I’m going to be honest. As a Latino, my other ethnic friends and I almost always react with shock and confusion when the latest food craze, trend, or superfood is “discovered” by North America. It’s always along the lines of “wait, you mean not everyone knows about [enter common family food here]? Oh my god, those poor people.” I even sometimes received mild mockery for having quinoa as part of my diet, and now it’s one of the most popular foods.
It was the same for the rest of my international companions. Some of my Chinese friends growing up were shocked that we didn’t know what Goji berries were. I was immediately invited for a Jamaican sleepover for the sole purpose of eating ackee as part of breakfast the next morning. And thanks to my extended Indian family introducing me to jackfruit more than a decade ago, I can say I’m a food hipster and was into jackfruit before it was cool.
Native to the Indian Subcontinent and Southeast Asia, the jackfruit is a gargantuan fruit that possesses almost magical qualities. It’s large, contains lots of fleshy meat, and costs very little while the trees are prolific in their production.
Jackfruit can also weigh up to 100 pounds, but are most commonly anywhere from 10 to 15 pounds.
The inside of the fruit contains fleshy and edible “packets” that each contain their own seed. The fruit itself is jam-packed with vitamin C, calcium, iron, and potassium. Not only is this prickly monstrosity good for you, it’s delicious.
The “meat” can have the smell and texture of pulled pork when prepared correctly, and often appears in a wide variety of desserts.
Beyond its versatile culinary uses, it is also versatile for life in general. It grows in abundance in the wild, the leaves make for decent animal feed, the bark of the tree can be used to create colorful dye, and the timber is solid enough for use in construction. Unfortunately, jackfruit is seen as “poor man’s food” in India, but there are efforts to introduce it as a part of the Indian diet in order to deal with food crises in the future.