What is jackfruit?
Jackfruit are extremely large compound fruit made of numerous yellow ‘bulbs’ of flesh contained in a hard, knobbly exterior, with each bulb containing a seed. The trees are thought to have originated in India and now grow throughout the tropics.
They can vary in weight from 4 to 40 kilos, and although you can buy them whole, they are often sold ready prepared, particularly in the markets in Asia. The whole fruit don’t smell particularly nice, rather like ‘off’ onions (don’t confuse them with the spikier durian that smells far worse), but the flesh inside is generally sweet, rather like a combination of pineapple and banana, and it has a fruit salad aroma. Different varieties have varying degrees of sweetness. The flesh has a texture unlike any other fruit being soft but springy, and some varieties are softer and mushier, while others can be crisp and crunchy.
Choose the best
To eat jackfruit raw it should be ripe, but for cooking purposes unripe crisp ‘green’ jackfruit is best, especially if you are looking for a ‘pulled-pork’ texture and less sweetness for vegan savoury dishes, such a pulled jackfruit. Ideally, if you want to cook it in this country, buy ready-prepared jackfruit in packs or cans (unsweetened, look for brined or water-based cans), frozen or as dried strips.
If you are buying raw jackfruit that is ripe then the advice is always to cut it up and take out the seeds outdoors – if you do this indoors you will have to contend with the smell. Unripe jackfruit won’t give you the same odour problems, but it will coat your hands and everything else in a sticky latex. Cover your hands and knife blade with oil and your work surface with newspaper before you start, and then cut the fruit into chunks without bothering to peel it. Put the chunks in a large pot, cover with water and simmer for about 45 mins by which time the flesh will have a stringy look. Get rid of the peel, pith and seeds and drain the flesh well. Your pot may need a good clean as the latex sticks to everything. You can freeze the flesh at this point if you like.
Most recipes that use prepared jackfruit tell you to use canned fruit. This just needs to chopped and any stray seeds extracted before being simmered in the flavourings you are using for between 10 and 30 mins.
Jackfruit seeds are also edible and are often dried and ground to a flour. The seeds can also be boiled and eaten, but you need to peel off the white membrane first, and this is a bit time consuming but not difficult once the seeds have started to dry off. The inside is a bit like a waxy potato.