Jackfruit, is a species of tree in the fig, mulberry, and breadfruit family native to southwest India. It is the national fruit of Bangladesh, and found in most South and Southeast Asian cuisines, but it is grown in nearly all tropical climates as it is very well adapted to warm humid weather. In Spanish, jackfruit is known as Árbol de jack, Panapén, or Yaca. This fruit usually becomes ripe in the summer and fall and is harvested both at ripe and unripe stages.
The whole fruit can grow up to 80lbs and the hard skin is covered in short spikes. If you lacerate the skin of the fruit or the bark of the tree the wound will exude a latex like sap that sticks to everything and anything not well oiled.
Jackfruit is truly a good source of nutrition as it can be eaten unripe and ripe, raw (when ripe), and you can even eat the seeds at all stages of ripeness.
First, unripe jackfruit is a used as a meat substitute, when cooked to softness it resembles the texture of shredded chicken or pork. It can also be sliced thin and fried or baked until crispy. Uncooked jackfruit has an unassuming flavor that takes on whatever seasoning it has been cooked in. It is low in fat, high in fiber, and a good source of protein, Vitamin C, Potassium, Magnesium, and Vitamin B6 by weight.
I like slow cooking it for a barbecued or taco style shredded meat substitute to put into sandwiches, in burritos, or cutting it in chunks for a curry. Every part of the unripe jackfruit but the skin can be eaten. Just cut it into reasonable chunks and boil them for at least 15 minutes before seasoning and cooking again.
Ripe jackfruit contains more sugars, while unripe it has 10-15g less sugar per 100 gram serving. When ripe it has a unique taste described variously as banana, pineapple, mango, apple and fruity bubblegum, to just name a few. For ripe jackfruit, the stringy outer flesh needs to be removed, and the smooth pod that holds the seeds can be eaten raw, cooked down in coconut milk, or a topping for Halo Halo and ice-cream and cakes.
Lastly, eating the seeds of the fruit can also be a fun and tasty experience. Boil them for at least 20 minutes, leave the skin on or take it off and enjoy the soft chestnut like flavor as is, or season them. Savory/salty seasonings and baked for a fun snack, or ground up to make a custard or mouse. These seeds were found to be rich in proteins, starch and carbohydrates. Crude fat, and fiber content were found to be very low. Raw jackfruit seed is 7.67% protein, 0.33% fat, 2.21% fiber, 1.63% ash, 14.04% starch, 10.5% carbohydrate and 77.57% energy.
Of special note, Jackfruit and its seeds are under investigation for their antioxidant properties, as well as their potential as rich source of calories and nutrients for communities dealing with lack of food security.
If you don’t have fresh jackfruit, you actually have less of a job to prepare your meal. just look in your local grocery store and you can usually find it canned either in brine (for savory dishes) or in syrup (for sweet ones.)
These Indian proverbs make a bit of sense once you have had the pleasure of preparing a whole fresh fruit:
“Whoever eats the jackfruit, will be touched by the sap” =You are responsible for your own actions and “The world has always been like this: one man feasts on the jackfruit and the other gets stuck in the sap.”
Enjoy and and explore the many ways to eat this fascinating giant fruit.