What fruit grows on South Asian trees, tastes like pulled pork, and has a wealth of nutrients?
Jackfruit has recently gained traction and popularity in vegan and vegetarian communities as a nutritional powerhouse and meat replacement in the U.S. Although it continues to be somewhat difficult to locate in stores, more and more people are interested in trying this fruit in various forms.
Jackfruit originated in India, but has spread to other South and Southeast Asian countries such as Bangladesh, Thailand, Indonesia, and Nepal.1 Jackfruit trees thrive in low tropical regions, and yield fruit that can range in size from 10 to 100 pounds. Bangladesh, the world’s second-largest jackfruit producer after India, considers jackfruit to be its national fruit.
There are two varieties of jackfruit: varikka and koohza. Although 60 percent of the jackfruit on the west coast of India is koohza; this type of jackfruit is very fibrous when ripe and not preferred to eat. It is, however, often used as an ingredient in other products.2
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Jackfruit has long been so common in India that it is often left uneaten and goes to waste – up to 75 percent of the jackfruit grown in India perishes after ripening.3 Even many Indians, with jackfruit growing abundantly in many locations, are not familiar with the vast benefits of jackfruit. There are a couple of reasons for this.
First, jackfruit has a reputation in India as a “poor man’s food;” its widespread growth throughout the country eliminates the need to pay for the fruit.
Additionally, it takes an individual who is both willing and skilled to prepare a jackfruit for consumption. Not only is harvesting and cutting the fruit challenging, the rind is rather tricky to remove to access the fruits.2 Once the inside of the fruit is revealed, though, hundreds of yellow lobes or bulbs of fruit are available, with each lobe containing a nutrient-dense seed.3 The lobes and seeds can be eaten raw on their own, or can be used as ingredients in other products.
With fiber as well as moderate amounts of protein and unsaturated fats, jackfruit boasts potassium, iron, antioxidants, vitamin C, calcium, and small amounts of other vitamins and minerals.4 Research from the University of Agriculture Science in Bangalore, India, has indicated that the nutrient density of jackfruit, paired with its bountiful growth, could be a way to provide nutrition for many who otherwise do not have adequate food available.3
Further, jackfruit crops are not as sensitive to climate changes as other staple crops like rice, corn, and wheat. Additionally, jackfruit trees do not have to be re-planted annually and are drought-resistant. Therefore, jackfruit is expected to produce a more reliable yield than those other common food crops.2
How to prepare jackfruit
While jackfruit is highly perishable, there are many ways that it can be prepared.3
- Unripe: resembles a potato; tastes like pulled pork after cooking for about an hour.
- Young: tastes similar to hearts of palm, artichoke, or green bananas.
- Ripe: soft and fruity, with hints of pineapple and melon flavors.
- In food products: Jackfruit can be canned, made into dried chips, flour, curry, stir fry, juice, ice cream, and cakes.
What does this mean for non-Indian markets? This could be an opportunity to develop nutrient-dense products for a variety of markets. From jackfruit products to products that include jackfruit as an ingredient, there are many ways to preserve this perishable fruit for distribution and consumption.
Sourcing jackfruit is becoming easier; in 2017, Kerala, India, exported 400 tons of jackfruit daily, up from 200 tons daily just a short couple of years prior.5 The Jackfruit Company, a business whose mission is to create a supply chain for jackfruit and make the fruit mainstream, works with more than 350 jackfruit-farming families to source jackfruit and create consumer products including curry, stir fry, and pasta jackfruit meals, as well as ripe jackfruit and bulk jackfruit products for foodservice.6 This means that there are many jackfruit farmers willing to work with global companies, and it also means that The Jackfruit Company can serve as a resource for foodservice-ready jackfruit.
A niche has been primed for this versatile fruit. Not only does jackfruit have vast applications in the vegan and vegetarian communities, it also has the potential to provide added value of nutrition to many food products for those who may not have adequate nutrition. The opportunity for jackfruit sourcing, formulation of products, and distribution is available and waiting to be grasped.
References and resources
- World Atlas: World Leaders in Jackfruit Production
- Down to Earth: ‘The jackfruit will definitely become the most sought-after fruit in the coming years in India’
- Business Insider: Experts are hailing this exotic fruit that tastes like pulled pork as a ‘miracle’ crop, which could save millions from starvation
- Today’s Dietitian: New Fruit Products Incorporate Old and New
- NPR: Whatever Happened To…The Plan To Jazz Up Jackfruit?
- The Jackfruit Company
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