The largest tree fruit in the world, jackfruit -- sometimes called "jak fruit" or "jak" -- can be up to 3 feet long and 20 inches wide. Just one fruit can weigh as much as 110 pounds. But you're not alone if you haven't heard of it.
While jackfruit first appeared in the rain forests of India, farmers now grow it in many parts of the world, including Thailand, Australia, Africa, Brazil, and the Philippines. Only in recent years has jackfruit started to become well known in the U.S.
The rind of a jackfruit is green or yellow and spikey. Although it gives off a smell of rotting onions when it's ripe and ready to eat, the pulp inside smells and tastes far better: like a cross between pineapple and bananas. You can eat the seeds, too. And a jackfruit has plenty of them -- up to 500. Each can reach an inch and a half in length.
There are two main types of jackfruit. One is small and mushy. It tastes sweet, but it's slimy. The other type of jackfruit has crisp, crunchy flesh that's not as sweet.
Nutrients per Serving
One cup of sliced raw jackfruit has:
Carotenoids, the pigments that give jackfruit its yellow color, are high in vitamin A. Like all antioxidants, carotenoids protect cells from damage and help your body work right. They may help prevent diseases like cancer and heart disease, as well as eye problems like cataracts and macular degeneration.
As a jackfruit ripens, its carotenoid levels may go up.
Jackfruit also contains many other antioxidants that can help delay or prevent cell damage in your body. While the inside flesh is high in these disease-fighting compounds, the seeds may contain even more.
The nutrients in jackfruit may help lower your risk for some health issues, including:
Diabetes. Your body digests and absorbs jackfruit more slowly than some other foods. That means your blood sugar won't rise as quickly as it might when you eat other fruits. One study found that jackfruit extract made it easier for people with diabetes to control their blood sugar.
Cancer. Phytonutrients, like those found in jackfruit, are natural compounds that might have cancer-fighting benefits, such as preventing cancer cells from forming in your body.
Risks and Warnings
While a jackfruit allergy is rare, you're at higher risk if you have a birch pollen allergy. This means that you have an itchy mouth or swollen lips when you eat other foods in this group such as apples, almonds, carrots, celery, cherries, and hazelnuts.
How to Prepare It
Jackfruit isn't easy to peel because of its sticky sap. To keep it from gumming up your knife and hands, rub them with cooking oil before you slice open your fruit. Once you do, it will take time to separate the fleshy bulbs you can eat from tough strips of membrane, which you can't. You'll then have to remove the seeds from each bulb.
You may prefer to eat jackfruit before it's fully ripe and the rind starts to smell like spoiled onions. If you cut it into chunks and boil them in salted water until they're tender, you can easily slice the meaty flesh from the rind. You can roast or boil the seeds like chestnuts.
If you don't want to prepare your own jackfruit, look for canned or ready-to-eat jackfruit at the store. You can find it seasoned with a savory BBQ or teriyaki sauce. Some people use these as a meat substitute. You can also get it preserved in a sweet, heavy syrup like other canned fruits.
Here's a recipe for jackfruit barbecue sandwiches.
How to Store
Once a jackfruit's ripe, it will turn brown and go bad quickly. To keep yours fresh, store it in the refrigerator. When kept cool and dry, a ripe jackfruit can last up to 6 weeks.