Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Lucuma The Fruit

LUCUMA is a fruit, a color and a fair trade company!

The why for our name Lucuma Designs comes often: “Lucuma”, before anything else, is a Peruvian fruit. In Peru this word is also used to name the Orange-Yellow color of the flesh in the ripened fruit as shown in our Logo! We choose our name Lucuma Designs to honor the vibrancy and colorfulness of our Peruvian folk art and people!

The Lucuma Fruit

Lucuma is a delicately flavored tropical fruit native to the cool highlands of coastal valleys in Peru. With its high nutritional value, it has been an important crop since ancestral times, proven by the many ceramic remains from the Moche and later Inca cultures alluding to this great fruit. In fact, it was once referred to as the Gold of the Incas. It’s tasty flavor and aroma are hard to describe or compare to any other. Some may say it tastes like caramel custard and others a bit like pumpkin. Its texture, unlike most fruits, is dry, quite starchy and with a paste-like consistency that melts in your mouth. You have to try it!

The scientific name for this fruit is Pouteria Lucuma and it grows best at altitudes above 1,000 m up to 2400 meters. It has an ovoid shape of about 5 to 8 cm long, green yellowish color when ripe. Pealing its thin skin reveals a dry and starchy orange-yellow flesh. Peru is the main producer, although it is also now grown in parts of Chile. The bulk of the production is used in dehydrated form with only a small percentage reaching the local markets to be consumed fresh. Once dehydrated, the lucuma powder (or flour) is mainly sold as flavoring to be used in ice creams and other dairy products.

Lucuma ice cream is the best!

In Peru, it is a favorite. Some say lucuma ice cream's popularity surpasses even the common vanilla and chocolate flavors!

Fresh Lucuma is always best!

By far, the best way to eat it is fresh. So if you are lucky to visit Peru in its summer months, from January to April, do ask for it at any grocery store or fruit market. Also ask around to find Lucuma ice cream made from the fresh fruit! Be aware that only specialty ice cream shops usually make their own using fresh lucuma, and most commercial ice-cream brands use the dried lucuma flour, which does not have the same taste or smooth texture. And while enjoying the lucuma fruit, remember to check out the local handicraft markets!

Where to find Lucuma in the US?

A good bet is to try it out at your local Peruvian restaurant. With the popularity of Peruvian cuisine on the rise, Peruvian restaurants are opening in many major cities so very likely you may find more than one close to you. If you do, we hope you get adventurous exploring one of the most flavorful and rich cuisines of the planet. And while you are it, find out if they also serve Lucuma ice-cream! We are sure you won’t regret it!

As for finding the real fruit here in the US, we heard there are few people growing it already in California and even in Hawaii! What we haven’t heard yet is of anyone growing the Lucuma fruit in a commercial way outside of Peru or Chile. Because the Lucuma fruit ripens quickly, and it is soft and quite delicate, transporting fresh Lucuma fruit has been a challenge.

A good compromise from the fresh fruit, is to have it as frozen Lucuma pulp which makes a decent substitute for making ice cream, juices, milk shakes and even for baking! Fortunately it has become more and more common in areas with a decent Latin American or Peruvian population. Try asking a Latin market near you. There's a good chance they may have it in their freezer section!

A third choice is to find it in the freeze dried or dehydrated form which is shelf stable while preserving a little more of its natural flavor compared to the normally dried Lucuma flour. Fortunately, there are few online sources (see below) where you can buy dried Lucuma.

Source - http://www.lucuma.com/

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