While it’s kind of new to most of us, jackfruit is a staple in many south and southeast Asian cuisines, and has been cultivated for thousands of years. And it’s no wonder—with its massive size, abundance of vitamins and minerals, and incredible flavor versatility, the jackfruit is a jackpot on all fronts! Enjoy it raw and sweet, roasted or grilled with savory curry, or pickled as a condiment, for starters. The next time you find yourself in a Whole Foods or an Asian or specialty grocery store this summer, ask for jackfruit, and reap the tasty benefits.
Jackfruit is pretty easy to spot; it’s the largest type of fruit available! Giant and oblong—sometimes extending three feet—this fruit can weigh as much as 100 pounds. It usually has a bumpy yellow or green outer rind.
But don’t let its rough exterior fool you. The cream, pink, or golden pods on the inside are what you want. Depending on the maturity of your selection, you’ll have a number of flavors and cooking options. Some stores let you place an order for a few fresh bulbs instead of buying a whole jackfruit, since it’s so large.
A jackfruit’s taste and use can differ greatly, depending on how ripe it is. Unripe jackfruit has a mild taste and hearty texture, making it a favored meat substitute among vegetarians. Slightly overripe jackfruit is typically used as a component in a savory dish, sliced with vegetables and seasoned with curry or other spices. Fresh ripe jackfruits have a wild and sweet flavor often described as a combination of banana, mango, and melon.
While in season, fresh jackfruit is available in Asian and Indian markets as well as select specialty stores. Many major supermarkets only carry frozen, canned, or dried jackfruit products.
Grown in Florida, jackfruits are available in late summer and fall. In Europe, expect to find imported jackfruit mainly from March through June.
Ripe jackfruit smells somewhat like bubble gum; sweet and slightly cloying. The smallest jackfruit should weigh no less than 20 pounds or so and should give way slightly when squeezed. The skin should be a soft yellow or dark green, depending on the variety and maturity.
Again, depending on the flavor profile you want, you may need to select an immature, slightly mature, or fully mature fruit.
Avoid fruit with large cracks or blemishes. While the tender pods of the fruit are protected by its rough exterior, these abrasions can permit bacteria growth.
When deciding whether to purchase organic or non-organic produce, it’s helpful to know which fruits and vegetables are most affected by pesticides. Pesticides are toxins used to kill insects, invasive plants, and fungi during the growth of produce, and are potentially dangerous to people. National and international agencies agree that prolonged exposure to specific pesticides through food consumption is a potential health risk. Additionally, some studies indicate that organic fruits and vegetables have a higher concentration of vitamins and minerals than conventionally raised produce.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is an environmental health advocacy and research organization in the United States. From cosmetics to produce, water to cleaning products, EWG provides insight regarding the impact of pesticides, manufacturing practices, and product ingredients on our health and environment. EWG produces a consumer guide ranking 48 fruits and vegetables with pesticide residue. The higher the rank, the lower the residue. In this ranking, the 12 most affected fruits and vegetables belong to the “Dirty Dozen,” and the 15 least affected are part of the “Clean Fifteen.” These lists help identify the produce that is most—and least—dramatically affected by pesticides.
Jackfruit does not appear on the EWG produce list, likely because it is a less common produce item.
Keep uncut jackfruit in the refrigerator for up to a week. Once sliced, use immediately or freeze in plastic bags or glass containers for up to two months.
If you buy a giant jackfruit, you’ll learn it is incredibly sticky! It has naturally occurring latex, so consider wearing plastic gloves and oiling the knife. Place paper sacks or oiled plastic wrap down to protect countertops. Cut the fruit down the middle across the short end, and then into manageable wedges. Cut away the hard center of each wedge and discard. Now, remove the fleshy yellow or orange bulbs from each fibrous wedge. Each bulb contains seeds, which can be cleaned and roasted. Discard the remaining portion of the wedge once the bulbs are removed.
The bulbs can be eaten raw or boiled, fried, grilled, or roasted. Frozen bulbs make a great addition to desserts or smoothies.
Alternately, find unripe jackfruit canned in brine like a pickle; canned in syrup, so it’s sweet; frozen and unsweetened to be used in a variety of ways; or dried like chips.
This immune-system-building vitamin offers a host of benefits. Vitamin C is an important nutrient necessary for collagen production, and is essential for maintaining the integrity and function of skin and bone tissue. Vitamin C is also a powerful antioxidant, fighting free radicals and protecting the heart, kidneys, and lungs from disease. This essential nutrient, often found in large amounts in citrus fruits and raw vegetables, may play a role in reducing systolic blood pressure and heart disease risk.
The majority of the manganese in the body is stored in the bones and organ tissue, mainly the liver and kidneys. Manganese is responsible for production and maintenance of sex hormones, blood-sugar regulation, brain and nerve function, calcium regulation and absorption, and carbohydrate metabolism.
A mineral that plays a role in producing collagen and keeping the immune system in proper working order, copper is an essential nutrient needed by the body in small amounts. Copper may also fight against free radicals, helping to delay the aging process. Energy production is also one of the many benefits of this important mineral.
Magnesium is responsible for promoting cardiovascular health, muscle contraction and relaxation, energy production, and proper bone formation. This essential nutrient may also be helpful in regulating healthy blood-sugar levels, decreasing the likelihood of type 2 diabetes.
Alongside sodium and chloride, potassium is an electrolyte essential for conducting electrical reactions in the body. Potassium aids proper muscle function, digestive health, and skeletal contractions.
In addition to its nutritional value, jackfruit is a rich source of dietary fiber. Dietary fiber aids digestion by helping food move along the digestive tract. Without fiber, you may experience constipation, irregularity, and low energy. High-fiber diets are associated with weight loss, lower cholesterol levels, reduced risk of heart disease, and reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
A note of caution: if you’re allergic to birch pollen or related products, avoid eating jackfruit
- The jackfruit originates from the same family as the breadfruit and fig.
- Considered to be the world’s largest treeborne fruit, jackfruit can weigh up to 100 pounds and grow nearly three feet long.
- Jackfruit is the national fruit of Bangladesh, and dates back to more than 6,000 years ago.