Sunday, 30 April 2017

Krazy about Kokum!!!

There seems to be strange new craze over kokum.......Would you believe it....Kokum is supposed to have anti-obesity, anti-inflammatory,anti-bacterial and anti-carcinogenic, anti-oxidant, cholesterol lowering properties and what not.  And Kokum – butter, the funny looking waxy stuff which granny used to advise us to rub over cracked heels has been elevated to a new star for its anti-wrinkle properties and is the new beauty aid in some Hollywood kits!

Ha! And we Indians have been using this stuff for ages. But frankly, when we were in Mumbai (and I was unaware of all the medicinal benefits of kokum) I hardly ever used the stuff. An occasional Sol-kadhi, or a dark dry lassoon chatni... or if I run out of Tamarind, these were the only occasions that I used Kokum. 

In our first year at the farm, in fact our first week, I had asked our farm-hand to ‘introduce’ us to all the trees, or rather introduce the trees to us because apart from identifying a few common fruit trees, we were clueless about the biodiversity on our farm. He had mentioned the name ‘Birund’ (the Konkani word for Kokum) as he pointed out to a clump of nondescript looking trees in an overgrown corner of the farm. There were no fruits on the tree.

Look I spotted the Kokum tree in this clump of Bamboo

About half a year later, the trees started bearing fruit. Green plum shaped fruits started appearing along the slender branches and soon started turning a brilliant red.

Our first harvest was a couple of huge buckets full. And I had no idea what to do with it!

So I called up a couple of friends who had farms in the Konkan region, got a detailed description of the traditional method of processing and got down to work.

Cut open the fruit, scoop out the pulp and seeds into one tub, rind into another, throw the stalks away.

Squeeze the seeds and pulp through a colander to extract all the juice.

Spread the outer rinds of the fruit onto clean plates to sun dry.

Keep the juice aside.  When the sun goes down, put all the semi-dried rind back into this juice and let it soak overnight.

In the morning drain the juice out from this mixture and spread the rinds out to dry again.

Repeat this process for 4 days. The juice keeps getting absorbed into the rind, which gets darker and drier and finally on the fourth day, there is no juice left to be drained out.

Another day in the sun and the rind gets the characteristic colour and texture of the kokum that most of us are familiar with.  This is the traditional way of processing and the only way to ensure that all the goodness of the juice is retained in the rind. 

The seeds are sun dried separately until their shell, becomes crisp and breaks open easily. The seed kernel needs to be removed and collected. These kernels contain the precious kokum butter. The seeds are ground to a fine paste with water and then this milky liquid is boiled. The fat floats on the surface  and when cooled can be skimmed off  - and this, is the wonderful kokum butter. Delicately coloured and melts on touching, it can replace your moisturisers and lotions if you wish!

Our front yard is turned into a kokum processing unit and our drying tables are laden with the richly coloured fruits in varying shades of red.

And a new favourite accompaniment to our meal is a warm Kokum clear soup with just a dash of  our home grown pepper!


  1. Very enlightened with the process though since childhood kokum is used in our home in everyday cooking. It is used to add sourness to the gujarati sweet and sour toor daal !
    Great going! Best wishes !

  2. I am familiar with kokum because I lived in Mumbai for a few years. I remember drinking kokum sherbet and you can get this kokum concentrate in stores, which you dilute with water. I have no experience cooking with it. But a kokum soup or kokum kadhi sounds particularly divine.

    It is hard to find in northern India.

  3. Just found your blog - is Kokum same as Mangosteen or is it different ? We have kodampuli(in malayalam) tree, whose fruits look similar.

  4. I learnt so much about the processing of kokum. I use it in my usals. Matki usal, mung ustals. Also in dals and saars made out of kada dhanya. Use it in fish curries too. It give a very unique sourness to it unlike tamarind.


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