For all of us, 2020 has been a year and some and we haven’t even officially made it halfway through. At the beginning of the year I’d embarked on the adventures of a plant-based diet for numerous reasons, but mainly to be kinder to animals. In the process I’ve been reintroduced to a childhood favorite, Jackfruit. Sadly, jackfruit gets a bad rap, first because it’s labor intensive to consume and second, the aroma. This leaves a slim reward-to-effort ratio and therefore, it’s often overlooked. Growing up I enjoyed eating jackfruit, as it is absolutely delicious. Though, I will not deny that it is cumbersome, sticky and extremely pungent, however that’s only before it’s prepared to eat. It can be eaten in its unripe as well ripe stages, but in Jamaica it is only consumed when ripe. When ripe, its yellow fruit is sweet and the seed found inside the flesh-like pegs are sometimes roasted. July, jackfruit’s harvest season, its seeds being roasted like chestnuts at Christmas time — it’s our Christmas in July.
In our household, jackfruit litters the grounds before it’s consumed, gifted or wasted. This is a danger to us, our planet and others as this fruit, which grows above on trees, can weigh up to 120lbs. Before it’s consumed, it sits on a counter out back until someone is brave enough or until at least four persons desire it enough to cut, prepare, share, and enjoy. I learned that in Thailand, a place where jackfruit is most popular, there are careers dedicated to the art of peeling the fruit. They are onto something because we cut, prune, peg and then soak in mild salted water (which is never measured) to remove the grime of the sticky substance from the fruit. Yeah, it’s no apple! Jamaicans have managed to add to the extra burden in enjoying jackfruit, that’s cleaning it. At this point we’re done with the fruit, but my plant-based pantry has taught me that it’s just the beginning.
When unripe it can be cooked as a vegetable and/or a curry dish. It’s called the vegetarian meat when cooked in its green or unripe stage because of its texture and taste. I also learned that the fronds which surround the fruit and seeds can be fried and made into chips! I absolutely love this fruit and am so happy to have found so much use in what before, often felt like a burden. Jackfruit’s power should be reclaimed, too often it is wasted and neglected for its imperfections. According to Heathline, “Jackfruit has an impressive nutrition profile.” Jackfruit is the plant-based powerhouse for its fiber, anti-oxidant, vitamin and mineral contents. This messy fruit is indeed the star of its own show. It begs to question all that we might have missed because it presented itself as pungent, sticky, cumbersome and with a mistaken low reward-to-labor ratio. A viable food and nutrition source, a way to economic advancement and lessening the carbon impact to our planet due to location, location, location — Jamaica, we really dropped the 120lb ball on this one.