Are you looking for a new, versatile ingredient to add to your meals? Look no further than jackfruit! This tropical fruit has gained popularity in the food world due to its unique taste and impressive nutritional benefits.
Whether you are a vegan, vegetarian, or simply looking for a healthier alternative, jackfruit is a versatile and delicious option that can be incorporated into various dishes.
Though it has long been common in South Asian and Caribbean cuisine, jackfruit is becoming more prevalent in the USA. That might not be too surprising, considering it’s a deliciously sweet fruit, but what might be unexpected is that it is showing up more and more as a tasty and healthy meat substitute. You may have spotted it on menus as a vegan alternative or in cans in your favorite store, but chances are you have yet to see the fruit itself or know how it looks or what it tastes like.
Origin and Appearance
Jackfruit is thought to have originated in India and Malaysia. However, it’s now grown across most tropical regions, with Southeast Asian and Caribbean countries producing some of the largest crops worldwide.
Its most noteworthy physical feature is its usual size. Jackfruit is the largest fruit in the world. When ripe, they are over ten inches long and, at their largest, can grow to forty inches.
Otherwise, jackfruits don’t look particularly unusual from the outside. They’re a plain-looking fruit with subtle green or yellow, bumpy skin, similar in shape to a mango.
However, jackfruit shows its character when the outer shell is broken into to get to the edible fruit inside. It is filled with plump, stringy yellow fleshy ‘pods’ with a unique appearance. This flesh looks like a cross between the inside of a pumpkin and citrus fruit segments. But things really get interesting when we explore how it tastes.
What Does Jackfruit Taste Like?
One of the most exciting features of jackfruit is that it can be eaten when young and green or ripe and yellow–both have a completely different flavor and texture.
Ripe jackfruit is much more traditionally “fruity,” with the yellow flesh having a sweet and subtle flavor comparable to many tropical fruits. The taste can be described as a combination of mango and banana, but is sometimes compared to sharper-tasting fruits such as apples or mild oranges, though it’s much more sweet than sour.
As delicious as it is fresh as a snack, there are lots of exciting ways to prepare the ripe fruit. A fantastic use for sweet, ripe jackfruit is to make a traditional Middle Easterner and South Asian dessert called Halwa. When mixed with spices, dried fruits, and nuts, it creates an intensely sweet, almost toffee-like flavor, much lower in fat and processed sugar than most Western deserts.
Young jackfruit has a much more unusual taste and texture. The unripened green fruit has flesh that has a very mild, almost neutral flavor, which lends itself well to soaking up the taste of sauces and seasonings in a similar way to tofu. Combined with a consistency like shredded meat, jackfruit has become popular as a meat alternative in savory dishes. It’s popularly served as a vegetarian version of barbeque pulled meat, often served on pizza, salads, or delicious spicy stews.
Nutritional Benefits of Jackfruit
Not only is jackfruit delicious, but it also boasts several fantastic nutritional benefits.
A 100-gram portion of jackfruit contains 95 calories, 2 grams of protein, 3 grams of fiber, and only 0.6 grams of fat. This makes it very low in fat and unusually high in protein for a fruit and a fantastic source of dietary fiber.
As well as being low in fat, it is also high in essential vitamins that your body may be craving, including vitamins C, B6, B3, B2, and folic acid (B9). It also contains many minerals beneficial to health, including significant amounts of calcium, magnesium, potassium, and phosphorous.
The high digestible and indigestible fiber levels in jackfruit help slow digestion, giving it a relatively low glycemic index. Including foods with a low glycemic index in your diet has been shown to help promote balanced blood sugar levels by encouraging a slow and steady increase in blood sugar rather than causing spikes.
May Help Lower Cholesterol
One of the many benefits of incorporating jackfruit into your diet is its positive impact on cholesterol levels. High cholesterol is a common health concern for many individuals, and finding natural ways to lower it can be challenging. Luckily, jackfruit is here to help.
Jackfruit contains zero cholesterol and is low in saturated fats, making it an ideal addition to a heart-healthy diet. The fiber content in jackfruit also plays a crucial role in managing cholesterol levels. Soluble fiber helps reduce cholesterol absorption in the bloodstream, preventing it from building up in the arteries and leading to heart disease.
In addition to its cholesterol-lowering properties, jackfruit also contains antioxidants that help to reduce inflammation and improve cardiovascular health. Its high potassium content supports healthy blood pressure levels, further protecting against heart disease.
By incorporating jackfruit into your meals, you can enjoy a delicious, cholesterol-friendly ingredient that not only enhances the taste of your dishes but also promotes heart health.
Benefits to the Immune System
Did you know that jackfruit can also give your immune system a boost? This tropical fruit is delicious and packed with nutrients that can help strengthen your body’s defenses against illness and disease.
Jackfruit, like many tropical fruits, is rich in vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant that plays a crucial role in supporting a healthy immune system. Vitamin C helps stimulate the production of white blood cells, which are essential for fighting off infections and viruses. Incorporating jackfruit into your diet can give your immune system the support it needs to keep you healthy.
In addition to vitamin C, jackfruit is a good source of other immune-boosting nutrients like vitamin A and zinc. These nutrients work together to enhance the functioning of your immune system, protecting you from common illnesses and promoting overall well-being.
So, next time you’re looking for a delicious and nutritious way to support your immune system, consider adding jackfruit to your meals. Your taste buds and immune system will thank you!
How To Choose and Store Jackfruit
Whichever variety of jackfruit you’re looking for, a vibrant color is always a good sign when picking your fruit. The best fruits are bright green or yellow-green. Fruits with brown or dull patches may be overripe, old, or of poor quality.
When feeling the fruit to gauge its freshness, you should look for a firm texture with some give. If the skin is not solid to the touch or has too much give when pressed, it’s likely too old and not of the best quality.
If you intend to eat the fruit ripe, leaving it at room temperature on the counter or in a large fruit bowl is best. Once fully ripened, they will be bright yellow, tender, and slightly yielding to the touch. Then the fruit must be broken open and the pods separated from the core, rind, and deseeded.
Instead of using the unripened pods in savory dishes, pick a green fruit that has yet to turn yellow, and don’t leave the fruit for too long before harvesting the pods as it may start to ripen. Storing jackfruit in the refrigerator can help keep it from ripening too quickly, and it can be safely stored for five to seven days.
Another characteristic that adds to jackfruit’s versatility is how well it takes to be stored long-term. Unripe jackfruit takes very well to being canned, with little notable flavor or texture change. Ripe jackfruit can also be dried. Dry jackfruit retains its tropical fruity taste and remains high in the vitamins and minerals that make it beneficial to health.
When it comes to jackfruit, most people focus on the delicious and versatile flesh of the fruit and discard the seeds. But did you know that, like pumpkins, the seeds are also incredibly nutritious and offer fantastic health benefits? Not only that, but with some preparation, they make a delicious, savory snack. With a single fruit producing up to 500 seeds, throwing them in the trash would be a huge waste.
Jackfruit seeds are packed with vitamins that can support your overall well-being. They are high in iron, essential for growth and development, and help prevent anemia.
Jackfruit seeds are also a good source of protein, making them an excellent option for vegetarians and vegans. They’re also rich in antioxidants, which help protect your cells from damage and boost your immune system. Additionally, jackfruit seeds are high in fiber, which aids in digestion and can help prevent constipation.
Not only are jackfruit seeds nutritious, but they are also incredibly versatile. They can be boiled, roasted, or even sauteed with spices and seasoning and have a texture like salad potatoes and a mild, nutty flavor reminiscent of chestnuts. In some cultures, they are added to stews, curries, and rice to add texture and taste.
So, pay attention to the fantastic health benefits of jackfruit seeds. Incorporate them into your meals and enjoy the added nutrition and flavor they bring.
Jackfruit has occasionally been described as a “miracle crop,” partly due to its high nutritional content, culinary flexibility, and incredible natural sustainability.
It’s a very high-yield crop, with a single tree able to bear over two hundred substantial fruits and requiring a comparatively low amount of water to produce. As such, growing jackfruits encourages planting trees, which can help improve air quality and discourage deforestation.
It’s also remarkably hardy, able to withstand many common crop diseases and pests, thrives in high temperatures, and is highly resistant to drought. As such, it could be a reliable alternative to other crops in farming regions threatened by climate change.
How Jackfruit Can Transform Your Cuisine
Jackfruit is a remarkable fruit. It’s delicious, sustainable, eco-friendly, high in vitamins, and boasts an array of health benefits.
It can be eaten sweet or savory and be included in a wide variety of recipes, from sweet snacks and healthy desserts to spicy curries and barbeque dishes. As such, it’s straightforward to incorporate your tastes and dietary requirements into your diet.
Incorporating jackfruit into your diet adds a burst of flavor to your meals and offers a wide range of health benefits. So go ahead and give jackfruit a try – your taste buds and your body will thank you!
This article originally appeared on Wealth of Geeks.