Flacourtia jangomas: Coffee plum tree

Family: Salicaceae
Common name: Coffee plum tree, Indian coffee plum, Scramberry, Lubikka, Indian cherry, Indian plum, Loovikka

Lubikkas are enjoyed as pickles or relishes along with rice in Kerala, the southernmost state of India. Coffee plum trees grow to a height of 6-10 meters and is a small, well-branched, bushy tree.

The main bark starts branching very close to the ground, but lower branches can be trimmed to encourage the tree to grow taller with a straight bark. Young Coffee plum trees have long, woody thorns which could branch, making it a good hedge tree. But older trees do not have prominent thorns.

Coffee plum tree bark is light or dark brown in color and flakes with age. Leaves are green and elongated, with wavy margins and prominent venation. The upper surface of the leaves are glossy, whereas the lower surfaces are dull green in color. Tender leaves are pinkish-red in color, turning green as they grow older.

The plant is dioecious, having separate male and female trees. Only the female trees produce fruits as is common in dioecious plants. Male flowers are small and rounded with numerous stamens and no distinguishable petals. Female flowers also have many prominent stamens like those of Wax apples or Syzygium samarangense; but with much smaller flowers.

Fruits are initially small and green, but grows bigger, pink and later red when they mature. Ripe fruits are about an inch in diameter and deep red in color. The flesh of Coffee plum fruit is soft with 4-6 flattened seeds inside.

It has a sour, tangy flavor and can be eaten raw with a little salt to offset the sourness. They are used in making jams, jellies, juices, preserves, pickles and relishes. Lubikka pickles from Kerala are quite popular and is exported to countries all over the world.

Coffee plum trees prefer good sunlight and well-drained soil. They love the warm, tropical climate of Kerala and produces abundant fruits every year. The tree is deciduous, shedding leaves in relatively cold weather.

Coffee plum trees have some medicinal uses, in treatment of diarrhea, bronchitis, toothache, anemia, arthritis and snake bites. The bark of the tree is used for makinig walking sticks and small agricultural implements.

Propagation is from seeds, which are usually dispersed through water or animals.

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