THE JACKFRUIT: A DELICIOUS FRUIT

DR. S. M. ALAM
(feedback@pgeconomist.com)

Mar 26 - Apr 1, 20
12

The jackfruit (Artocarpus heterophyllus or A. heterophylla) is a species of tree in the Artocarpus genus of the mulberry family (Moraceae). It is native to parts of Southern and Southeast Asia. It is the national fruit of Bangladesh, (locally called Kathal).

The jackfruit tree is believed to be indigenous to the southwestern rain forests of India. It is widely cultivated in tropical regions of the Indian subcontinent, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia.

Jackfruit is also found in East Africa, e.g., in Uganda and Mauritius, as well as throughout Brazil and Caribbean nations like Jamaica. It is well suited to tropical lowlands, and its fruit is the largest tree-born fruit, reaching 80 pounds (36 kg) in weight and up to 36 inches (90 cm) long and 20 inches (50 cm) in diameter.

A jackfruit is a huge, spined, oval fruit that is believed to have been first cultivated in Indian rainforests. It is largely grown in tropical or close to tropical climates. It still is found in many parts of India, as well as in most of Southeast Asia. In the Americas, the jackfruit is largely grown in Brazil. A few jackfruit trees have thrived in Florida and San Diego, but the northern parts of the US and all of Canada are generally too cold for young jackfruit trees.

In the proper climate, the jackfruit tree is impressive in size and can grow to roughly 60 feet (18.29 m) tall. The fruit itself is the largest fruit in the world. It can weigh up to 80 pounds (36.29 kg) and be up to three feet (.91 m) long.

The exterior of the fruit is not edible, but the flesh and seeds are commonly eaten. When the fruit has turned from green to yellow, it is ready to be picked. Jackfruit tends to be an acquired taste and frequently does not appeal to those unfamiliar with it. The ripening jackfruit has an odor, which has been compared to the smell of rotting onions. This aroma often discourages people from trying the interior.

The flesh of the jackfruit is starchy, fibrous and is a source of dietary fiber. The flavor is similar to a tart banana. Varieties of jackfruit are distinguished according to the characteristics of the fruits' flesh.

In Brazil, three varieties are recognized. These are jaca-dura, or hard variety, which has firm flesh and the largest fruits that can weigh between 15 and 40 kilograms each; jaca-mole, or soft variety, which bears smaller fruits, with softer and sweeter flesh; and jaca-manteiga, or butter variety, which bears sweet fruits, whose flesh has a consistency intermediate between the "hard" and "soft" varieties.

Outside of its countries of origin, fresh jackfruit can be found at Asian food markets especially in the Philippines. It is also extensively cultivated in the Brazilian coastal region, where it is sold in local markets. It is available canned in sugar syrup, or frozen.

Dried jackfruit chips are produced by various manufacturers. In northern Australia, particularly in Darwin, Australia, jackfruit can be found at outdoor produce markets during the dry season. Outside of countries where it is grown, jackfruit can be obtained year-round both canned or dried. It has a ripening season in Asia of late Spring to late Summer.

Unique for its size, delicious jack fruit is rich in energy, dietary fiber, minerals and vitamins. Like some other tropical fruits such as durian, banana etc. it is also rich in energy. However, it contains no saturated fats or cholesterol, making it one of healthy fruit to savor.

The jackfruit tree is believed to be indigenous to the southwestern rain forests of India. It is widely cultivated in the tropical regions of Indian subcontinent, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Brazil for its fruit, seeds, and wood. The tree grows best under tropical humid and rainy regions but rarely survives cold and frosty conditions, grows to as high as 30 meters, higher than the mango tree. During the season, each tree bears as many as 250 large fruits, supposed to be the largest tree-borne fruit in the world. The fruit varies widely in size, weigh from three to 30 kg and has oblong or round shape measuring 10 cm to 60 cm in length, 25 to 75 cm in diameter. The unripe fruits are green in color; when ripen, might turn to light brown color and gives pungent smell.

HEALTH BENEFITS OF JACKFRUIT

* The fruit is made of soft, easily digestible flesh (bulbs) with simple sugars like fructose and sucrose that when eaten replenishes energy and revitalizes the body instantly.

* Jackfruit is rich in dietary fiber, which makes it a good bulk laxative. The fiber content helps to protect the colon mucous membrane by decreasing exposure time as well as binding to cancer causing chemicals in the colon.

* Fresh fruit has small amounts of vitamin-A and flavonoid pigments such as carotene-fl, xanthin, lutein and cryproxanthin-fl. Together, these compounds play vital roles in antioxidant and vision functions. Vitamin A is also required for maintaining integrity of mucus membranes and skin.

* Consumption of natural fruits rich in vitamin-A and carotenes has been found to protect from lung and oral cavity cancers.

* Jackfruit is also good source of antioxidant vitamin-C; provides about 13.7 mg or 23 per cent of RDA. Consumption of foods rich in vitamin C helps body develop resistance against infectious agents and scavenge harmful free radicals.

* It is one of the rare fruits that are rich in B-complex group of vitamins. It contains very good amounts of vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine), niacin, riboflavin, and folic acid.

* Fresh fruit is a good source of potassium, magnesium, manganese, and iron. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that help controlling heart rate and blood pressure.

* Jackfruit contains vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin B compounds in the form of thiamin, riboflavin, niacin and contains minerals like calcium, potassium, iron, magnesium, in considerable amounts when compared with many other nutrients.

Jackfruit seeds are indeed very rich in protein and nutritious. In general, the seeds are gathered from ripe fruit, sun dried and stored for use in rainy season in many parts of South Indian states. Different variety of recipes are prepared in Southern India where they are eaten either by roasting as a snack or added to curries in place of lentils.

The wood of the tree is used for the production of musical instruments. In Indonesia, it forms part of the gamelan and in the Philippines, its soft wood is made into the hull of a kutiyapi, a type of Philippine boat lute. It is also used to make the body of the Indian string instrument Veena and the drums Mridangam and Kanjira. The Golden yellow colored timber with good grains is used for building furniture and house construction in India. The ornate wooden plank called Avani Palaka made of the wood of jackfruit tree is used as the priest's seat during Hindu ceremonies in Kerala.

Jackfruit wood is widely used in the manufacture of furniture, doors, and windows, and in roof construction. The heartwood of the jackfruit tree is used by Buddhist forest monastics in Southeast Asia as a dye, giving the robes of the monks in those traditions their distinctive light brown color.