Jackfruit (Artocarpus heterophyllus), also known as jack tree or sometimes simply jack, doesn’t win any prizes for being cute or convenient to eat–but it’s sure winning praises among vegan and vegetarians as a tasty meat alternative.
Jackfruit is the world’s largest tree fruit, with some of them weighing in at 80 to 100 pounds and measuring more than three feet in length. Guess I won’t be bringing any home in my canvas tote bags! The people who harvest these South and Southeast Asian native fruits have a challenge, since these fruits must be picked from the branches or tree trunks-those that fall to the ground generally are overripe and not useful.
These gigantic fruits are covered with tightly gathered, green protrusions that begin to turn brown when the fruit it ready for eating. Once you cut through the rind, you reach the seeds and the sweet pulp, whose taste has been described as mango-like, pear-like, and peachy, while the texture can be stringy or even gooey. The aroma has been called pineapple- and banana-like. Depending on the variety of jackfruit you get, the pulp may be slightly crunchy or softer.
In countries where jackfruit is grown, such as Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Jamaica, and Vietnam, the fruit is enjoyed in a variety of ways-mashed, dried, roasted, added to soup, or used to make juices, jams, and even ice cream. The seeds can be roasted like chestnuts, boiled, or ground into flour.
If you score a jackfruit at a local market, the following video gives you an idea of how to tackle the fruit and the riches you will find inside.
Chances are you won’t find jackfruit at your neighborhood major grocery chain. However, fresh jackfruit can be found in some Asian and Caribbean stores and markets throughout North America. The introduction of two new lines of marinated jackfruit meat-substitute products join bottled, canned, and dried jackfruit items, which you can purchase online as well as off, depending on your location.
The meat substitutes may be of particular interest to anyone looking for alternatives to animal products. I find it curious that these jackfruit products are promoted as meat alternatives since they are not great sources of protein, yet they do have a “pulled beef” kind of texture that makes them adaptable for many recipes and a refreshing change from tofu, seitan, tempeh, and textured vegetable protein.
How does jackfruit score on nutritional value? One cup of fruit provides 155 calories, 0 grams fat, 3 grams fiber, 2 grams protein, and the following %DailyValues for vitamin C (18%), iron (6%), calcium (6%), riboflavin (11%), magnesium (15%), potassium (14%), copper (15%), and manganese (16%).
On another note, jackfruit may prove important for parts of the world faced with food insecurity, given its good nutritional value and low maintenance for production. Once a tree begins to bear fruit (which can take 5 to 7 years), it can provide up to 200 fruits per year. The trees are perennials, so they don’t require replanting, and they are hardy, requiring little care.
I don’t know about you, but I’d love to try fresh, raw jackfruit and some of the meat substitutes and other products on the market! What has been your experience with jackfruit?
Image: Alex Popovkin
Food Navigator-USA.com. Jackfruit is ready to go mainstream with dual RTE launch