Kokum (Bhinda): Scientifically known as Garcinaindica, kokum is a purplish red fruit with a sweetish tangy taste. The fruit consists of three parts – the pericarp or peel, the white pulp and the seeds. Kokum fruit contains citric acid, acetic acid, malic acid, ascorbic acid, hydroxycitric acid (HCA) and garcinol, all of which have been shown to have antioxidant properties. HCA has been patented for use as a hypocholesterolemic agent. It also suppresses the synthesis of fatty acids, curbs lipogenesis and food intake and hence aids in weight loss. Studies have shown that garcinol has anti-cancer and anti-ulcer properties. The kokum fruit is of great medicinal value in ayurveda. It has anti-helminthic (de-worming) and antihistamine properties. It is a tonic for the heart and liver and is also useful in the treatment of piles, anal fissures and dysentery. An infusion prepared by soaking few dried kokum shells in water is a home remedy for hives and allergic rashes. Kokum also has carminative properties and helps relieve gastric problems such as flatulence, acidity and indigestion.
Kokum is a versatile fruit that has been traditionally used to make many products. In Goa the fleshy rind is made into a refreshing squash that is known as xarope de brindão which consists only of kokum juice and sugar with no preservatives or artificial colours and is generally consumed within the same summer season. In the Konkan region of Maharashtra, the kokum squash is known as amrut and is a little different from xarope de brindão as it contains, in addition to kokum juice and sugar, flavour additives like jeera, nutmeg and salt. Kokum squash has a cooling effect on the body and protects it from dehydration and sunstroke. Kokum is also used to prepare wine.
The pericarp of kokum is sun dried after soaking it in the juice and is sold as kokum shells or bhinda solam or amsul which is used as a souring agent in cooking. Another traditional product prepared from kokum is agal which is made by preserving kokum juice with salt. Agal is mixed with coconut milk and spices and is used to make instant sol kadi. In recent years, a number of products such as kokum rind powder, kokum sherbet mix, instant sol kadi mix, ready to drink kokum sherbet and kokum candy have been developed.
Jambuls: Known as zambllam in Goa, they are abundantly available in markets during summer. The fruits are dark purple or nearly black in colour when ripened and have a sweet, mildly sour astringent flavour. The edible portion in jambuls form around 70 per cent of the whole fruit. Glucose and fructose are the principal sugars that are found in ripe jambuls. They are a fairly good source of vitamin C and iron and contain many different kinds of anti-oxidant compounds, including anthocyanins, flavonoids and polyphenols that help reduce oxidative stress and also inhibit macromolecular oxidation thereby reducing the risk of degenerative disease. Jambul is an important medicinal plant in various traditional systems of medicine and have been found to be effective in the treatment of diabetes, inflammation, ulcers and diarrhoea. The seeds are a good source of protein and calcium and contain an alkaloid jambosine and a glycoside jambolin which helps lower blood sugar levels. The flowers are an important source of good quality honey that is beneficial for respiratory problems.
Chunnam: Botanically known as Ziziphus rugosa this is another wild berry that is available in summer. The fruit has a pulpy white or pinkish colour and is mildly sweet to taste. It is a good source of vitamins, minerals and a number of antioxidant phytochemicals.
Wild cherry (kanntam or karonda): Botanically known as Carissa carandas, kanntam is another wild berry that is popular all over India. It is an edible and medicinal plant that has been used for thousands of years in the ayurvedic, unani and homoeopathic systems of medicine. Kanntam are small round reddish-purple fruits with a sweet- sour tart taste. This fruit is a good source of both iron and vitamin C and derives its colour from the anthocyanin pigments present in it. Anthocyanins have antioxidant properties that help protect the body from damage. Semi ripe kanntam are used to make delicious pickles. Ripe kanntam have a high content of pectin and are suitable for preparing jelly, jam, squash, syrup, tarts and chutney.
Kanntam fruit is used in traditional medicine to treat liver dysfunction and anaemia, as an astringent, antiscorbutic and as a remedy for biliousness. It is also believed to have anti-microbial, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, analgesic and anti-helminthic properties.
(Writer is a consultant nutritionist with 20 years of experience, practising at Panaji and can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org)