Kokum: The Versatile Fruit

- October 30, 2023

By Shakthi Bharathi

According to Ayurveda, there are six tastes known as the ‘rasas’. Each rasa plays its own role in boosting health and influencing the taster’s mood. Thus, the perfect meal has to contain all six rasas: salty, sweet, pungent, sour, bitter, and astringent.  

‘Sour’ is a combination of the first three—it has the brightness of sugar, the tang of salt, and the intensity of spice. Be it the tamarind that lends richness to sambhar or the mango pickle that completes a thali, the fourth rasa is irreplaceable. Souring agents like vinegar also aid in fermentation and preservation, extending the shelf life of many foods.

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Kokum in the style of Kaavi—practised in the Konkan region (Goa, Karnataka, Maharashtra); Illustration: Anjali Narendra

Kokum trees are native to the Western Ghats of India, rarely straying afar. As such, the clusters of purple fruit dangling from their branches do not have an English name. Bite into a Kokum fruit and the tart explosion of flavour will taste like berries. Versatile, they can be at home in the sweetest of sherbets and the spiciest of curries.

Did you know? 

Kokum butter, extracted from the seeds of the fruit, is used not only in cooking but across cosmetic products like moisturisers, lipsticks, and face creams. 

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