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Lucuma is small to moderately sized fruits, averaging 4 to 6 centimeters in diameter, and has an oval to oblong, curved shape, similar in appearance to the shape of an egg or avocado. The skin is firm, smooth, and thin, showcasing variegated hues of dark green, light green, and brown with a small spot of brown russet surrounding the stem-end. Underneath the surface, the yellow flesh ranges from firm to soft, depending on the variety and maturity, and generally has a dry, grainy, and starchy consistency. There are also 1 to 5 brown, smooth, and glossy seeds encased in the center of the flesh. Lucuma, when ripe, has a unique, sweet, and sugary flavoring, reminiscent of maple syrup, sweet potatoes, and caramel.
Lucuma is available year-round, with a peak season in the summer.
Lucuma, botanically classified as Pouteria lucuma, is a rare, ancient fruit belonging to the Sapotaceae family. There are many naturally occurring varieties of Lucuma found throughout the Andean highlands of South America, and the fruit can be further classified into two subgroups known as hard or silk fruits. The fruits most commonly seen in fresh markets belong to the silk fruit subgroup, as the flesh is softer, sweeter, and more palatable. Lucuma is also known as Lucmo and Eggfruit, which is a descriptor given from the fruit’s dry, yellow pulp, and Andean civilizations have used the fruits for centuries as a source of nutrients. In the modern-day, Lucuma has remained localized to its native regions, and the trees are often seen planted near houses where the fruits are gathered as needed. In Peru, Lucuma is also being grown commercially on a small scale for drying and grinding into a powder. This powder is internationally marketed as a sugar substitute and is increasing in popularity worldwide as an exotic and healthy sweetener.
Lucuma is an excellent source of fiber to regulate the digestive tract and a good source of vitamin C, which is an antioxidant that strengthens the immune system while providing anti-inflammatory properties. The fruits also contain B vitamins, potassium, phosphorus, iron, and magnesium.
Lucuma can be consumed fresh, out-of-hand, and has a unique, sweet flavoring. The skin and seeds are generally discarded, and only the flesh is eaten. Though the fruit can be consumed fresh, it is more popularly dried and ground into a powder for use as a sugar substitute. Lucuma powder has a flavor reminiscent of brown sugar and is used in cakes, muffins, bread, nut butter, and baby food. The powder can also be sprinkled over yogurt, cereal, and oatmeal. In Peru, Lucuma is a favorite ice cream flavor and is frequently blended with milk or fruit juice to make a shake or smoothie. It is also blended to create a rich dipping sauce for churros or a topping over dulce de leche. In addition to powders, Lucuma can be cooked into a paste for pie and other pastry fillings, or it can be used to flavor jams, syrups, and preserves. Lucuma pairs well with fruits such as bananas, lemon, pineapple, strawberries, and blueberries, chocolate, caramel, cinnamon, vanilla, and nuts such as cashews, almonds, macadamia, and peanuts. Whole Lucuma can be stored at room temperature for 1 to 4 days, or it can be kept in the refrigerator for up to one week. The flesh can also be frozen for extended use.
In Peru, archeologists have discovered images of Lucuma on ceramics at burial sites of the Moche people, an indigenous Andean civilization that dates back to the 1st century CE. The Moche people centered their life around agriculture and were believed to have extensively cultivated Lucuma as a food source along with corn, quinoa, and beans. Later in the 14th century, Lucuma was known as “the tree of life” and was seen as a symbol of fertility for the Inca Empire. The fruits were honored in festivals, used as a medicinal aid to increase digestion, and depicted in art as a sacred food. Lucuma was also used as a source of nutrients in times of drought and famine, establishing itself as a staple food. In the modern-day, Lucuma is still seen as a valuable crop, and over 26 villages in Peru are named in honor of the fruit.
Lucuma is native to the Andean highlands, spanning across Chile, Ecuador, and Peru, and have been cultivated for over two-thousand years. The ancient fruit was first documented in 1531 by European explorers visiting the Inca Empire in Ecuador, and through migrating peoples and trade, the fruits were introduced into Bolivia. In 1912, Lucuma was naturalized in regions of Costa Rica and was later brought to the United States through the USDA for experimental plantings in Florida and California. Today Lucuma is primarily cultivated and found growing wild in South America, but it can also be found in select subtropical regions of Vietnam, Laos, Mexico, California, Hawaii, and Costa Rica. The fruits are not commercially cultivated on a large scale and are seen on a limited basis through fresh markets. Lucuma powder is exported from Peru and is sold online around the world.
Recipes that include Lucuma. One is easiest, three is harder.
|Thrive Market||Superfood Lucuma Amps Up This Delicious Eggnog|
|Group Recipes||Lucuma Cheesecake|
|Global Table Adventure||Peruvian Tiramisu|
|Unconventional Baker||Cashew Lucuma Fudge|