The Lure of Lucuma

Yearning for a delicious but natural sweet fix? Discover the many sweet ways you can savor this delicious Peruvian fruit.
Lucumacrop

Yearning for a delicious but natural sweet fix? Find it in lucuma (pronounced LOO -koo-ma), an exotic subtropical fruit native to the cool highlands of Peru. Resembling an avocado, the round or egg-shaped fruit is about two to three inches long, with a brilliant yellow to yellow-orange, fibrous flesh. Although lucuma has been cultivated in Peru since ancient times—it was once called the “last gold of the Incas”—it has only recently found a place in modern kitchens. Lucuma is low-glycemic (meaning that glucose is released more slowly, avoiding a rapid spike in blood sugar) and comes with a serious dose of nutrients that make the fruit like no other. And besides being good for you, lucuma is just plain good. It has a smooth, creamy feel and a unique citrus flavor; some describe the taste as a cross between butterscotch and sweet potato.

 

BUY/EAT/STORE Lucuma isn’t commercially produced in the United States, but Latin/ Hispanic markets often carry the frozen pulp. Try it in recipes for cakes, puddings and ice cream or simply fold it into your morning oatmeal or yogurt. Lucuma is also sold here in superfine powder form, after it’s been dried and milled, usually in Peru, Chile or Ecuador. Find the powder at specialty health food shops and stores that sell nutritional supplements. (Some of these stores may also offer food items produced with lucuma, such as chocolate, nutrition bars and spreads.)

Blend a spoonful of the sweet stuff into shakes, juices and smoothies—and even soups—to add a thick, creamy texture and a delicate, maple-like flavor. Our favorite powdered brands are verified raw and organic and are carefully processed to retain their vital nutrients. Calorie counts vary by brand, with about 60 to 75 calories per tablespoon. To store, keep in a dark place at room temperature.

 

POWER UP Lucuma is high in complex carbohydrates, beta-carotene, fiber, niacin and iron and low in sugar and acid—making it a healthy substitute for sugar in your morning coffee and in desserts and other recipes that call for sugar or extracts. In addition, its low glycemic index makes it a good choice for both people with diabetes and health-minded dessert lovers.

 

DID YOU KNOW? The little-known lucuma has been revered for thousands of years by the local people of Peru. Images of the fruit appear on ceramics found at ancient burial sites as well as on textiles and art. Lucuma is so popular that more than 20 small villages in Peru are named after it. Even today it’s featured in cultural celebrations, and is the country’s most popular flavor of ice cream. —JOANNA YEUNG

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