What is it?
The jackfruit is an impressively proportioned, stubby green goliath that boasts the title of largest tree-borne fruit in the world, as well as being the national fruit of Bangladesh.
I’m intrigued; tell me more!
It seems that every few months, nutritionists or food bloggers find a fruit or vegetable that has been around for ages, quietly awaiting its moment in the spotlight. That time has come for the jackfruit. Word of this miraculous and versatile product of the jackfruit tree – part of the fig, mulberry and breadfruit family – started really buzzing through the Western world in the last couple of years. No doubt those in India and surrounding areas who have known of it for centuries shrugged their shoulders and wondered what took everyone so long to catch up.
With its abilities to mimic the textures and properties of other types of food and propensity for thriving in hot temperatures, the jackfruit has been embraced by everyone from vegans to those trying to solve world hunger. It doesn’t just fill a hole either; it is high in protein, potassium, vitamins and dietary fiber, while coming in at about 95 calories for half a cup. This is probably why it is called “the Jack of all fruits.”
Those who have chosen to become vegan because of ethical concerns regarding animals would still like to have some variety in their diets. Man – or woman – cannot live on lettuce alone. Enter the jackfruit. Vegans swear by its texture and talent for absorbing other flavors, producing an absolutely guilt-free, animal-free “pulled pork” sandwich.
Can it be found or grown in Cayman?
Jackfruit is grown in limited amounts in the Cayman Islands. Local farmers have been known to cultivate it, and the weather is pretty ideal here. According to TheSpruce.com, this plant thrives in “warm, bright and humid” conditions. Sound familiar? It isn’t keen on drought and loathes frost, so really it should be growing like a weed in Cayman.
Jamaica has certainly got into the jackfruit business, using it domestically and exporting to the U.S.
How much should I buy?
Well, this is the million-dollar question, isn’t it? Unlike other fruit that you would buy by the pound or number, you’re probably going to want to get jackfruit in portions, unless you’re cooking up a meal for a mess o’ people. It is such a humongous fruit that even if you’re a fan, making your way through a whole one is a tall order. Check your recipe to see how much jackfruit is required and see if you can buy a piece rather than the entire jolly green giant. Beyond the consumption of the beast, where the heck are you going to store it in the house? When in doubt, buy the fruit semi-prepared in cans.
What does it taste like?
When raw and ripe, jackfruit tastes like a medley of many sweet fruits; mango, pineapple, pear, banana and papaya have all been bandied about by those who have come to know and love this exotic creature. There has even been talk, whispered behind closed doors, of perfectly ripe jackfruit being the inspiration for Juicy Fruit chewing gum. Who knew?
The unripe fruit is a whole ‘nother ball of wax. This is where the “vegan pulled pork sandwich” comes into play. An unripe jackfruit is much firmer and the flesh is white and “shreddy” (a term used by jackfruit investigators). The fact is, it’s not sweet and is quite starchy, with far less flavor than its riper older brother. There is some debate as to its ability to taste like meat. The conclusion appears to be that it certainly resembles it, but needs spices and/or sauces to elevate it to meat-substitute level. It’s all about the texture.
How do I cook it?
Boiling under-ripe jackfruit chunks seems to be the most common method, along with tossing it in barbecue spices and sautéing. But we’re just getting started. It can be used in curry recipes, taco dishes, chilis, teriyaki bowls and countless other ways. Its seeds can be roasted and eaten or ground into flour. Just Google “jackfruit recipes” and prepare to be tied to your kitchen for the next month.
What’s the one piece of advice I should heed?
Don’t ever sit under a jackfruit tree to rest, relax or read a book. When a fruit reaches around 100 pounds, you don’t want it dropping on your head.