Jack of all fruits

by Sanjeev Kapoor

Of all the fruits, I have always wondered where this fruit – jackfruit – got its name from. Probably because where mango is the king of fruits, jackfruit is the jack. I am only guessing, so don’t take that literally.

Whatever the name, it is still delicious

Variously called kathal in Hindi, phanas in Marathi, chakka in Malayalam, kanthal in Bengali, palapazham in Tamil, halasu in Kannada, jackfruit is one fruit where both its flesh and seeds are used to make several delicacies. When ripe it is eaten as a fruit. The South Indians also make some desserts with it. Whereas the raw jackfruit can be used to make many dishes, like the most flavourful Kathal ki Biryani. Its seeds also can be used to make some tasty stuff.

The jackfruit is truly a unique fruit not only in terms of its prickly looks, size and weight but also its taste and texture, and therefore, it is considered to be an exotic fruit. Botanically, it is known as artocarpus heterophyllus. The jackfruit is seasonally available in the summers.

Origins of the fruit

I tried to find out where this delightful fruit originated from but met with little success. The only probability was that it was a native of the rainforests of the Western Ghats in India. However, now it is cultivated at low elevations throughout India, Burma, Ceylon, southern China, Malaya, and the East Indies. It is also found in the Philippines, Queensland and Mauritius. In Africa, it is grown in Kenya, Uganda and former Zanzibar.

In South India, the jackfruit ranks next only to mango and banana. There are more than 100,000 trees found in most backyards. Besides they are also planted to provide shade for betel nut, coffee, pepper and cardamom plantations. The total area that the plantations of this fruit occupy all over India is calculated at 14,826 acres and that is really a lot which goes on prove how popular it is in our country.

Nutrients found in jackfruit

Being rich in potassium, jackfruit is known to be helpful in lowering the blood pressure. The extract of jackfruit root is believed to help cure fever as well as diarrhoea. Jackfruit contains phytonutrients, with health benefits ranging from anti-cancer to antihypertension. The root of this fruit has been found to be beneficial for those suffering from asthma. Jackfruit proves to be a very good source of vitamin C, which is known for its high antioxidant properties. The fruit also contains isoflavones, antioxidants and phytonutrients, all of which have cancer-fighting properties.

Jackfruit also has considerable amounts of proteins, carbohydrates and vitamins. It is believed that ingestion of the fruit can prevent and also treat tension and nervousness. And since it contains few calories and very little fat, jackfruit is considered good for the weightwatchers. It is also found to relieve constipation if consumed regularly.

Medicinal Uses

Jackfruit pulp and seeds are used as a tonic since they are cooling and nutritious. It is also supposed to overcome the influence of alcohol on the human system. The seed starch is given to relieve biliousness and the roasted seeds are regarded as aphrodisiac. The jackfruit leaves are burned with corn and coconut shells, the resultant ash mixed with coconut oil and used to heal ulcers. The dried latex when mixed with vinegar can be used to heal abscesses, snakebite and glandular swellings. The root is used as a remedy for skin diseases and asthma. An extract of the root is taken in cases of fever and diarrhoea. The bark is made into poultices.

A word of caution

The fruit when ripe has a very strong aroma so I would advise that if you have to keep the fruit in the refrigerator, make sure it is well ensconced in an air tight container as otherwise almost everything else kept in the refrigerator will take on its aroma. And believe me, anything else smelling of ripe jackfruit can be quite unpalatable. 

Recommended recipes-

Jackfruit Curry,  Jackfruit Kerala Curry,  Mughlai Jackfruit,  Kathal Ki Biryani,  Kathal Ke Shaami,  Jackfruit Pickle

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MasterChef Sanjeev Kapoor

Chef Sanjeev Kapoor is the most celebrated face of Indian cuisine. He is Chef extraordinaire, runs a successful TV Channel FoodFood, hosted Khana Khazana cookery show on television for more than 17 years, author of 150+ best selling cookbooks, restaurateur and winner of several culinary awards. He is living his dream of making Indian cuisine the number one in the world and empowering women through power of cooking to become self sufficient. His recipe portal www.sanjeevkapoor.com is a complete cookery manual with a compendium of more than 10,000 tried & tested recipes, videos, articles, tips & trivia and a wealth of information on the art and craft of cooking in both English and Hindi.