How to: Grow, Eat and Cook Jackfruit

Jackfruit trees yield the largest fruits of all fruit trees, with some weighing well over 50 lbs. This truly massive tree belongs to the mulberry family (Moraceae) and is known taxinomically as Artocarpus heterophyllus. It is closely related to but not to be confused with the breadfruit (Artocarpus altilis) which similar to jackfruit has a very sticky latex that exudes from severed leaves, stems and fruits.

Unfortunately, jackfruit tree cultivation is pretty much limited to the tropics as the young trees are sensitive to freezing temperatures. Aside from cultivation in Hawaii or certain regions of Florida, yielding fruit from one of these trees outside of an enormous greenhouse would be nearly impossible. Regardless, jackfruit trees may be grown to a limited size within a normal greenhouse or even in some cases indoors given adequate light. To grow a jackfruit you must obtain some seeds, and search no further than a fresh jackfruit.

To eat a jackfruit, first you must be sure that it is ripe. Jackfruits are typically sold immature, and unripe, these will be green and firm. As the fruit ripens dark patches and yellow color emerge, along with a very distinct and strong fruity smell. Additionally the skin of the fruit should give in slightly to pressure, indicating that the fruit is ready to be cut. To accelerate the ripening process, jackfruit may be placed outside in warm sunlight for a few hours or more. To slow the ripening process, jackfruit may be stored in the refrigerator.

Before cutting into a jackfruit, be aware of the powerful latex that resides within the fruit. If this latex gets on skin, soap and water will prove ineffective to clean it off. Instead, keep some cooking oil handy as the latex is easily removed with oils. Furthermore latex or nitrile gloves should be used to protect ones hands against the sticky latex. A long knife should be used to cut the fruit down the middle, be sure to apply a generous amount of oil on the knife before cutting the fruit to prevent the latex from adhering to the blade.

Pictured above is a ripe jackfruit with some slight yellow tinges and brown and black spots visible. Compare this to the unripe jackfruits pictured at the top of the page.

Cut the jackfruit longways with a large knife to expose the midrib and surrounding fruits. 
 

Carefully use a smaller knife to cut out the midrib from the rest of the fruit, as shown above.

Now it is possible to easily remove the yellow fruit pods from the stringy white filaments.

Finally, the seeds should be removed from the fruit pods so that the fruit may be eaten, cooked or blended in smoothies. The yellow flesh of a ripe jackfruit will taste like some kind of combination of banana, mango and pineapple. Don’t discard the seeds as they may also be cooked and eaten, or planted to become new jackfruit trees.

Preparing and storing jackfruit flesh:
The yellow fruit pods of a jackfruit should be stored in airtight bags or containers for only a couple of days in the refrigerator. Since it’s quite difficult to eat an entire jackfruit in a timely manner, I prefer to store the bulk of my jackfruit flesh in the freezer for long-term storage and for use in smoothies.

How to grow jackfruit seeds:
The seeds from jackfruit are large and full of energy for the developing seedling. This means that whatever method you choose to grow your jackfruit you will inevitably end up with a large and healthy seedling. One of the most important factors is planting fresh seeds, as older seeds become more dry their chances of germination dramatically decrease. To ensure success, simply place a jackfruit seed about 1 inch into well draining potting soil. The seeds may even be placed in a cup of water placed on a window sill, and eventually small roots and a stem will emerge indicating that it is time to transfer the germinated seed into soil. The seeds should germinate in about a month, but this will vary depending on climate and the freshness of the seeds.

 

Upon germination the young jackfruit seedling will grow rather quickly. The first few leaves will appear and enlarge in about a week. Within a few months the stem will thicken and more leaves will appear. Avoid fertilizing jackfruit seedlings for the first year or two and be sure that the soil is draining well as waterlogged soil is lethal.

Jackfruit seedlings utilize the energy held within the endosperm of their large seeds to grow a thick and long tap root and send up a shoot with developing leaves. The leaves develop rapidly so that the plant may begin to photosynthesize and provide the energy required to sustain its growth.

How to cook boiled jackfruit seeds:
I like boiled jackfruit seeds, although they are also good roasted and in stir-fry. To boil jackfruit seeds bring a pot of water to boil (4 cups water per 100 seeds should do) and add a teaspoon of salt. Throw in the jackfruit seeds and let them boil for about 10 minutes and turn off the heat, letting the seeds steep in the hot water for about 5-10 minutes longer. The result is a starchy, soft textured seed with a mild flavor.

A cooked jackfruit seed should be peeled of the outer casing before eating.
Believe it or not, jackfruit trees are used for much more than their delicious and nutritious fruit and seeds. The latex is often used as a glue, while the wood is highly coveted for building furniture and houses. In many regions of the world this is a sort of miracle tree that provides shade, fruit, latex and wood.

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