Ark of taste
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Kokam (Garcinia indica) is an evergreen tree that grows in the Western Ghats, a mountain range that runs parallel to the western coast of India. Its attractive magenta-colored, sour fruits are about plum-sized and are harvested each year during the months of April and May. The harvest lasts for a brief period of a couple of weeks and should to be done before the pre-monsoon showers, after which time worms can spoil the fruit. Kokam is related to the tropical fruit mangosteen.  

Its dried rind is used as a souring agent for lentils and fish curry. It is also used to preapare kokam juice, sol kadi (kokam with coconut milk and spices), kokam candy, kokam jam and kokam appay huli (an appetizer drink). Kokam has been used for a very long time by forest dwelling communities in the regions of Maharashtra, Goa and Karnataka. The fruit is harvested for personal use, and it can also be found sold commercially. However, the disappearing forest habitats of the Western Ghats, along with unsustainable harvesting practices and not enough saplings being planted by communities, are threatening the future of this fruit.  A lack of awareness of its culinary importance and the different varieties of kokam mean that this fruit is undervalued and may be lost from the local culinary traditions if not attended to. 

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Tamil Nadu