What, Why and How...Jackfruit
If you haven’t noticed jackfruit popping up all over foodie blogs, street food stalls and restaurants lately, well…where have you been? It appeared on Pinterest’s hottest food trend list last year and continues to generate a buzz, with vegans, veggies and omnis alike enjoying the versatility and texture of this wonderful foodstuff.
In case you’ve been in hiding or - like us - you love savouring information about, as well as the flavour of, food that ends up on your plate, we’ve put together a beginner’s guide to jackfruit: what it is, why it’s popular and how to use it.
What is jackfruit?
The name isn’t a trick. Jackfruit is indeed a fruit – despite its centre-stage role in many a savoury dish. The largest fruit to grow on trees (and they grow on trunks as well as branches), jackfruits can weigh up to a whopping 55kg. They’re irregular in shape and have a yellow/green bumpy skin, with a pungent sweet smell even when unopened.
Jackfruit trees grow across Asia, Africa and South America. The fruits, like pineapples, are multiple fruits: composed of hundreds of little flowers. The little strands, so meat like in texture, are actually petals.
Ripe jackfruit (there are soft and hard varieties) is subtly sweet and tangy and tasty eaten alone or in desserts. Unripe and cooked, jackfruit absorbs flavour well and holds together in fleshy chunks. It’s used the world over in stews, curries, juice, chips, baking flour (dried and ground!) and more recently as a meat substitute in an astonishing range of dishes.
Why eat it?
Jackfruit provides a portion of your recommended daily fibre and vitamin B6, with moderate vitamin C and potassium content to boot.
As a nutritious and low maintenance crop, it is a sustainable food source for many of the countries in which it grows natively, as well as a potentially lucrative opportunity as an export product.
So, nutritious: check; contender for making a dent in world hunger: check. But jackfruit is also delicious and so versatile. It’s also free from sodium, artificial colours and gluten. For vegans looking for a meat substitute that isn’t highly processed, it’s a gift from the gods.
How do you cook with it?
Jackfruit doesn’t grow in Europe and the USA, so it’s hard to come by in fresh form. Some consider this a blessing in disguise, as buying it canned cuts out the laborious preparation process. Young (unripe) jackfruit is what you need for plant-meat recipes, and you’re looking for fruit that’s canned in water or brine.
1. Drain and rinse - For jackfruit that’s carefully preserved in lightly salted water, it’s a good idea to wash out the brine so you can control the salt level of your dish.
2. Core and chop - Remove the woody core (simply slice it off) and chop the pieces in half.
3. To de-seed or not to de-seed? - The seeds are edible, but some people prefer to remove them at this stage for a more convincing meat substitute.
4. Marinade - Boost the fruit’s neutral flavour with your favourite spices and sauces for a minimum of 30 minutes.
5. Cook - You can sauté your marinated jackfruit or grill/barbeque the pieces and then shred them. The pieces can be formed into cutlets or cooked out in stews, curries or stir fries. Jackfruit also works really well in a slow cooker.
6. Timing - The longer you cook it, the more tender (and flavoursome) the jackfruit will become.