As a member of the Artocarpus genus, lakoocha’s relatives include jackfruit, breadfruit, breadnut and the cempedak. Indeed, this odd-shaped fruit bears resemblance to these relatives in several ways.
Origin of Lakoocha
Lakoocha’s origin is India, specifically the sub-Himalayan region. Though lakoocha’s genetic diversity isn’t well-documented, geneticists in West Bengal found great variation in the fruit’s size, color and shape, and even hairs: Whereas some have tough and brown hairs, others have soft and yellow ones. As explained in the book, “Dhanapala and His Times,” lakoocha was referenced in Indian texts dating from 750 to 1200 AD, including in the Pauma-cariu and Bhavisayattakaha.
Lakoocha’s habitat has remained within the Asian countries of Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, India, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Singapore, and Vietnam.
Most of these countries value lakoocha not for the fruit, but its wood. Lakuch wood is exceptionally valuable in making furniture, boats, and cabinets. Though not as well known as teakwood, it shares most of this wood’s positive qualities with its durability and visual appeal.
Availability of Lakoocha in India
Lakoochas are summer fruits, coming into season from June through August. In India, they grow wild in moist forests, banks, and near streams and ravines. According to the book, “Minor Fruit Crops of India,” lakoocha trees grow best in the sub-Himalayan areas with high humidity, and in Western Bengal, Assam, and throughout the Eastern states. Their region also extends south to the coastal regions in Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Kerala; more specifically, along the west coast from Konkan to Malabar to Travancore. A few nurseries in Bangalore and Mumbai sell the trees as well.
Julia Morton, author of “Fruits of Warm Climates,” explains that lakoochas are dwindling for a number of reasons: Seeds are difficult to store, trees are overharvested and propagation methods haven’t been successful.
Where to find Lakoocha in India
Lakoocha is more popular in the villages and tribal areas than in the lively cities. When in season, though, the fruit still trickles its way onto a handful of pushcarts in the larger cities. Lakoocha’s high perishability inhibits the fruit from making regular and consistent appearances on the shelves anywhere outside of the regions in which it grows.
Checking for Ripeness in Lakoocha
Lakoocha goes from green to a dull yellow, and finally settles on a pinkish brownish yellow tinge when fully ripe. Touch the fruit: It should yield to the touch when ripe, and the skin should become velvety and soft. Unlike its cousins, a ripe lakoocha does not grow very large: expect a fully formed fruit to fit in the hand. Its flesh is a vibrant orange-pink color.
Taste of Lakoocha
Lakoochas have a pleasant but unusual flavor: it’s sweet with tangy, sour, citrusy overtones that resembles kiwi, but has a distinct taste not found in any other fruit. Do not expect the same musky, savory overtones as other Artocarpus members like durian and cempedak. However, lakoocha also exudes stick latex from its skin when cut.
The fruit’s texture is like a jackfruit’s with its stringy, fibrous, mildly rubbery consistency.
Nutritional Value of Lakoocha
A 1993 nutritional analysis quoted in the book, “Nutritive Value of Indian Foods” lists the nutritional composition of monkey jack as follows:
Health Benefits of Lakoocha
Lakoocha is one of the only fruits with so few traditional medicinal applications. In fact, the book, “Indian Herbal Remedies” explains how one of the most famous Indian sages, Sushruta, discarded lakoocha as a medicine. According to him and to other Indian healers, lakoocha retarded sperm growth and “disturbed body functions.” Many practitioners regard lakoocha as difficult to digest and as a metabolic disruptor.
However, some traditional remedies do incorporate the fruit and the plant derivatives: when combined with goat milk and other herbs, lakoocha may treat dysentery, arthritic swelling, prevent skin diseases and clean wounds. Indian healers apply its bark topically to draw out poisons from the body. The stems are also a potent vermifuge, used to eradicate tapeworms.
Scientific studies affirm some of lakoocha’s health benefits as well:
--According to a 2009 report published in Experimental Parasitology, lakoocha extracts illustrate anthelmintic activity.
--A compound extracted from the fruit’s seeds showed antiproliferative effects on human leukemia cancer cells, as per a 2008 study published in the Glycoconjugate Journal.
--A 2005 article in the Natural Products Research indicates that the oxyresveratol found in lakoocha heartwood has potent anti-herpes simplex virus and anti-HIV agents.
--The Journal of Natural Products published a study illustrating that compounds from lakoocha’s roots have cytotoxic activity against breast cancer cells and nasopharyngeal carcinoma.
--The Southeast Asian Journal of Tropical Medicine and Public Health published findings affirming lakoocha wood as a remedy for tapeworm. However, side effects included severe nausea and vomiting.
--A study published in Ancient Science of Life indicates that lakoocha bark has antimicrobial properties.
How to Open/Cut Lakoocha:
Lakoocha is soft enough to pry apart with one’s hands. Once the flesh is exposed, scoop it out with a spoon. Or, use a paring knife and peel the skin. Grease the knife beforehand to prevent the milky latex from sticking to the blade. Once removed, cut the fruit in slices and remove the 20 to 30 seeds from each segment.
Unlike jackfruit, all of lakoocha’s flesh is edible, including the “rags,” or, the supporting meat that doesn’t house the seeds. Even the skin is edible, though few choose to eat it. Avoid the seeds, as these are well-documented purgatives.
Unless consuming ripe lakoocha immediately, store the fruit in the refrigerator. Otherwise, it will continue ripening at room temperature and spoil shortly thereafter. In refrigeration, lakoocha keeps for two or three days.
To freeze lakoocha, peel and de-seed the fruit. Add ascorbic acid to retain the fruit’s color and freshness, and place in a freezer bag. Or, freeze in syrup.
Lakoocha Recipe Ideas and Uses
--Unripe lakoocha acts as a vegetable. Substitute in lieu of raw jackfruit, and stew or roast for use in bakes, curries, and stir-fries.
--Rural doctors suggest using lakoocha as a tamarind substitute to those with acid sensitivity.
--Raw lakoochas make a nice pickle, loved by North Indians: de-seed and cube the flesh. Pressure-cook the fruit until it’s tender, but not mushy or soft. On the stovetop, heat oil and add mustard seeds, cumin, chili, salt, coriander, and turmeric until aromatic. Add lakoocha, and squeeze lemon juice and vinegar atop the fruit. Transfer to a jar and store in the fridge. Serve alongside rice.
--Stir chunks of the ripe flesh into thick, gravy-based curries for a bright, tangy addition. Its flavors counterbalance oils and coconut fat nicely.
--Add lakoocha to ice cream batter for a citrusy, creamy taste.
Herbs, spices, and oil: Orange juice, lemon juice, limejuice, citrus rind, mint, lemongrass, coconut oil, coconut milk, cumin, chili, salt, coriander, turmeric, mustard seed, curry leaves
Locals chew lakoocha bark for a euphoric sensation similar to the one produced upon chewing betel nut.
Lakoocha’s distant relative is the mulberry.
Cosmetics companies use parts of the lakoocha to make skin-whitening creams.
|Thai whitening products|
made form lakoocha