Native to eastern Asia, it is immensely popular in Bangladesh, Vietnam, Malaysia and elsewhere in the region, but not in India, where it is believed to have originated but also where it is considered a food of the poor and lower class, and thus disdained by the upper class mucky-mucks. Learning this, I immediately thought of the potato, as I recently wrote an article about its storied history (“Potatoes: History, Descriptions and Uses“) including about how its popularity was stifled for years, in large part due to the similar belief that the inexpensive spud was beneath the dignity of Europe’s aristocracy.
The jackfruit is tree-grown, in fact, varying from ten to 100 pounds per fruit, it is the largest tree-grown fruit known in today’s world. Jackfruit trees are prolific, producing as many as 150 of these immense fruits per year. Inside the jackfruit are hundreds of small, yellow-colored “fruit lobes” or bulbs, and each of them contains a seed. Both the fruit lobes and the seeds are nutritious and chock full of protein, potassium, calcium, and iron, AND they are low in calories. And, it can be prepared in a myriad of different ways, producing a variety of tastes.
In various countries, jackfruit is used with curry, in stir fry, it is juiced, it is dried and made into chips, used to flavor ice cream, and the seeds are dried and ground into baking flour. In the US, however, it has primarily been used one specific way, that is cut up and simmered, and with that process it is said to resemble pulled pork. Because of that (or is it despite that?), it is becoming popular with vegetarians and vegans in the US, even though the jackfruit tree has not adapted well to climates in the US. As far as I can find, jackfruit trees have been growing in Southern Florida, but have not flourished and have failed to succeed as an agricultural crop, and they have been planted as part of an Asian exhibition at the San Diego Zoo. Thus, US consumers are limited to imported jackfruit, primarily canned, as the shelf live of the fruit in its raw state is extremely limited.
I had heard about jackfruit for quite awhile, but never saw it in a store, or really had too much interest in investigating it, as even in my old meat-eating days, pork was never a favorite and seldom if ever something I’d order or consider cooking. Then, a few days ago, I was in a grocery looking for a can of fishless tuna, and right next to it was canned jackfruit. A large can of the stuff was not much more than one-half the price of a can of non-tuna tuna, so I figured I’d give it a shot, even though the label warned that it had a useable life of only four days once opened.
While the analogies to pork were wide spread, I’d also heard that it tasted like chicken, that it tasted like beef, and that it tasted like turkey, when sauteed up and slathered in barbecue sauce. So, I cut some of it up, sauteed up some onions and mushrooms in olive oil, added cut up jackfruit, and then barbecue sauce, and yes, absolutely, positively, the stuff tasted more like meat, whether you call it pork or chicken, than any vegetable or vegetable-based concoction I’ve had since turning vegan.
Graphics here show the concoction cooking and then in sandwich form on a bagel. It had great taste and excellent texture, and for vegans who miss meat, like I said, it really comes close. For vegans who are repulsed by the very idea of meat, forget everything I said and enjoy this tasty, nutritious and easy to prepare food. I definitely will be having jackfruit often and will be investigating additional recipes.
Can’t find Jackfruit at your local stores? You can buy Canned Jackfruit from Amazon.