Garcinia indica, a plant in the mangosteen family (Clusiaceae), commonly known as kokum, is a fruit tree that has culinary, pharmaceutical, and industrial uses. The tree is also ornamental, with a dense canopy of green leaves and red-tinged, tender, emerging leaves. It is indigenous to the Western Ghats region of India, along the western coast. It is found in forest lands, riversides, and wasteland, and also gets cultivated on a small scale. It does not require irrigation, spraying or fertilizers.
These plants prefer evergreen forests, but some also thrive in relatively low-rainfall areas. Garcinia indica is known by various names across India, including amsol/aamsul, bindin, biran, bhirand, bhinda, bhrinda, brinda, kokum/kokam, katambi, panarpuli, kudam puli or ratamba.
Further, the extract/concentrate of this fruit is called aagal in Konkani and Marathi. It is ready to use for preparation of sol kadhi when mixed with coconut milk.
The genus Garcinia, belonging to the family Clusiaceae, includes some 200 species found in the Old World tropics, especially Asia and Africa. Of the 35 species found in India, 17 are endemic. Of these, seven are endemic to the Western Ghats region (lying along western coastal India), six in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and four in the northeastern region of India.
Called kokum, kokam, or bin'na in parts of western India, the Garcinia indica seed contains 23-26% oil, which remains solid at room temperature and is used in the preparations of confectionery, medicines and cosmetics.
The outer cover of fruit is dried in the sun to get aamsul or kokam. It is used as a slightly sour spice in recipes from Maharashtra that yields peculiar taste and dark red colour. It is a preferred substitute for tamarind in curries and other dishes from Konkan. It is also used in Konkani cuisine, in Gujarat, and some cuisines of South India.
As kudam puli, it is an essential ingredient of traditional fish recipes of Kerala.
Recently, industries have started extracting hydroxycitric acid (HCA) from the rind of the fruit.
India's first national seminar on kokum or Garcinia indica was held March 4-5, 2005 at the Goa University, Goa. Those researching on the crop see it as having a bright future: it is rainfed, does not have any pest or diseases apart from the monkey menace, and is almost a "zero-attention" crop.
One paper presented at the Goa seminar (March 2005) suggested Garcinia indica has medicinal uses both as a digestive tonic, and to cope with paralysis. In the first case, about half to one glass of curry is prepared from the fruits, with a little salt and sugar, to be taken after meals.For paralysis, the clean-chopped stem bark is finely powdered and is added to boiling water. After two to three minutes, a lightly cooled decoction is used for washing the affected parts, two to three times a day.
Kokum juice is also thought to be effective against allergies due to bee stings and other insect bites, sun exposure symptoms and acidity.