Kokum is indigenous to the Western Ghats of India, and has been a part of the country’s history for centuries. The fruit’s recognition is still limited to the subcontinent of Southeast Asia, although a few kokum butter-based cosmetic products have begun to appear in the global markets.
Availability of Kokum in India
Farmers harvest kokum commercially throughout the western coastal regions of India, from Gujarat to Maharashtra to Kerala. Its ubiquity along the Konkan coast is a reason for the fruit’s predominance in Konkan cuisine. 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 in these growing regions 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. Fresh fruits do not appear in other regions of India.
It is possible to find kokum derivatives sold year-round throughout the country: dried kokum skins, powder and kokum syrups, are examples. Though they will not be in every store, kokum products appear in shops specializing in a variety of dried fruits and nuts.
Checking for Ripeness in Kokum
As kokum ripens on the tree, it turns from green, yellow, to red, and finally, to dark mauve. The thick skin is initially hard and firm, but when ripe, 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 among other fruits in the mangosteen family: each of the fruit’s five to eight sections has edible, watery yet potent flesh surrounding a malleable flat seed. Kokum shares several traits with cochin goraka, and the fruits may be used interchangeably.
Dried kokum peel tastes exceptionally sour and metallic, with no trace of sweetness. The lack of sugar gives the fruit a salty disposition, not unlike fresh cranberry.
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,” Ayurvedic practitioners use kokum to treat inflammatory issues, rheumatoid pain and bowel problems, intestinal parasites, delayed menstruation, dermatitis, ear infections and sores.
Like its cousin, garcinia cambogia, kokum’s rind 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. Those unable to find elusive garcinia cambogias may wish to seek out its better-known relative, kokum. 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 study published in Food Microbiology article shows that kokum’s extracts have 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 pliable skin will come apart and reveal the fruit. 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 make a small indentation in the skin, and then gently pry into the kokam. This indentation makes it easier to apply force with one’s fingertips and open the fruit.
Always wash dried kokum before use, as this will remove dust and other particles that may accumulate on the fruit over time. If using dried kokam, soak it beforehand. This will soften the rind enough to blend it in drinks, curries and sauces.
Keep kokum 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, as the fruit keeps for years on kitchen countertops.
|Many uses of kokum|
Kokum Recipe Ideas and Uses:
--Eat kokum raw like the locals of the Western Ghats: Use a toothpick and poke holes into the skin. 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 gentle souring agent in curries.
--Pulverize the sundried skin into a powder, and then use it as a sweet and sour food additive
--Substitute kokum for tomato or tamarind to make a 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 made by combining dried coconut, salt and green chilies with kokum 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, HCA, and other health-boosting polyphenols.
--Use this colorful skin-soaked water as a healthy, slightly sour food-coloring agent for use in other fruit drinks and smoothies. Flavor combinations include bananas, grapefruit, and coconut milk. Or, lime juice, watermelon and mint.
--Make a sweet kokum beverage by removing the juicy pulp from the fruit, squeezing it in cheesecloth, then adding sugar to the juice.
--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, cochin goraka, elephant apple, mango, tamarind, tangerine, coconut, lime, lemon, kiwi, orange, grapefruit, pomelo, sweet lime, pineapple, butterfruit, bael, wood apple
Herbs, spices, and oil: green chili, coriander, rock salt, black pepper, cumin, turmeric, mustard seed, salt, lemon juice, limejuice, citrus rind, sugar, jaggery, coconut milk, coconut oil, vinegar, tamarind paste
Several cosmetics companies boast of kokum butter in their ingredients list.
Vrikshamia, amlabija, amlashaka (Sanskrit)
Kokum (Hindi, Gujarati, Konkani)
Bheranda, kokambi (Marathi)
Murgina, punarpuli (Kannada)