Sunday, October 7, 2012

All About Flacourtia


Flacourtia is a broad term that encompasses several similar fruits. The similarity between these fruits is one reason why they’re lumped together in this entry.

Origin of Flacourtia
Flacourtias first grew in the temperate regions of Africa and Asia. Several types of flacourtia plums originate in India as well. According to Julia Morton’s book, “Fruits of Warm Climates, Flacourtia ramontchi originates in India, the tropics of Africa, Madagascar, Malaya, and the Philippines. Flacourtia cataphracta is also uniquely Indian, originating in North and East Bengal, and Chittagong. Flacourtia rukam is another native Indian plant, but it shares its original habitat with several other parts of Southeast Asia, Oceania and Malaysia.


From their original home in Southeast Asia, flacourtia varieties spread to other parts of the world, including Sri Lanka, Puerto Rico, northern South America, Florida, and China. They are especially loved in the Caribbean, where locals utilize the fruit in drinks and dishes.

Availability of Flacourtia in India
The World Agroforestry Center explains that flacourtias require dry, deciduous, tropical climates. They thrive in thorn forests, and grow best in warm temperatures. Flacourtias are drought resistant, but shy away from frost.


In India, these small, crunchy plums grow throughout the country’s low elevations, from Punjab east to Bihar, and the Deccan and Southern Peninsula.



Where to find Governor’s Plum in India
Indian farmers do not grow flacourtias commercially, as they are not sweet and juicy like other types of plum. Rather, they grow as hedge trees because of their dense, thorny branches. Flacourtias—with their dusky reddish foliage and hair white flowers—also make attractive garden trees.


Although flacourtias are impossible to find in large markets, it’s not uncommon to find sellers in villages purveying the small, golf ball-sized fruits from March to July.



Checking for Ripeness in Flacourtia
Flacourtia’s ripeness is apparent in the color of its flesh.  When unripe, its flesh is tough and green. As a flacourtia ripens, the color of its flesh depends on the variety. Some develop a purplish red hue on its thin, taut skin, while others become pinkish.


Expect a few ripe fruits to develop harmless wood-like mottling on the skin.   

Taste of Flacourtia
Flacourtias are generally unimpressive: Despite looking like a plum, their taste is acidic and often bitter. While some flacourtias have a sweeter disposition, most are sour and better suited for preserving or stewing in sugar. Others opt to sprinkle the raw fruits with salt and chili to improve their taste. The quality of flavor varies considerably, as one would expect from a wild, noncommercial fruit.


Flacourtia’s texture is juicy, hydrating and crisp, like a cucumber’s or a firm grape.

Nutritional Value of Flacourtia
According to The Encyclopedia of Fruit and Nuts, 100g of edible flesh contains the following values:

94kcal
.5g Protein (negligible)
.6g Fat
24.2g Carb
1.2g Fiber
33mg Calcium
.7mg Iron (3.8% RDI)
17mg Phosphorous (>1% RDI)
171mg Potassium (4.8% RDI)
5mg Vitamin C (8.3% RDI)
.01mg Thiamine/B1 (negligible)
.02mg Riboflavin/B2 (negligible)
.4mg Niacin/B3 (2% RDI)

30iu Vitamin A (negligible)



Health Benefits of Flacourtia
Governor’s plums, with their dark purple skin, are loaded with beneficial polyphenols and flavonoids. Tribes in India have relied on their medicinal benefits for centuries: According to a review completed by Gopi Chand Kota at Prist University, the poor in rural India grind flacourtia seeds with powder and turmeric. This concoction is administered to women post child delivery. When rubbed all over the body, the mix is believed to reduce rheumatic pain and exposure to damp winds.

In traditional medicine, flacourtia acts as an appetite stimulant, diuretic, and digestive, and also combats enlarged spleen and treats jaundice. Flacourtia’s roots are used as a refrigerant, alexipharmic, and depurative. In Ayurveda, the roots remedy conditions of pitta and vata aphthae.

Many studies affirm flacourtia’s traditional uses:
--A 2010 study conducted by the American Eurasian Journal of Scientific Research found that flacourtia leaves contain potent antioxidants, which may slow signs of aging and reduce oxidative stress responsible for degenerative diseases.
--A 2010 study published by the Journal of Ethnopharmacology reveals that flacourtia leaves have three anti-malarial compounds
--As illustrated in a 2010 study published in the Indian Journal of Pharmacology, flacourtia extracts illustrated potent antihyperglycemic activities when tested in diabetic rats.
--Upon observing flacourtia’s usefulness in treating infectious diseases and inflammation, researchers tested the leaves’ compounds and, in 2011, published a study in the International Journal of Drug Development and Research that shows they contain significant antimicrobial and antibacterial qualities.

--A 2011 study published in the African Journal of Basic and Applied Sciences found anti-asthmatic potential when testing the leaf extracts on guinea pigs.



How to Open/Cut Flacourtia:
The skin is tart but edible, and contains up to 10 small, wrinkly seeds per fruit. Consume flacourtia like a large globe grape: either spit out the seeds, or cut in half and manually remove them.

Flacourtia Recipe Ideas and Uses:
--Flacourtia with its high pectin content makes it an ideal fruit for making jam and compote.
--Others ferment governor’s plum and make alcohol known as cerise wine. This is especially common in Trinidad and Tobego: In a large bucket, wash 10 cups of fruits, and pour roughly 10 liters of water. Stir in 10 cups of sugar and 4 tablespoons of yeast. Cover the bucket and let it sit for 21 days. Strain the mix, and sweeten the liquid with an additional 10 cups of sugar. Pour the concoction into wine bottles, and add raisins to each bottle. Let the mix sit for an additional ten days before drinking.
--Stew flacourtias in sugar as a dessert.

--Pickle flacourtias by sautéing the fruit with garlic, ginger and chili oil. Add asafetida and fenugreek as desired. When placed in a jar and set in the fridge, the contents will keep for a few months.

Flavor Complements:
Fruit: Lime, lemon, orange, bell pepper, bilimbi, bignay, carambola, cashew apple, Ceylon gooseberry, cochin goraka, elephant apple, java apple, kiwi, kokum, passion fruit, pomelo, roselle, Surinam cherry, sweet lime

Herbs, spices, and oil: Vinegar, salt, ginger, garlic, shallot, red chili, gingelly oil, asafetida, fenugreek, mustard seed, curry leaves, cumin, turmeric, shredded coconut, coconut milk, jaggery, sugar, rum, port, brandy

Scientific Name:
Flacourtia indica
Flacourtia ramontchi
Flacourtia inermis
Flacourtia jangomas

Other Names:
Lovi lovi
Governor’s plum
Coffee plum
Indian plum
Batoko plum
Vikankata, gopakanta (Sanskrit)
Kancu, paniyala, bilangra (Hindi)
Kakoa,kukoya (Punjab)
Llumanika, dodda gejjalakai (Kannada)
Sottaikala, baichi, katai, malukkarai (Tamil)
Putregu, kanvegu chittu, vikankata (Telegu)
Kankata (Gujarat)
Bincha, bainchi, bewich (Bengali)

Random Facts:

Eating plums 72 hours before a carcinoid tumor exam may result in a false positive. This is because of the fruit’s high level of serotonin: doctors check for cancerous tumors by measuring serotonin levels in urine. If higher than normal, doctors give the prognosis of cancer.









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