Jackfruit, a large and spiky tropical fruit, has recently gained popularity for its versatile and meaty texture. Native to Southeast Asia, the fruit can weigh up to 100 pounds and has a distinctive flavor that is both sweet and savory.
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What is a Jackfruit?
Jackfruit (Artocarpus heterophyllus Lam.) is a tropical fruit that belongs to the fig, mulberry, and breadfruit family, Moraceae. It is known for its enormous size, distinctive aroma, and unique flavor. The fruit is believed to have originated in the Western Ghats of India. It is also widely grown throughout Southeast Asia and parts of Africa, South America, and the Caribbean.
Jackfruit is also known by other names, including jack tree, jakfruit, and nangka. The large, oblong, or oval-shaped fruit can weigh up to 100 pounds (45 kg). Its rough and spiky green skin is covered with small, hard bumps, and it is often cut open to reveal a pale yellow, edible pulp that encases large, pale seeds.
The fruit’s distinctive aroma is described as a blend of pineapple, banana, and mango. Its flavor is sweet and fruity, with a subtle tanginess and a mild, slightly musky aftertaste. The texture of the flesh can vary depending on its ripeness, ranging from firm and crunchy when unripe to soft and tender when fully ripe.
The History of Jackfruit
Jackfruit is often hailed as a new meat alternative, but its consumption has a long history in South Asia and the Caribbean. The fruit has been cultivated in southern Asia for centuries and has numerous uses, including as a meat substitute in South Asia.
British imperialists also became obsessed with jackfruit as a cheap source of nutrition for enslaved laborers in their empire. British botanists attempted to introduce jackfruit worldwide to reduce dependence on American wheat and rice imports to feed their enslaved people.
Despite its existence in botanic gardens in the British Isles, jackfruit did not initially take off there, perhaps due to difficulties growing it in the region’s climate.
An important note to take is that jackfruit is also the national fruit of Bangladesh!
What Does a Jackfruit Taste Like?
When ripe, the fruit tastes sweet and tropical, similar to a banana, mango, and pineapple mix. Some people also describe it as having a subtle flavor of bubblegum.
When eaten raw, the fruit has a firm and fibrous texture, slightly crunchy and chewy. Jackfruit takes on a softer texture and absorbs the flavors of the spices or sauces it is cooked with.
The seeds of the Jackfruit are also edible, and they taste similar to Brazil nuts or chestnuts.
How to Tell When Jackfruit is Ripe
When determining when jackfruit is ripe, there are a few key cues to look for:
|Ripe jackfruit typically has a greenish-yellow or brownish-yellow color on the outside. A green jackfruit would indicate that it is not yet fully ripe.
|The skin of a ripe jackfruit should be slightly soft and yield to gentle pressure. If the skin is hard or too firm, it may indicate that the fruit is not yet ripe.
|A ripe jackfruit should have a strong, sweet bubblegum fragrance. It may not be ripe if the fruit doesn’t have a strong aroma.
Are Durians and Jackfruit Related?
Durian and jackfruit are two tropical fruits that are often confused with each other due to their similar appearance and spiky exterior. However, they belong to different families and differ in taste, texture, and nutritional value.
|Durian is a fruit native to Southeast Asia known for its pungent odor and distinctive taste. It belongs to the family Malvaceae and has a custard-like texture and a sweet, creamy flavor with hints of bitterness. It is often an acquired taste, and you can either love or hate it.
|Jackfruit is a fruit native to South and Southeast Asia and belongs to the family Moraceae. It is considered to be the largest fruit in the world and has a spiky exterior that is green when unripe and turns yellow when ripe. Jackfruit has a fibrous texture and a mild, sweet flavor, often compared to a combination of banana, pineapple, and mango.
Durian is also significantly smaller than jackfruit, which can weigh even 120 pounds. It is also spikier, while jackfruit tends to have bumps. Durian is famous for its heinous smell (as some would describe it), but jackfruit typically smells lovely, with a sweet note that resembles bubblegum.
Can I Eat Raw Jackfruit?
Raw jackfruit is a common ingredient in many cuisines and is often used as a meat substitute in vegetarian and vegan dishes. However, it’s important to note that unripe jackfruit has a tough texture and a slightly bitter taste, so it may only be enjoyable for some. Ripe jackfruit, on the other hand, is sweeter.
When preparing raw jackfruit, it’s recommended to wear gloves and oil your knife to prevent the sticky sap from getting on your hands and utensils. You can boil or steam the jackfruit until it becomes tender, then season it with your preferred spices and seasonings.
Eating jackfruit is safe, but you must be careful when handling and preparing it as it is a large and spiky fruit.
Cooking with Jackfruit
Steps you need to follow when preparing jackfruit:
- Put some gloves on and take an oiled knife.
- Cut the jackfruit into slices (2-inch)
- Separate the pods by slicing the middle of each piece.
- Take out the white fibers and tips.
- Cut the pods lengthwise. Remove the skin around and seeds.
- You can also boil the seeds and eat them if you want to.
In Southeast Asian countries like Thailand and Malaysia, jackfruit is often used in savory dishes like curries and stews. In Indian cuisine, you can see it in curries as well. It can also be used in Jamaican jackfruit stew and stir-fries.
In the US, jackfruit is often used as a meat substitute in vegan and vegetarian dishes like tacos, burgers, and BBQ sandwiches.
Here are a few examples of jackfruit recipes:
BBQ Jackfruit Sandwich with Avocado Slaw: This BBQ jackfruit sandwich features jackfruit and BBQ sauce, and it’s topped with a creamy avocado slaw. It has so many layers of flavor that you won’t even miss the meat!
Vegan Pulled Jackfruit: You can use this shredded goodness in tacos, sandwiches, salads… even desserts. The possibilities are endless.
Jackfruit Blanquette: This is a delectable stew made from tender pieces of roasted jackfruit simmered in a rich sauce and accompanied by carrots, potatoes, mushrooms, and various spices. You can use it as a main dish or an appetizer while waiting for the entree!
Jackfruit Curry: The flavors in this curry are complex and exotic. The jackfruit has a slightly sweet taste that pairs well with the spices and creamy sauce, creating a delicious and satisfying meal.
How to Store Jackfruit
To properly store jackfruit, let it ripen on the kitchen counter until it gives slightly when pressed. Once ripe, cut the fruit and tightly wrap it in plastic or store it in an airtight container.
You can then refrigerate it for up to one week or freeze it for up to two months.
Nutritional Benefits of Jackfruit
Jackfruit’s high fiber content can promote regular bowel movements and keep you feeling full for longer. The chemicals found in jackfruit may help prevent the formation of stomach ulcers.
Additionally, jackfruit is slowly digested and absorbed by the body, which can help regulate blood sugar levels, making it a good option for people with diabetes.
Potassium in jackfruit can also help lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.
The abundance of vitamin C in jackfruit can help protect your skin from sun damage and keep it firm, and the phytonutrients may possess cancer-fighting properties.
The calcium in jackfruit also helps with bone health, and the addition of magnesium helps with calcium absorption.
One thing to be careful with: Individuals with birch pollen allergies may be at a higher risk of developing an allergy to jackfruit.
Where to Purchase Jackfruit
You can find jackfruit in specialty stores such as Asian markets, Indian markets, and some grocery stores. Many farmers’ markets offer fresh jackfruit when it is in season. The season for jackfruit varies depending on the region, but it is typically available in the summer and fall.
If you cannot find jackfruit in your local stores or farmers’ markets, you can also purchase it online. Many online retailers offer fresh and canned jackfruit.