The jackfruit is a species of tree in the Artocarpus genus of the mulberry family (Moraceae). Enormous and prickly on the outside, jackfruit looks somewhat like durian, though jackfruit is usually even larger. Once a jackfruit is cracked open, you will find inside pods or “bulbs”, often referred as seeds.
These bulbs are actually a kind of fleshy covering for the true seeds or pits, which are round and dark like chesnuts. The fleshy part (the “bulb”) can be eaten as is, or cut up and cooked. When unripe (green), it is remarkably similar in texture to chicken, making jackfruit an excellent vegetarian substitute for meat. In fact, canned jackfruit (in brine) is sometimes referred to as “vegetable meat”.
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.
The jackfruit tree is a multi-purpose species providing food, timber, fuel, fodder, medicinal and industrial products. It is a nutritious fruit, rich in vitamins A, B and C, potassium, calcium, iron, proteins and carbohydrates.
Due to the high levels of carbohydrates, jackfruit supplements other staple foods in times of scarcity in some regions. It is also a relatively cheap fruit in some countries such as Bangladesh, where it has been declared the ‘national fruit’ because of its socioeconomic importance.