Friday, September 28, 2007

Jack (Jak) Fruit (Artocarpus heterophyllus)



One of the many trees that were fruiting while we were at the Florida cottage was Jack Fruit, shown in the photo. A neighbor, who was there for her grandchildren’s birthday and lives in Florida, led me around the compound and helped identify many of the plants that had lost their labels. We were both happy to have made a new gardening friend.

Some time later, I saw her walking along the driveway that led to her cottage, opposite ours. Whatever she was carrying was very large, very heavy, and very orange. Within minutes, she re-emerged from the cottage and was headed our way.

The manager had picked a ripe Jack Fruit for her and cut it open, so that we could eat it. It is just as strange on the inside as it looks on the outside. The color is that of a mango, and the flavor is like a combination of mango and banana, although some people describe it as having a pineapple taste.

The interior consists of long, fibrous, edible strings that resemble a wide pasta noodle, such as fettuccine. Buried deep inside these fibers are hard seeds about the size of a hazelnut, which are also edible, roasted or toasted. But the big prize is the flesh that clings to the seeds. The smooth, creamy texture is an intense sensual delight and the best I can say is that they are “indescribably delicious!”

Be prepared, this is not a food to try to eat in a ball gown. Some folks might be put off by the abundant, thick, sticky juice, again similar to mangos, and there is no mannerly way of digging around for, or eating, the flesh around the seeds. Weighing in at anywhere from 10 to 110 pounds and containing as many as100 to 500 seeds, I suggest that you get some friends to help you eat it.

While I have never seen Jack Fruit before, evidently it is quite common in Jamaica and the Caribbean, Brazil, and throughout India and many Asian countries. It may be available dried, canned, or frozen in some Asian food markets.

Visit http://www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/morton/jackfruit_ars.html for more extensive information.

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