Lucuma (botanical name Pouteria lucuma) is a fruit native to the subtropical region and has its origin in the Andean region. Trees bearing this fruit are medium sized and grow up to a height of anything between 25 feet and 50 feet. Engravings of lucuma trees have been found on ceramics in the cemeteries of the native people in coastal Peru. In fact, the Moche people were fascinated with agriculture and usually desired to embody various vegetables and fruits, counting lucuma, in their art forms.
In 1531, the Europeans first noticed as well as reported lucuma in the Inca Empire’s Chinchasuyu region. Occasionally, lucuma is also referred to as lucmo. In English, lucuma is also known as “eggfruit”, a common name which is also given to its close relative canistel (botanical name Pouteria campechina). Precisely speaking, the term “eggfruit” actually denotes the dry flesh of the fruit, whose texture is similar to the yolk of a hard-boiled egg. The flesh of lucuma is especially dry and its flavor is somewhat unique – a blend of sweet potato and maple. Lucuma is highly nutritious and contains elevated levels of carotene, niacin (vitamin B3) and several other B vitamins. The fruit has a round or ovoid shape and its exterior is green. Inside, lucuma has a bright yellow flesh, which is usually fibrous in nature.
Of late, lucuma has turned out to be very popular, especially in the form of a dried out powder flavoring. As a result, there has been a significant increase in the production of this fruit, which is extensively dried and exported. In its native place, lucuma is very popular as a flavoring for ice cream. In Peru and Chile, the demand for this fruit exceeds that of the only other flavours available commercially – strawberry, vanilla and chocolate, especially in Peru.
Lucuma has a smooth sweetness, besides low glycemic content. Subsequently, this fruit is usually apt for people enduring diabetes.
Since lucuma possesses very high nutritional value, there was a time when the fruit was known as the Gold of the Incas. As a result, it has remained a vital crop traditionally for the locals. This is evident from the engravings of the fruit on several ceramic remnants from the Moche and afterward the Inca cultures.
According to records available from ancient times, natives of the Andean region used lucuma fruit to support digestion as well as the health of their skin. More recently, findings of scientific studies have demonstrated that the oil extracted from lucuma fruit may prove to be effective in promoting wound healing by means of stimulating the healing aspects present in the skin.
For several centuries now, people have also been using lucuma to sustain and promote cardiovascular health. Findings of recent scientific studies seem to corroborate this aspect of lucuma’s use. These studies have revealed that lucuma possesses potential ACE inhibitory effects in vitro, perhaps lessening the actions related to hypertension or high blood pressure. In addition, use of lucuma may possibly also regularize the normal blood sugar levels, thereby giving rise to hopes to researchers of finding another nutritional support for people enduring type II diabetes. The findings of these studies suggest that this Peruvian fruit has an outstanding potential of being used as a remedy for problems related to blood pressure as well as blood sugar.
Similar to many other fruits, lucuma is also a wonderful dietary fiber source. Eating foods high in dietary fiber content has several advantages and most important among them is that they not only contain fewer calories, but also give you a sense of being full for a prolonged period. As a result, you do not crave for food frequently and go for snacks or overeat, helping you to maintain a healthy weight. So, as far as weight management is concerned, this is extremely vital.
At the same time, the rich dietary fiber content of lucuma also helps in regularizing bowel movements, thereby preventing constipation. Dietary fiber also adds volume to one’s stool, thereby making it easier to move through the digestive tract. It has been established that taking a diet rich in fibers helps to diminish several problems associated with the digestive system, for instance irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), diverticulitis, gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD) and even stomach ulcers.
Findings of several scientific studies have hinted that lucuma also possesses antibiotic as well as antifungal properties. It has been established that this fruit is very effectual in regenerating tissues, in addition to healing wounds. Topical application of lucuma nut oil to the affected areas aids in accelerating the healing process.
In addition, it has been found that consumption of lucuma or foods prepared with it helps to put off development of specific forms of cancers. This fruit possesses antioxidant properties, which help in combating the detrimental free radicals that are produced during cellular metabolism. In fact, free radicals are toxins that have been found to be responsible for various health issues, counting cancers.
At the same time, the antioxidants and several nutrients present in lucuma work to perk up the immune system, thereby protecting us from several serious ailments and health conditions.
Lucuma possesses wonderful anti-inflammatory attributes and, hence, it is often employed for healing wounds and abrasions of the skin. In addition, this fruit possesses the aptitude to diminish the aging effects like fine lines and wrinkles. This fruit contains elevated levels of beta-carotene, a substance that encourages growth as well as cell repairs. This, in turn, decreases the signs of aging. At the same time, beta-carotene also serves as an effective sunscreen and protects our skin from the detrimental effects of the sun’s ultra-violet (UV) rays.
Aside from other nutrients, lucuma also contains considerable amounts of phosphorus and calcium, which are responsible for the strength of our bones. These two essential minerals are necessary for the growth and development of the bones, in addition to ensuring their health and strength.
In addition, it has been established that this Peruvian fruit possesses the aptitude to lower the triglyceride and low density lipoprotein (commonly referred to as bad cholesterol) in the blood stream, thereby diminishing the chances of developing a heart attack and stroke.
Lucuma (Pouteria lucuma) also possesses the ability to balance the levels of hormones in addition to manage anxiety, stress, depression and mood swings, thereby helping one to relax.
For years, lucuma has been known to be a wonderful fruit that is loaded with healthy carbohydrates, which, apart from supplying our body with energy and fuel for our routine activities, aid in augmenting the functioning of our nervous system as well.
Two things are vital if you desire to build your muscles employing natural means. These are appropriate nutrition and the right work-outs. It has been proved that consumption of lucuma helps to build our muscles. As this fruit is packed with antioxidants, it provides us with loads of energy. Similarly, lucuma also contains significant amounts of iron, which helps to decrease fatigue, thereby enabling us to rapidly recover from the muscle building exercise regimen. It is important to note that to a great extent, muscle building depends on the strength of one’s bones. Therefore, the copious amounts of essential minerals like phosphorus and calcium present in lucuma help to augment the strength of our bones, in addition to improving the blood circulation.
Apart from the lucuma fruit, even the leaves of this tree possess therapeutic properties. Lucuma leaves are employed for healing problems related to the skin, such as impetigo and infections caused by ringworms. Aside from their therapeutic worth, the leaves of lucuma trees are also used for coloring textiles. They are wonderful for this purpose.
Before concluding, it is worth reiterating that lucuma is an extremely healthy as well as nutritious subtropical fruit that can be incorporated into your daily diet. Lucuma fruit is very flavourful and does not cause any harm to your health. Adding lucuma powder to desserts, dairy products and ice creams in the form of a sweetener offers numerous health benefits. Lucuma is not only a natural sweetener, but is completely free from gluten. At the same time, this fruit is loaded with vitamins, antioxidants and several essential minerals that are necessary for the health of our body and mind.
The texture of lucuma (Pouteria lucuma) is extremely dry when it is consumed raw. However, juices, milk shakes and particularly ice cream flavoured with lucuma are very popular all over Peru and local inhabitants as well as tourists enjoy them throughout the year. In Chile, people use this fruit to prepare an extremely popular dessert dish locally named “Merengue con Salsa de Lúcuma”. Similarly, “Manjar con Lúcuma”,”prepared from Dulce de Leche with Lucuma purée, is also a favourite dish in Chile.
In addition, lucuma powder is used in a variety of desserts like puddings, cakes, creams, cookies and so on. The dried fruit powder is also directly added to several smoothies.
Habitat and cultivation
Lucuma trees usually grow at moderate elevations, anywhere between 1,000 meters and 2,400 meters in the coastal valleys of the Andes in Peru, Ecuador and Chile. Technically speaking, temperatures prevailing at this altitude in the native habitat of lucuma make this fruit tree subtropical. However, basically this tree is tropical in its native region. Lucuma has been successfully cultivated in California, especially in the subtropical mountain bases. However, endeavours to grow this fruit tree in Florida have failed owing to the climatic conditions prevailing there. Aside from Chile, Peru and Ecuador, lucuma is currently cultivated in Costa Rica and Bolivia. However, cultivation of this fruit tree in these regions is very limited. It has been found that lucuma thrives well in nearly all tropical regions, but is not generally favoured. Other species belonging to the same genus as lucuma are said to possess better flavours, for instance abiu (Pouteria caimito), mamey (Pouteria sapota), green sapote (Pouteria viridis) and canistel (Pouteria campechina). Large quantities of lucuma are also available in Asian countries like Vietnam and Laos.
Chemical analysis of lucuma has shown that this starchy fruit contains elevated levels of carotenoids, niacin (vitamin B3), in addition to high amounts of iron, calcium, sodium, phosphorus and magnesium.
Collection and harvesting
Usually, lucuma fruits are harvested during the summer season – between January and April. Lucuma has a very short shelf life and the fresh fruits become rancid very quickly. Hence, people generally preserve this fruit by drying it out and subsequently pounding it into a fine powder form. Apart from helping to enhance the shelf life of lucuma, this method is also effective in retaining the flavor as well as the nutrients contained by the fruit. The process of dehydrating fresh lucuma fruits involves taking ripened fruits, washing them meticulously and then slicing them into small pieces. Subsequently, the fruit pieces are dehydrated by maintaining the temperature below 45°C with a view to save their nutritional substances. Once the fruits have dehydrated or dried out, the pieces are pounded into a fine powdered form and stored for use when needed. If you store lucuma in this method, the fruits will remain viable for about two years and its flavor as well as nutritional value will remain undamaged.