Jack What? Adventures With Jackfruit

My first experience with jackfruit was in India.  After visiting a temple, I noticed this odd looking thing on a street vendors cart.  I asked my driver what it was and before I could say anything he was procuring a bit for me to try. As I was thinking, but what about all the flies and, “did you wash your hands?”, it was popped in my mouth and I was hooked.  And so were my boys. We had jackfruit wherever we found it throughout India. Its odd shape, its stringy-ish innards, and its unique taste makes it a winner.

Jackfruit is indigenous to southern Asia and India.  It is the national fruit of both Bangladesh and Sri Lanka and is the state fruit of Tamil Nadu and Kerala in India.  Jackfruit is consumed as both a young fruit and a mature fruit. Just one tree can produce 100-200 fruit per year, so it is very sustainable.   

Jackfruit is the largest fruit that grows on a tree.  It can be up to 90 cm or three feet long and up to 45 kg or 100 lbs.  That enough to feed a group! Jackfruit is part of the fig and mulberry family.

The edible part of a jackfruit is the flesh around a large seed.  The seeds are not edible unless cooked. Seeds can be baked, roasted or boiled.  In some places you will find the seeds deep fried and made into a tasty snack.. Each jackfruit contains many individual fruits, which are the part you eat.  One jackfruit can contain anywhere from 100-500 seeds.

It is similar in appearance to durian, but does not have the pungent smell and taste.  The flavour is a bit like pineapple, but not sweet. A bit like hearts of palm, but more flavour.  A bit like apple but not crunchy. A bit like banana but not as creamy. It lies somewhere between crunchy and creamy and a whole lot of sticky.  It is like nothing you have ever tasted. I have heard that the gum Juicy Fruit was based on the flavour of jackfruit. True? Not sure. All I can say is you must try it raw!  It is delightful. Depending on where in the world you live you find it at Asian markets, natural food markets, wet markets or local markets. It also comes in a can. While I don’t usually advocate using anything in a can, jackfruit is an exception.  If you really want to try a fresh jackfruit be prepared — chopping up a whole jackfruit is a process. The skin is hard and prickly (you must wear gloves) and the resin inside is very sticky. Frequently stores will sell already peeled jackfruit. This is a better option.

As with many places in the world, nothing is wasted.  This is true with jackfruit. The pulp and seeds and used for food and the rind is used in making pectin, and a syrup used in tobacco curing and bio-oil.  The wood of a jackfruit tree is used for making musical instruments.

My First Jackfruit Experience, India

It would be several years when the idea for cooking jackfruit and using it as a meat substitute would come to my attention.  But again, I’m hooked.  

The first couple of times I tried cooked jackfruit I didn’t care too much for it.  For me, it had a briny taste that seemed to overpower the dish. I have learned in experimenting that this can be avoided by rinsing canned jackfruit well.  After I open a can of jackfruit I rinse it at least 2-3 times in water and then I let it sit covered in water for 5-10 minutes at least once. I have a super sensitive nose, so if I can smell the brine I don’t like it.

Jackfruit is a nutritional powerhouse. It is full of vitamins and minerals and has a lot of fiber. Vitamin A making it a powerful antioxidants and vision support,.

One of the unique advantages of jackfruit is that it can be used in both sweet and savory dishes.  In savory dishes it can be prepared to taste much like shredded pork. It has a similar consistency when shredded.  My favourite dish is jackfruit tacos. I always make a lot so I can repurpose it over the next few days in salads, sandwiches, enchiladas, nachos, and of course, more tacos.  Mixing up the taste with BBQ sauce instead of salsa can add a different flavour. Sweet dishes can be made with ripe or fresh jackfruit. It can be made into a shake or smoothie bowl, upside down jackfruit cake or pureed to make muffins or cake.  Jackfruit can also be dried.

Unique taste, good for you and variety of uses.  Jackfruit is a winner to add to your ingredient list.  It is readily available in natural food stores and asian markets.  Give it a try!