What to Know About Jackfruit, the Next Big Thing in Produce

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Jackfruit fruit.

Jackfruit is having a moment.

“Seriously sweet and even better than pulled pork — this cult fruit is more than just junk food for vegans,” the London Evening Standard gushes, calling it “the new kimchi, kale and cauliflower all rolled into one.”

Eater, meanwhile, has just traced the factors in “Behind Jackfruit’s Rise From South Asian Staple to Vegan Trend,” noting, “while it might seem like this fruit … came out of nowhere in the United States, its development as profitable product has been happening simultaneously in India.”

What’s that, you say? You don’t know jackfruit? Here are 10 things to know about the trendy fruit:

1: It’s the world’s biggest tree fruit, growing as big as 3 feet in length, weighing in at as much as 100 pounds and growing on the branches and trunks of trees that may be as tall as 30, 50 or even 70 feet. Trees may yield about 150 large fruits every year; some fully mature trees may produce as many as 500 more modest-size fruit in a given year.

2: The jackfruit is native to India and Southeast Asia, where it has been a staple crop for thousands of years.

3: In the U.S., it is now being grown — albeit only on a modest scale — in Florida. Hawaii also has a climate conducive to its cultivation.

4: It has a pungent aroma that has been compared to “overripe fruit, packaged fruit cup, smelly feet, stinky cheese and pet food,” as NPR recently put it, adding that “really, it wasn’t that bad!”

5: The taste has been described as that of a pineapple crossed with a banana.

6: Nutritionally, the jackfruit is a powerhouse: packed with protein, calcium, iron, potassium and vitamin B, with 95 calories per cup.

7: An adaptable food, jackfruit can be eaten fresh and blended into smoothies. Or it can be dried or roasted and used in everything from soups to chips to noodles, jams to juices, and even ice cream. (The seeds are also useful and may even be ground to use as flour.) The fruit may also function as a stand-in for meat in curry dishes and Mexican foods. As noted in a Food Network video, “unripe jackfruit has a meatlike taste, and when cooked the fruit is transformed into a savory meat substitute similar to pulled pork, perfect for tacos.”

8: It has been hailed as a potential solution for food insecurity — a “miracle crop.” “It is easy to grow. It survives pests and diseases and high temperatures. It is drought-resistant,” Danielle Nierenberg, president of Food Tank, a nonprofit organization focused on agricultural sustainability, told the Guardian. “It achieves what farmers need in food production when facing a lot of challenges under climate change.”

9: You can buy it canned (in water or brine or syrup).

10: You can try your hand at cooking it with this recipe for a BBQ jackfruit sandwich. And to learn more about jackfruit, check out the video below.

Photo courtesy of iStock