Nangka or jackfruit, healthy and versatile in the kitchen

While the name ‘jackfruit’ probably means nothing to many people, the name ‘jackfruit’ does in most cases. Jackfruit is especially popular among vegetarians. Jackfruit is a fruit that fits into a healthy diet and comes from the mulberry family. It is a very large fruit with a neutral to mildly sweet taste. What exactly is this fruit, where does it come from and how do you incorporate this fruit into the meal?

Source: Crops for the Future, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA-3.0)

A large fruit on a beautiful tree

This nangka or jackfruit, in Latin Artocarpus heterophyllus, is a tree that originally comes from India, but can now be found in more Asian countries. Such as the countries Indonesia, Philippines and Malaysia. Jack fruit is related to the mulberry and the fruits on the tree can grow very large.
The tree itself, which can reach a height of 20 to 25 meters, has branches with spreading dark green oval-shaped leaves and the top of the leaf is slightly shiny. It produces small flowers that form at the leaf axils. The fruits that grow from the stem are quite large and can grow to about 60 to 70 centimeters. In exceptional cases this can amount to at least 1 meter. In terms of weight, the jackfruit can grow to about 40 kilograms. It is therefore the largest fruit there is.
After planting a young tree, it takes at least 3 years before the first fruits appear on the tree. The ripe fruit has a hard skin and slightly yellowish flesh . The taste of jackfruit can be described as neutral or subtly sweet.
The wood from the tree is used to make instruments for a gamelan orchestra. Gamelan is a traditional music style that brings together gongs, drums, flutes and string instruments – which can mainly be found on the Indonesian islands.

Root as medicine

From a naturopathic perspective, the root of the jackfruit tree is used to treat skin conditions such as allergies. It is also used against insect bites and tea is made from it. The tea is said to be good for the respiratory tract.

Source: Daniel Di Palma, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA-4.0)

Where can you buy jackfruit and what does it cost?

Fresh jackfruit is not available in all Dutch supermarkets or regular fruit and vegetable stores. The store generally has jackfruit and some specialized organic stores also sell it. The better equipped supermarket usually has it on the shelf in a can.
Jackfruit is relatively expensive, especially compared to other types of fruit. This has to do with the fact that only about 30% of this large fruit is actually edible. There are quite a few inedible pieces in the fruit and the skin is quite thick.
Jackfruit is available canned and freshly frozen (transporting the whole fruit is too expensive). In 2020, jackfruit costs an average of 3.50, rising to 5.50 per 250 grams. If you want to buy the organic variant, you pay an average of 1.50 to 2.00 extra for it.

Health aspects

Jackfruit is a healthy fruit that fits perfectly into a healthy diet. This fruit contains several vitamins and minerals, namely:

  • Vitamin A, B2, B3, B6, B11, C
  • Calcium
  • Phosphorus
  • Iron
  • Potassium
  • Magnesium
  • Manganese
  • Zinc

 

Eating jackfruit

If you want to eat jackfruit fresh as a fruit, use the ripe variety. If you want to include jackfruit in your meal, use the unripe variety (also available in a can). The advantage of including jackfruit in meals is that the fruit quickly absorbs all kinds of flavors. It can be compared to a sponge that you put in a container of water. For this reason, jackfruit is ideally suited to blend different flavors together to form a whole. This also means that in the examples mentioned where jackfruit can be incorporated into the meal, various flavors such as sweet, sour, bitter and of course salty occur. Composing the meal in this way promotes an optimal taste balance.

Include in the meal

Jackfruit takes on a fleshy structure during baking, which is why the fruit is sometimes regarded as a meat substitute. If you are a ‘beginning’ vegetarian, jackfruit is ideally suited to include in your meal. With jackfruit in your meal you will not be faced with any surprises when it comes to the familiar taste of meat. However, jackfruit is not a full-fledged meat substitute, because the vitamin and mineral composition is different. In particular, there is much less iron and protein in jackfruit.

How to prepare?

Because the taste of jackfruit is quite neutral, the taste cannot really be described if you process it fresh or from a can. If you want to give jackfruit a specific flavor, marinate it first. Because jackfruit absorbs the flavor quickly, you don’t have to let it marinate for hours. A good half hour is usually sufficient.
However, marinating before incorporating it into the meal is not necessary. So you can also use it while preparing the meal. Frying with (cream) butter gives jackfruit a little more of that fleshy substance and frying color than in oil. In the pan, jackfruit looks most like chicken pieces.

Examples of applications

Source: Mullookkaaran, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA-3.0)

You can fry jackfruit in (cream) butter and then make it crispy by frying it very briefly on a hot fire. What jackfruit is used for is to make a kind of pulled pork. Then fry it in (cream) butter and let it simmer a little longer in the pan. How long it needs to simmer depends on how small the pieces are, but expect from 5 minutes to about 20 minutes. It is ready when you can pull the pieces apart with a fork. Prepared in this way, jackfruit is great to eat in different types of meals. Consider:

  • Jackfruit on a fresh roll with some slices of mature cheese, mayo and chopped chives. Make sure the jackfruit is at an ‘edible’ temperature, so that the freshly made sandwich can be eaten straight away.
  • Jackfruit in a generous salad with capers, tomatoes, cocktail onions, a dash of extra virgin olive oil and a pepper if you like spice or some coriander if it could be a little more bitter. For best results, the jackfruit is lukewarm.
  • Using jackfruit in a wrap is also a great option. Add different types of beans and cover with plenty of yoghurt sauce, mixed with some chopped chives. If you want it spicier, you can also mix some chili flakes into the yogurt sauce. If it is very spicy, add a red pepper (it will be even spicier with seeds in it).
  • Jackfruit in a ‘kapsalon’ variant, with fries, grated mature cheese, tomato and cucumber slices, some lettuce and garlic sauce. Add this jackfruit nice and warm from the pan.
  • Jackfruit in an oven meal of zucchini slices, chopped onion, a dash of olive oil and seasoned with fresh black pepper, chili flakes and some salt. 20 to 30 minutes in the oven at 175 degrees.

 

On its own, as a dessert or snack

Jackfruit does not necessarily have to be fried. You can also eat it straight out of hand. Jackfruit has a fairly neutral taste and people always say that you should learn to eat such a fruit. Because of its neutral taste, jackfruit is often combined with another piece of fresh fruit.
You can also combine it, cut into cubes or shaved (with a cheese grater), with full-fat (Greek) yoghurt, full-fat cottage cheese or ice cream. The reason for choosing whole products is that they have more taste. This also benefits the combination with added jackfruit. Finally, add some honey or give it a twist with sweet strawberry syrup or slightly more sour lemon syrup. Great as a dessert or snack. Cut into long slices, it can also be fried in sunflower oil and
served with a pinch of salt as an alternative chip with drinks .

Finally

Jackfruit has a fairly neutral to mildly sweet taste and the fruit is certainly versatile. You can easily use the fruit in various ways in a meal, as a dessert or snack. Moreover, jackfruit fits perfectly into a healthy diet.

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