Kokum ( Garcinia indica ) was only a recent introduction for me. A couple of years ago, I had my first taste of it as a juice at a Corn Club outlet. I don't particularly savor it as a juice, it needs some getting used to as it has a rather tart and sweet taste, with both elements standing apart from each other.
I do love to use it as a souring agent when cooking. I've also used the syrup in fruit raita, where it blends beautifully with yoghurt and apples. I'm yet to try the much-extolled sol khadi drink that other bloggers have described.
Kokums appear around the summer months. Summers may be harsh sometimes here, but Mother Nature knows how to give a helping hand to us suffering mortals by providing the right nourishing ingredients, if only we'd care to look.
The kokum tree is localized to the western Indian coastline. It is mainly the rind that we use, dried, throwing away the seed. This rind is then soaked in water, giving the dishes cooked with it a lovely deep pink.
The nutritional profile of this fruit reportedly shows it to be good source of calcium and vitamin C. It seems to have many minor medicinal applications such as being used as a topical agent to burns and rashes, symptomatic relief of heatstroke, etc. It is said to be beneficial to those suffering from cardiac ailments, diabetes, hypercholesterolemia, though how exactly it does help is not known to me. The fruit seems to also contain antioxidant elements called xanthones.
Though initially only syrups were sold, which I don't use regularly as it is sweetened, I now find that small packets of the actual dried fruit are now available in supermarkets. These can be stored in the refrigerator for upto a year.
The rasam is so very simple to make; it requires hardly any effort or ingredients. This is a welcome change from regular cooking during the hot summer months when the kitchen is the last place you want to be in.
I just soak about three to four fruit rinds in a bowl of water. I then mash them up till I get all the juices in the water. I strain this with my fingers, allowing chunks of the peel through. I add about a cup or two of water and set this to boil on low flame with salt and some sambar powder. As the fruit is naturally salty, it would be best to test through taste as to how much additional salt you'll need.
I find that adding thin juliennes of ginger gives it a spicier taste. Just cut up about half an inch of ginger into very thin centimeter-long slivers and add it to the boiling rasam.
After about ten minutes or so, I set the pot down and season the rasam with curry leaves and mustard seeds that have been spluttered in hot oil.
Have this with your rice of choice and a side of cool vegetable salad.