Hungry? Imagine a tropical fruit the size of a Jack Russell terrier. Now imagine it covered in spikes, like the medieval weaponry on Game of Thrones. It’s jackfruit, a fruit to feed the world.
Sometimes spelled jakfruit, it’s native to India, thrives in South Florida heat and is like the love child of breadfruit and fig. It’s related to both, with breadfruit’s size and heft (one jackfruit can weigh up to 80 pounds) and when ripe, fig’s fleshy sweetness.
Ripe jackfruit is golden with a custardy texture and a mild peachy flavor that makes it great in desserts. It also has an occasional whiff of something overripe. This goes away once you rinse it. Green (underripe) jackfruit makes an excellent meat substitute, with meat’s dense texture.
It has a faintly chemical smell that also rinses away Like tofu, green jackfruit has a nominal taste and takes on the flavor of any spice or sauce it’s cooked with. Unlike tofu, you can chew it.
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Local chefs and artisans of edibles, including Oolite’s Kris Wessel, Gaby of Gaby’s Ice Cream, Hani Khouri of Hani’s Mediterranean Organics and the Naked Bite’s Amber Antonelli, use jackfruit in custards and ice creams, ceviches and curries. You can, too.
Green jackfruit is your go-to ingredient for meatless versions of your favorite dishes — your abuela’s picadillo, your uncle’s jerk, your mom’s pulled pork (hold the pig). A whole jackfruit will feed a crowd at your next cookout and be the coolest thing going. It’s the South Florida summer thing to do.
Local growers, including LNB Groves, Paradise Farms, Bee Heaven Farm and Possum Trot are selling it at farmers markets. Put off by a whole jackfruit? Many farmers sell them chopped, doing the dirty work for you. Let them.
If jackfruit’s bumpy exterior looks like a dermatologist’s nightmare, its inside is straight out of “Alien,” with a mess of stringy membranes, latexy sap and funky seeds protecting the tender fruit. You can buy the actual fruit, which separates into petal-like sacs, by the pound, minus the weird bits. Green jackfruit is also sold in cans at many Caribbean and Asian markets, but fresh and local always beats brined and canned.
Sweet and ripe or green and meaty, it’s low in calories (a cup has about 100), high in potassium and even offers protein and B vitamins. Jackfruit — it’s a lot to love.
Ellen Kanner is the author of “Feeding the Hungry Ghost: Life, Faith and What to Eat for Dinner.” On Twitter: @edgyveggie1.
Jackfruit With Cumin and Orange
Green jackfruit makes this dish meaty. Ripe jackfruit gives it a sweet, Caribbean accent. Either way, it’s got a tropical tang that pairs well with whole-wheat tortillas or brown rice. Splash with your favorite hot sauce. Serves four.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeño, minced
1 pound jackfruit, rinsed, drained and sliced into bite-size pieces
2 large tomatoes, peeled and chopped, or 1 (15-ounce) can chopped tomatoes
1 orange, juiced and zested
1/2 teaspoon red wine or cider vinegar
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons fresh oregano leaves, or 1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon allspice
1 bunch kale leaves, chopped into ribbons
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 handful cilantro, coarsely chopped
Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add chopped onion and saute, stirring occasionally, for three minutes, or until onion starts to turn translucent. Add minced garlic and jalapeno and continue cooking for another five minutes, until vegetables are softened and fragrant.
Add jackfruit and tomatoes, orange zest and juice, vinegar, bay leaf, cumin, oregano and allspice. Stir gently to combine. Continue stirring occasionally and let everything come to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low and let simmer for 20 minutes.
Remove lid and add chopped kale, stirring, so the greens wilt in with the jackfruit and sauce. Continue cooking uncovered for another 10 minutes, stirring now and again until sauce is slightly thickened and the greens are still bright but tender. Fish out the bay leaf. Season generously with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Scatter the chopped cilantro just before serving.
Per serving: 225 calories (20 percent from fat) 5.5g fat, (0.9g sat fat, 2.8g mono fat) 0 cholesterol, 6.6g protein, 44g carbohydrates, 5.7g fiber, 35mg sodium
Source: Ellen Kanner.