels. Add salt and sugar to the mixture once boiled. On the side, briefly heat mustard seeds, chili and cumin in oil. Add these spices to the kokum water concoction. Serve the rasam with rice or serve as a soup.
--Make kokum kadi, a famous sour, savory beverage created by combining dried coconut, salt and green chilis with kokam syrup and water.
--Soak the skin in warm purified water for approximately 40 minutes: soaking will cause the water to turn a rich purple color. Drink this water for a beverage rich in anthocyanins and other health-boosting polyphenols.
--Use this colorful skin-soaked water as a healthy, slightly sour food coloring agent in other fruit drinks and smoothies.
--Make a sweet kokum beverage by removing the juicy pulp from the fruit, squeezing it in a cheesecloth, then adding sugar to the juice.
--Add kokum juice to fruit smoothies or beverages. Flavor combinations include bananas, grapefruit, and coconut milk. Or, lime juice, watermelon and mint.
--Use the fruit’s butter made from the seeds to moisturize skin. Or, use as an emollient ingredient for cosmetic products such as balms, lotions and soaps.
--Use the butter (often sold in bazaars along the western coast) for cooking.
--Use kokum juice as a preserving agent in jams and canned goods
|Dried kokum from|
Purple mangosteen, cambogia, elephant apple, mango, tamarind, tangerine, coconut, lime, lemon, kiwi, orange, grapefruit, pomelo, sweet lime, pineapple, butterfruit, bael, wood apple
Spices/condiments: green chili, coriander, cumin, turmeric, salt, sugar, jaggery, mustard seed, coconut milk
Several cosmetics companies now boast kokum butter in their ingredients list. Looks like kokum’s popularity is gradually extending outside the borders of India.