What is a Jackfruit?

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Why would we want to try this fruit? Originally from Philippines, Brazil and other tropical climates, Jackfruit is becoming available in American grocery stores.  Besides the protein rich nutrition, this fruit has been used as a traditional medicine due to fatty acids, ellagic acid and amino acids2.  Thanks to Mercola.com for sharing this info about these amazing fruits – numbered resources can be viewed in the original article.

While jackfruits are similar in color to the inside of kiwifruit when they’re not yet ripe, and later brown, the similarity ends there because jackfruits are huge. A single fruit can weigh from 10 to 100 pounds, with skin that’s either a tightly packed network of spiny knobs or a flattened surface more like that of a grapefruit. They grow on trees as high as 50 feet (although they don’t thrive in cold temperatures), making them the largest fruit tree in the world.  Jackfruit trees are perennial, so replanting isn’t necessary. Two growing seasons produce from 150 to 250 jackfruits per tree, annually. That’s a lot of food when you consider how large they are.

Even the seeds are rich in protein, potassium, calcium and iron. Just 3.5 ounces provide 7 grams of protein, 38 grams of carbohydrates and 1.5 grams of fiber (6 percent of the dietary reference intake (DRI)), according to Livestrong. As Shyamala Reddy, biotechnology researcher at the University of Agriculture Sciences in Bangalore, India, noted: “Jackfruit is a miracle. It can provide so many nutrients and calories — everything. If you just eat 10 or 12 bulbs of this fruit, you don’t need food for another half a day.”

Exuding a strong, sweet, fruity scent (as well they should) a jackfruit is quite dense and milky white when you cut into it, with the outside lining rimmed with a wide lining of hundreds of fleshy “bulbs” or lobes, which contain highly nutritious seeds. They’re also amazingly versatile. Besides eating the bulbs in-hand, jackfruits can be used in jams, juices and ice cream or added to soups. The fruit can be roasted, dried and ground to make jackfruit curry or stir fry, as well as fruit dishes. NPR’s The Salt notes its distinct flavor: “The taste was described as ‘mellow mango,’ a little peachy, a little pear-like. The texture was compared to chunky applesauce or overripe banana. Also a little mealy and stringy.”3

That “stringy” quality comes in handy, hinting at what adventurous chefs have discovered: the jackfruit’s meat-like quality many people crave. After cooking for an hour or so, unripened jackfruit provides the flavor and mouth-feel of pulled pork. In fact, jackfruit is becoming more popular in vegan and vegetarian circles as a meat substitute. Jackfruit, as one might surmise, is very “foody.” One cup (165 grams) contains 2.4 grams of protein, 2.6 grams of fiber and around 190 calories, making it filling and nutritious. However, after harvesting, jackfruit won’t last more than a few weeks, so to preserve it for later consumption, it’s often canned or dried to make chips. It can also be mixed with coconut, bananas and honey for a popular dessert common in India.

According to Business Insider, jackfruit is a nutritional boon to people in Vietnam, Malaysia and Bangladesh, where it’s the national fruit and second only to the mango in importance. Jackfruit is so important in Bangladesh that if there’s room, everyone grows them, not only to feed people, but for other uses:

  • To feed goats and other farm animals
  • The orange bark has been used to dye the traditional robes worn by monks
  • The trees produce a latex-like substance that can substitute for glue
  • Wood from the gigantic trees is also used for lumber

As a food, unfortunately, a lot of the jackfruit grown in India goes to waste, often due to spoilage, but also for another reason: People in India have a tendency to avoid eating jackfruit, thinking it’s a food only for “poor” people. Business Insider notes: “As popular as jackfruit is in Bangladesh, it is avoided in India … where it could bring copious amounts of food to millions of people and malnourished. … Reportedly, up to 75 percent of jackfruit grown in India goes to waste, partly because the fruit goes bad if it’s not eaten or preserved within a few weeks.”10

In a country where hunger is sometimes as rampant as anywhere in the world, this is disturbing, especially to 27-year-old Shree Padre, a newspaper editor in Karala. He and others have stepped up to call attention to the many attributes of jackfruit, organizing festivals and advocating for more awareness of what the fruit could do to allay hunger.

Isn’t it interesting that no matter where we live you can misunderstand many of the plants that are around us awaiting to be used for our healing…

Feature Image Source: Maxpixel 



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