India's 'superfood' jackfruit goes global
Thrissur (India) (AFP) - Green, spiky and with a strong, sweet smell, the bulky jackfruit has morphed from a backyard nuisance in India's south coast into the meat-substitute darling of vegans and vegetarians in the West.
Part of South Asia's diet for centuries, jackfruit was so abundant that tonnes of it went to waste every year.
But now India, the world's biggest producer of jackfruit, is capitalising on its growing popularity as a "superfood" meat alternative -- touted by chefs from San Francisco to London and Delhi for its pork-like texture when unripe.
"There are a lot of enquiries from abroad... At the international level, the interest in jackfruit has grown manifold," Varghese Tharakkan tells AFP from his orchard in Kerala's Thrissur district.
The fruit, which weighs five kilogrammes (11 pounds) on average, has a waxy yellow flesh when ripe and is eaten fresh, or used to make cakes, juices, ice creams and crisps.
When unripe, it is added to curries or fried, minced and sauted. In the West, shredded jackfruit has become a popular alternative to pulled pork and is even used as a pizza topping.
"People love it," Anu Bhambri, who owns a chain of restaurants in the US and India, explains.
"The jackfruit tacos have been a hit at each and every location. The jackfruit cutlet -- every table orders it, it's one of my favourites!"
James Joseph quit his job as a director at Microsoft after spotting Western interest in jackfruit "gaining momentum as a vegan alternative to meat".
The COVID-19 crisis, Joseph says, has created two spikes in consumer interest.
"Coronavirus caused a fear for chicken and people switched to tender jackfruit. In Kerala, lockdown caused a surge in demand for mature green jackfruit and seeds due to shortage of vegetables due to border restrictions," he explains.
Global interest in veganism was already soaring pre-pandemic, buoyed by movements such as Meat Free Mondays and Veganuary, and with it the business of "alternative meats".
His firm sells jackfruit flour which can be mixed with or used as an alternative to wheat and rice flour to make anything from burger patties to local classics such as idli.
"When we did a nutritional analysis, we found jackfruit as a meal is better than rice and roti (bread) for an average person who wants to control his blood sugar," he adds.
India has one of the highest diabetes rates in the world and is expected to hit around 100 million cases by 2030, according to a study by The Lancet.
As global warming wreaks havoc on agriculture, food researchers say jackfruit could emerge as a nutritious staple crop as it is drought-resistant and requires little maintenance.
In Tamil Nadu and Kerala alone, demand for jackfruit is now 100 metric tonnes every day during the peak season yielding a turnover of $19.8 million a year, says economics professor S. Rajendran of the Gandhigram Rural Institute.
But there is rising competition from countries such as Bangladesh and Thailand.
Jackfruit's newfound international fame is a massive turnaround for a plant that while used in local dishes, has long been viewed as a poor man's fruit.
Each tree can yield as 150-250 fruits a season.
And while India's jackfruit growers -- like the wider agriculture sector -- have been hit as the nationwide coronavirus lockdown causes a shortage of labour and transport, international demand shows no sign of slowing.
When one tree can produce 150-250 fruits with an average weight of 11 pounds I can see easy money being made. Cant get that kind of production from apples or oranges.
I grew up in a tropical place. My favorite fruits have always been things like jackfruit, lychee, rambutan and longan. I pray this doesn't go the way of quinoa and start to cost an arm and a leg due to a fad.
I love ripe Jackfruit.
Delicious in Filipino dish when unripe and cooked with coconut milk....very savory.
Growing up in a Vegetarian Family in India we loved to eat Jackfruit often. Interestingly while ripe jackfruit can be eaten as a fruit, however the unripe jackfruit is cook as a vegetable more often. For my Vegan friends my question is, if you are eating jackfruit because it tastes like Pork, then why not to eat pork?
It's good stuff. I've been buying jackfruit lately. Mixes with everything.
You can boil the seeds to eat also. The larger one has thicker meat and crunchy, with large seeds. The smaller type is more sweet, thin meat and chewy. I grew up with this, durian, and ranbutan.
Kenya has Jack fruit too. I used to eat it as a child and liked it, eaten ripe and fresh and uncooked. Haven't eaten it in 50 years. would love to try it again and also as a cooked dish.
Jackfruit is really healthy. It has a moderate amount of calories, but lots of fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants; and pretty rich in protein, too; I find it to be too sweet
It's not India' super food. It's found throughout SE Asia. It is delicious but there are different kinds. Some are good to use in cooking and others aren't. The others are good for eating as a fruit.
A food truck here in central Virginia offered jackfruit bbq. I could not tell it wasn't pulled pork.
Tear you apart
Possibly one of the most delicious fruits ever.
so darn delicious.
Sand Of Times
Used to eat that when I was a kid. A common backyard fruit trees in Philippines..
Tastes like pork if cooked, but sweet if uncooked. Weighs a whole lot more than 11 pounds!
Just went to the store today...pork chops are selling for $1.59 a pound.
Indian Subcontinent is where this fruit is most popular it seems! I'm going to get some at an Indian grocery store here in California...
almost completely unknown here in America. I tried to grow it in my yard in north Florida, but was unsuccessful.
When ripe, very sweet. When raw and cooked appropriately, texture and taste like meat.
I love jackfruit. But those with latex allergies beware, jackfruit contains natural latex. I am surprised the article did not mention this.
It is the Vietnamese Americans that brought this fruit to America.