The jackfruit is a giant fruit that grows from a very tall evergreen tree that has leathery, highly glossy leaves. The fruit is very sweet and aromatic, but the jackfruit is useful for more than its fruit: the leaves are used in agriculture, the latex is used in cementing, and the wood is used in furniture making, carving, and framing. When fully ripe, the aroma is very strong but not unpleasant.
The World’s Largest Fruit
The jackfruit tree produces the world’s largest edible fruit, measuring up to 3 feet in length, around 19 inches in diameter and can weigh as much as 80 pounds. Because the fruit is so heavy and so large, it grows from the main branches, the trunks, and even from the surface roots. Small branches could not support its weight.
Jackfruit originates from the rainforests of the Western Ghats of India and is widely planted in Southeast Asia, the Philippines, central and eastern Africa, Brazil, and Surinam. Jackfruit is propagated mainly by seed. Once the seeds are removed from the fruit and washed, they are soaked for 24 hours, then planted in the ground, in an area away from direct sunlight.
Jackfruit as Food
According to the book Fruits of Warm Climates, jackfruit is a very popular food item in South India, ranking next to the mango and banana in annual production. It is the national fruit of Bangladesh. Depending on where the fruit is sold, it can be found in ‘hard’ or ‘soft’ varieties: the hard varieties have a firmer flesh, the softer varieties are a little sweeter. The jackfruit is sweet when ripe, but can also be eaten when green. The flavor of ripe jackfruit avrils can be described as a cross between banana, pineapple, peach, and mango. If you have chewed Juicy Fruit gum, it is very similar to that same sweet flavor profile. In either the green or ripe state, the fruit can be served raw, cooked, canned, or dried and eaten as jackfruit chips. Unripe – ‘green’ – jackfruit is typically sliced up and simmered or steamed until tender and served in curries. The large seeds are edible and are cooked by boiling them or baking them until soft. They then are mashed up or cut up and fried (much like potatoes).
Cutting Strategies for Fresh Jackfruit
A jackfruit has many parts, and it takes time when cutting a whole one to separate the edible parts. It is a messy job, and depending on the fruit, can leave quite a sticky mess from the latex that exudes from the fruit. A whole jackfruit is typically separated into smaller parts when breaking it down. Good advice would be to cover the work surface with butcher paper, kraft paper, or newspaper before cutting it open – to protect the surface from the latex that comes from the rind and fruit. Rubber gloves on your hands and a good coating of vegetable oil on the knife will help to prevent latex build up which is very hard to remove once it is on anything it touches. In other words, don’t use your best chef’s knife for this. An easy way to tackle cutting a whole jackfruit is to cut it in quarters lengthwise, and then cut out the inedible core which will then open up the flesh. Once the core from each quarter is removed, you can easily identify the ‘rag’ part of the flesh from the avrils. The tough, fibrous multi-layered flesh is known as the rags, and the golden pouch-like parts are the sweet avrils. Inside each avril contains the seed. Both the avrils and seeds are edible. The rag part is edible, too, just very fibrous and not very sweet. Both the flesh and the seeds can be frozen, which is nice since a typical jackfruit will produce more fruit and seeds you can probably eat at one time.
Grygus, Andrew. “Jackfruit.” Jackfruit. CloveGarden, n.d. Web. 28 Feb. 2015. “Jackfruit.” Fruit Facts. California Rare Fruit Growers, Inc., 1996. Web. 28 Feb. 2015. “Jackfruit.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 28 Feb. 2015. Morton, J. “Jackfruit.” Jackfruit. Purdue University New Crop Resource Online Program, 28 Feb. 2015. Web. 28 Feb. 2015. From Fruits of Warm Climates by Julia F. Morton.