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Fruit, veggie or meat, the jackfruit is truly the “jack of all foods” (citation). Packed with nutrition, a pleasing texture and versatile in flavor this staple in Asian cuisine is growing in popularity across the world. In this paper I will discuss the jackfruit; where it originated, the practices of its cultivation, its appearance and the many uses of the fruit and tree. The jackfruit which originates in southwest India; primarily grows in the rainforests of the Western Ghats mountains. While there’s no specific evidence as to when the jackfruit was first discovered, a quote from the Greek philosopher Theophrastus. “There is also another tree which is very large and has wonderfully sweet and large fruit; it is used for food by the sages of India who wear no clothes.”(citation here)
This quote circa 300 B.C.E is believed to be about the jackfruit. The fruit spread to other parts of India, southeast Asia, the East Indies, Africa and the fertile crescent. In more recent years because of growing popularity it has been introduced to Brazil, Australia, Hawaii, and Florida. The jackfruit or “poor man’s fruit” is mentioned in many ancient Hindu texts including the Charaka Samhita, Susruta Samhita, and Jataka Tales. It’s also commonly offered along with other fruits to Hindu deity’s as a symbol of self-sacrifice. Easy to grow and drought resistance once matured, the jackfruit has become a staple crop for famers in southeast Asia. Reaching up to 80 feet in height, the tree thrives in humid tropical climates and covers nearly 14,826 acres in India. Related to the breadfruit, mulberry, and fig family the tree has large glossy leaves and is planted to provide shade.
Harvesting season for the jackfruit ranges anywhere from early May to late October depending on its cultivar and origin. While growing a sticky latex ooze seeps from the fruit but as it ripens, and the quantity dissipates. A few days before harvesting small cuts will also be made at the base of the fruit to continue the draining process. “When the fruit is mature, it makes a dull hollow noise when tapped.” (citation here). Once a hollow sound is achieved farmers will then us clippers, loppers or a sickle to cut the fruit at its steam. It then takes about 3-10 day for the fruit to fully ripened. Growing up to 100 pounds and 3 feet long, the jackfruit is the largest tree borne fruit. While the average fruit only ranges from 10 to 15 pounds and a foot long there are more than 60 different varieties all ranging in size and taste. This large fruit has a hard green or yellow rind that’s covered in hundreds of cone-like spikes. The interior is described as consisting “large “bulbs” (fully developed perianths) of yellow, banana-flavored flesh, massed among narrow ribbons of thin, tough undeveloped perianths (or perigones), and a central, pithy core. (citeation here).
Seeds are also present inside the fruit, which are perfectly edible and have a similar flavor to chestnuts. As for the bulbs they make up 25-40% of the fruits weight and have to main tastes and texture ripe and unripe. When the bulbs aren’t fully ripened they have a neutral flavor like a potato and take on flavor’s and seasonings that its cooked with. The young jackfruit has a meaty texture and shreds almost like pulled pork so its used mainly in savory dishes. It’s also becoming common a plant-based meat substitution in vegetarian and vegan diets. Mature fruit is soft in texture and is a combination of banana, pineapple and mango in taste. Most of the time ripened fruit is just eaten raw but it also can be made into jams, jellies, ice cream and other desserts.While a jackfruit tree may not be in your backyard, the availability here in the united states in quite large.
Many regular grocery stores such as Walmart, Target and Whole Foods only carry whole jackfruits on occasion they always have a large variety of canned, dried and frozen options. A fresh jackfruit from Whole Foods costs around 2.99 per pound, while a 14oz can is three dollars. The Jackfruit Company sells a wide selection of premade frozen meals and seasoned jackfruit “meat”. Extremely healthy, young jackfruit only has 80 calories per cup with nearly no sugar or fat. It also contains 60% of your daily fiber but is low in protein. Point 4: Availability, price/cost, use fruit/tree.
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