An Eco-sustainable World
ArborealSpecies Plant

Pouteria lucuma

Pouteria lucuma

Lucuma (Pouteria lucuma (Ruiz & Pav.) Kuntze) is an arboreal species belonging to the Sapotaceae family.

Systematics –
From a systematic point of view it belongs to:
Eukaryota domain,
Kingdom Plantae,
Magnoliophyta division,
Class Magnoliopsida,
Ebenales Order,
Sapotaceae family,
Genus Pouteria,
Species P. lucuma.
The terms are synonyms:
– Achras lucuma Ruiz & Pav.;
– Lucuma bifera Molina;
– Lucuma biflora J.F.Gmel.;
– Lucuma obovata Kunth;
– Lucuma obovata var. ruizii A.DC.;
– Lucuma peruviana J.St.-Hil.;
– Lucuma turbinata Molina;
– Pouteria insignis Baehni;
– Richardella lucuma (Ruiz & Pav.) Aubrév..

Etymology –
The term Pouteria was given by the French botanist Charles François Antoine Morren, who described the plant for the first time in 1838 and called it Pouteria in honor of the Swiss botanist Marc Michel Poutereau, who carried out important research on the flora of the Americas.
The specific lucuma epithet comes from the Quechua word “lukuma”, which was the original name of the fruit in this indigenous language.

Geographic Distribution and Habitat –
Pouteria lucuma is a plant native to the Peruvian Andean valleys and southern Ecuador, where it is still found naturally, and which has also spread to other Andean states, while it is rather rare elsewhere. It is also grown in central Chile, which has a Mediterranean climate.
The plant is well adapted to tropical and subtropical habitat in the Andes, which includes a variety of climates and altitudes.
It is usually found in altitudes between 1000 and 2400 meters above sea level.

Description –
Pouteria lucuma is a tree with a straight and cylindrical stem, which can reach 15 meters in height and even more.
The bark of the tree is dark gray in color and has longitudinal furrows and cracks.
It has a symmetrical shape with a dense, rounded crown.
The leaves are persistent, glossy, dark green in color and elliptical or lanceolate in shape, with well-defined veins.
The flowers are small and white or cream in color which develop single or in clusters of two or three, axillary and tubular in shape, always hermaphroditic. They have 5 to 7 hairy sepals, adherent to the point of insertion of the fruit petiole. The flowers are fragrant and attract bees and other pollinating insects. After fertilization, fruits develop which take several months to fully ripen.
The fruit is round or oval in shape, usually with a rounded conical apex, covered with a delicate skin, bright green when ripe, turning chestnut when ripe. It has a sweet, rich, creamy flavor often described as a combination of honey, caramel, and sweet pumpkin. It matures almost nine months after fertilizing the flowers. The fruit is oblong and in the cultivated varieties it is about 15 cm long and weighs about 200 g. During maturation it is full of latex; once ready for consumption, the pulp is yellow-orange, unusually dry, rich in starch and very sweet. Contains two to five oval, flattened seeds, dark brown in color, with a whitish border to one side.
The tree is hardy and can live for decades, providing a continuous source of fine fruit.

Cultivation –
Pouteria lucuma, as well as in Peru, is also cultivated to a limited extent in Bolivia, Chile and Costa Rica. Attempts to cultivate lúcuma in the Florida climate are generally unsuccessful.
The plant is also grown outside the Andean regions in similar climates, such as Southern California and parts of Australia. It is successfully grown in Vietnam, where it is known as lêkima.
Its adaptability allows it to thrive in a variety of climatic conditions, provided its basic needs for sunlight, temperature and soil drainage are met.
Due to its particular climatic requirements it could be cultivated in some microclimates of the Mediterranean.
Within the native range, the fruits are often harvested from the wild. The tree is also often grown for its edible fruit, especially in subtropical regions of South America, the fruit often found for sale in local markets.
The plant prefers a warm but not extremely hot climate and can withstand temperatures slightly below 0 °C. It is a plant that requires a good amount of sunlight and grows best in areas with a distinct dry season followed by a wet season.
In terms of soil, Pouteria lucuma prefers well-drained, fertile soils. It is adaptable to a variety of soil types, including sandy, loamy and mixed soils. However, the soil must be deep enough for roots to develop.
In Peru, the harvest season is from October to March and in Chile from June to November.
In particular, it is a plant of higher altitudes in tropical climates with average rainfall, which also grows well at lower altitudes in subtropical regions.
In the tropics, it grows best at altitudes of 1,500 to 3,000 meters. It grows best in areas where annual daytime temperatures are between 21-27°C, but can tolerate 11-36°C.
When the plant is dormant it can survive temperatures down to about -5°C, but new growth can be severely damaged at 0°C.
It prefers an average annual rainfall between 900 and 1,500 mm, but tolerates 300 – 2,300 mm.
From the pedological point of view, it needs well drained and moderately fertile soils and tolerates moderate levels of salt in the soil; it prefers a pH between 6.5 and 7.5, tolerating between 6 and 8.5.
Plants can flower and produce fruit all year round.
Propagation can take place by seed, which must be removed from the shell before sowing, or by lateral grafting.

Customs and Traditions –
The fruits of Pouteria lucuma have been consumed in the Andean region for centuries, and it is considered a sacred plant of great cultural importance. Its name in Quechua reflects the importance it had in the tradition and culture of the ancient indigenous peoples.
Archaeological research places the beginning of its cultivation in the interior valleys of the Andes by the pre-Inca peoples. Here the consumption of the fruit and the use of wood are well documented in the pictorial representations of the native Amerindians. The oldest are dated to the 8th millennium BC, in the region called Callejón de Huaylas in the Ancash language. The Moche culture represented Lucuma as part of their interest in agricultural products. Its wood was used in the construction of the Sanctuary of Pachacàmac, where a trunk of singular dimensions was found in 1938, representing a totemic figure.
Europeans met lucuma in Quito in 1531. Its cultivation extended to the Inca valleys. Historical evidence estimates the peak of its cultivation in the era of the Moche culture, around the seventh century AD, which used intensive cultivation and irrigation techniques to produce unprecedented quantities of the fruit.
During the pre-Hispanic era, lucuma was one of the main ingredients of the diet of the aborigines of the valleys, combined with corn, legumes and guayaba, as well as quinoa and kiwicha in the higher areas. When the Europeans arrived, it was cultivated in the Andean plateau and in southern Ecuador.
In Bolivia it is produced around La Paz.
In Chile, cultivation was introduced from the warm region of the North to the central region, where today most of its crops are found, tending to replace the native species of Chile: Pouteria splendens. In Costa Rica it is produced around San Josè where it was introduced by immigrants at the beginning of the 20th century.
In Hawaii it grows and produces, however its consumption is limited.
In Mexico it grows and produces but is not consumed on a large scale.
In Peru most of the cultivation is concentrated in the areas of Lima, Ayacucho, La Libertad, Cajamarca y Huancavelica and its cultivation grows every year, due to the very high demand both in Peru and internationally. COPROBA, a Peruvian government body, has declared it one of the flagship products of Peru.
Lucuma is considered one of the best fruits in Latin America and is used extensively in the traditional cuisine of Peru, Ecuador and other surrounding regions. It is used to prepare sweets, ice creams, drinks and desserts. The lucuma pulp is rich in nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants.
Overall this plant is prized for its delicious and nutritious fruit as well as its ornamental beauty in the tropical and subtropical environments where it grows.
The fruit can be eaten raw. It is also dried and made into a meal which can be added to wheat flour, cornmeal or starch and used in the preparation of various beverages and desserts.
The meal adds a strong smell and color to ice creams, sorbets, puddings, etc.
The fruit has firm flesh with a very rich, sweet flavor somewhat reminiscent of a baked sweet potato.
In addition to being used as food, the fruit has been used in the medicinal field to promote lactation in women after childbirth.
Lúcuma pulp has a moisture content of 64-72%. The pulp also contains glucose, fructose, sucrose, inositol, citric acid and succinic acid. However, there is only limited nutritional information available for lúcuma powder, indicating moderate protein and iron content, each providing 14% of the Daily Value in a 100 g (3.5 oz) serving, providing 420 calories .
Among other uses, as mentioned, wood is used which is light but compact; it is used for industrial and construction purposes.
Its wood is light, light in color, fine-grained, resistant.

Method of Preparation –
Of the Pouteria lucuma, its fruit, called lucuma, is used above all for the production of sweets and ice creams.
The lucuma is eaten very ripe, a few days after harvesting; in the interval it should be kept wrapped in straw or other similar material.
It has an intense flavor that is a cross between maple syrup and sweet potato. It is used cooked in cakes, pastries and ice cream, smoothies, puddings and other ways. Its fresh consumption is less frequent due to its aftertaste, which is less perceptible in the best varieties.
Its use in desserts extended to pre-Columbian times in Peru, where it is considered the national fruit and flagship product.
Due to the high starch content, the pulp sometimes dries up for storage, gives a very sweet and nutritious flour, contains iron, beta-carotene, and niacin. It can be kept frozen.
To consume the fruit, the lucuma is cut in half and the outer skin is removed. Inside is the sweet and creamy pulp. At this point the stone is removed, as the lucuma contains a large central stone. The stone must be removed with a sharp knife or spoon.
It can be consumed by placing the lucuma pulp in a bowl, crushing it with a fork or using an immersion blender to obtain a smoother consistency.
The lucuma pulp can be used in many ways. It can be added to smoothies, ice cream, desserts, puddings or even savory dishes to impart a sweet lucuma flavour.
If you don’t use all of the lucuma pulp, you can store it in the refrigerator in an airtight container for a few days, making sure to cover the surface with plastic wrap to prevent oxidation.

Guido Bissanti

– Acta Plantarum – Flora of the Italian Regions.
– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– GBIF, the Global Biodiversity Information Facility.
– Useful Tropical Plants Database.
– Conti F., Abbate G., Alessandrini A., Blasi C. (ed.), 2005. An annotated checklist of the Italian vascular flora, Palombi Editore.
– Pignatti S., 1982. Flora of Italy, Edagricole, Bologna.
– Treben M., 2000. Health from the Lord’s Pharmacy, Advice and experiences with medicinal herbs, Ennsthaler Editore.

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Attention: The pharmaceutical applications and alimurgical uses are indicated for informational purposes only, they do not in any way represent a medical prescription; we therefore decline all responsibility for their use for curative, aesthetic or food purposes.

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