Kokam is a slender evergreen small tree with drooping branches. It is a dioecious tree growing up to 18 mtr high. The fruit is spherical, purple, not grooved having 5-8 seeds compressed in an acid pulp.
The Kokum tree is of tropical evergreen origin and is related to the mangos teens. It grows at a height 15m (50 ft) and has thin bark and elongated leaves. Kokum fruit is circular with a diameter of 4 cm and five-eight seeds. It is a sticky, purplish or blackish colored fruit with curved sides. Commercially the dry rind of the fruit is used. The darker the color, the better is the quality. When added to the preparation it lends a pinkish to purplish color and a sweet and sour flavor.
Kokam, a specialty of Indian spice has a sweet and sour flavor with an acidic taste. It is partially astringent and has a refreshing taste. The kokum or Kodum puli is endemic to the western seaward regions of South India. Kokum is a sour fruit that resembles tamarind. In fact it is also known as 'Fish Tamarind' as it is added to the fish curry to make it sour especially in the Konkani’s preparation and the cuisines of Travancore in Kerala. Actually the intrinsic acidic property of Kokum checks the unpleasant flavor of the fish.
Kokum is also used in the Malabar region as a substitute of tamarind. Kokum also has a cooling property and is used to make refreshing drinks known as Kokum Sherbets during the dry, sultry summers. Besides culinary, Kokum also boasts of high medicinal standards and is used as an antiseptic and emollient.