The hog plum appears to be a green, unripe mango at first glance. A closer look shows that the hog plum has less pulp and a sourer taste than a mango.
In India, the hog plum is known as Bambara or Amra. It is an important souring agent used in many cuisines. In the Western Ghats and Goa, in particular, the hog plum (also known as a made and gambado) gives a tangy flavor to both vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes such as that hate. In Goa and West Bengal, it is used to create a sweet-sour chutney. The fruit is pickled in Kerala.
It is unclear why people eat sour foods. US researchers published a review article in February 2022 of Proceedings of the Royal Society A: Biological Sciences that suggested the receptors responsible for bad tastes were first developed by fish and then later evolved into terrestrial organisms. The ancient fish had receptors on their bodies that allowed them to determine the pH (sourness indicates acidity).
Today, however, many people have mixed reactions to sour foods and avoid them. Just as sweets are good for you, salty food helps maintain fluid balance, and umami foods give savory meaty flavors when consumed with proteins; so too is hog plum.
Fruits are a good source of nutrition and have medicinal properties. According to a study published by researchers in Delhi in the journal Food Research International in August 2011, it is rich in minerals, phenolic compounds, and natural antioxidants and contains ascorbic, malic, and calcium. It is said that the fruit has anti-diabetic properties, as well as being a digestive aid.
Recent studies have shown that the fruit can help with cancer treatment. Researchers in India and Vietnam prepared hematite nanoparticles (iron ore) using the fruit extract, which proved to be very effective in controlling mammalian tumor cells in lab experiments.
The use of nanoparticles to deliver drugs to cancerous areas and reduce the amount needed is a way to lower costs. The production of nanoparticles is expensive. Hog plum, which is widely available, could reduce the cost, say researchers in a November 2011 study published in Environmental Research.
Mucositis, or inflammation of the mucous tissues in the digestive system, is also common among people who receive chemotherapy. Researchers from Karnataka reported in a July 20, 2021, study published in the journal Veterinary World that hog plum extract could be used to reduce the burden of the condition for people undergoing chemotherapy.
It is contrary to the common belief that eating sour foods causes inflammation. Not only does the fruit have health benefits. The bark of the hog-plum tree is also beneficial in protecting against the oxidative changes and inflammation that can occur during mucositis.
In addition, hog-plum seeds contain compounds that help suppress parasites like Plasmodium berghei, which can cause malaria in certain rodents. Researchers from Thailand say that additional studies are needed to isolate and identify the compounds, as well as understand the mechanism for inhibition.
What’s in a name?
The hog plum has been studied in some depth but not extensively. Scientifically, the hog plum belongs to the Anacardiaceae Family. It shares space with cashew nuts and mangoes. The genus Spondias has been used in Mexico’s Tehuacan Valley since at least 6500 BC, but it is not well studied.
Researchers have a different opinion about the hog plum. Some consider it a distinct species, Spondias pinnata. Others subsumed it as a variation of Spondias Dulcis. This fruit is similar to the June plum but sweeter, larger, and fleshier.
Spondias pinnata is a deciduous tree that can grow up to 25 meters tall. This tree is found not only in India but also in Malaysia, Indonesia, and Bali, where it’s used in traditional medicine and food.
The leaves of the Bali tree are used in Bali to treat and prevent diabetes hypoglycemic. Researchers from Nepal and Australia found that the leaf extract is as effective as metformin in treating diabetes in rats. This study was published in the Scientific World Journal in June 2021.
If you can get past its extremely sour flavor, there are many benefits to the sour plum.
GOAN CHUTNEY RECIPES
- Hog plums: 6
- Coconut (freshly grated: 3 tablespoons)
- Jaggery: 2 Tablespoons
- Sugar: 1 tablespoon
- Red chilli (whole), 2
- Curry leaves:
- Turmeric: 1 tablespoon
- Half a teaspoon of salt
- Oil: 2 tablespoon
- Mustard seeds: 1 tablespoon
Wash and peel the hog plumbs. In a saucepan, heat oil and add curry leaves and mustard seeds. Add the turmeric and peeled fruit and let them cook for about a minute. Add 1 cup of water to the fruit and cook until soft. In the meantime, prepare a thick paste with coconut grated, jaggery sugar, salt, and chilies. This paste can be added to the fruits that are boiling. Continue to cook for a couple of minutes until the spices are absorbed into the fruit. Now, the chutney can be served.