The Kokum, also known as Cocum, is a native plant in South India's western coastal regions and can hardly be seen anywhere other than here. In India, Kokum fruit, with its seeds, is a part of many cuisines in the Southern states, and drinks made from Kokum are used to cool down during the hot sunny days. As the heat gets too much to bear, cooling ingredients are made use of, out of which Kokum is a top hit.
So, what is Kokum?
What Does Kokum Look Like?
Kokum is also famously known as 'Grandma's cure to acidity.' It resembles a cherry tomato owing to its red color, which on ripening, shifts to a darker purple hue. Even though it is available in its fresh form, the most common practice of selling Kokum is by drying its ripened fruit. It is used for culinary purposes for its taste and color.
Kokum fruit is available in either a fresh form or a sun-dried version (seeds inside). When it comes to kokum seeds, they are also sold in a sun-dried form to produce kokum butter. Regarding the Kokum appearance, let us enlighten you.
They are usually cut into halves and then dried in the sun, making the dried seeds visible. They are sold in the markets with dried skin that has a black and purple color. When it makes its way to any dish, it imparts a sweet/sour taste and a pinkish purple hue.
The Kokum Seeds
The plant that bears the Kokum fruit is evergreen and holds strong ties with the mangosteens. The kokum plant is very tricky to grow as it grows in a tropical forest environment as a solitary tree. Its tree is slender that reaches a height of about 50 feet and has sloping branches. From culinary to cosmetic to medicinal applications, kokum trees are used widely, and all parts of the tree, including fruit and seeds, have numerous benefits.
The kokum fruit itself is round in shape and is around 4 cm in length. Each fruit has about 5-8 seeds whose kernels account for about 60% of the fruit's total weight. Once the fruits are fully ripe, their rind is removed, and then they are soaked in the pulp's juice. After they have a reasonably good soak, they are then sun-dried (seeds contained inside) and ready to hit the shelves.
How To Pick The Perfect Kokum?
So how do you pick the best Kokum that will promise to deliver the best flavor and color to your dish? Fret not, as we will tell you a few hardcore tips that will help to select the best Kokum:
- Kokum has a lot of similarities with tamarind. It is available in the market in either a dry rind form or a fresh fruit form.
- Color plays a crucial role in determining the Kokum's quality. The darker the color, the better the Kokum.
- If you are buying from a place where the Kokum was placed in large bins, make sure they were covered.
- You can always smell the Kokum to have an idea about its quality. If it smells a bit off, the chances are that it wasn't dried properly.
Culinary Uses Of Kokum And Kokum Seeds
Kokum fruit is used for culinary purposes to impart a distinctive and exclusive taste to the dish. When using dried Kokum, it is ground (with seeds) and then added as a condiment to give sauces, chutneys, and curries the sweet yet sour flavor. When added to curries, the dried skin is mostly added in the form of whole strips rather than a powder form.
Kokum seeds, on the other hand, are of great nutritional value. They are loaded with fat used for making kokum butter, also known as Goa butter or kokum oil. The kokum butter is a much healthier alternative to ghee, milk-based butter, and cocoa butter.
Kokum Butter/ Kokum Oil
As previously mentioned, kokum butter is derived from the kokum seeds, and there are numerous kokum butter benefits. Kokum butter has a pale grayish-yellowish hue and is majorly composed of saturated fat called stearic acid.
The fat's chemical structure gives the kokum butter the tendency of staying solid at room temperature, which is why it is called butter rather than oil. Kokum butter is used for various culinary reasons and is also used while making confectioneries and chocolates. It is also used for making hygiene products and skin and makeup items.
Kokum Seeds Benefits
The primary purpose for which kokum seeds are used is for deriving their oil, which is called kokum butter. However, there are many kokum seeds benefits; let us look at them in detail:
- Loaded with nutrients: Kokum is loaded with vital vitamins and nutrients that are beneficial for our health. It has malic acid, carbs, and citric acid, which boosts overall health. Kokum contains a healthy blend of B vitamins along with manganese, garcinol, dietary fiber, and ascorbic acid. Kokum also has many health benefits for pregnant women and developing babies.
- Anti-inflammatory qualities: Kokum also boasts anti-inflammatory properties, which help in treating sores.
- Antioxidant and antifungal properties: Kokum is also blessed with antioxidant and antifungal properties that help the body in preventing various infections.
- Role in Ayurveda: Kokum also enjoys a prominent place in Ayurveda, where it is used for treating cracked heels. It is also used for treating rheumatoid pain.
Kokum seeds are derived from kokum fruit, which has several health benefits and culinary uses. Its cooling properties allow the Kokum to make a cooling drink (kokum juice) to cool down parched throats during the hot summer months. Kokum seeds, on the other hand, will enable you to make a healthy butter that can also be used to make various chocolates and other sweet goodies.
If you haven't gotten your hands on the seeds yet, we suggest you do now to enjoy kokum benefits.