Last weekend at the Asia market I spied huge wedges of jack fruit on display. I’ve seen jack fruit in markets, and I’ve enjoyed jack fruit desserts in restaurants, but had never tackled eating it fresh before. I’ve been a little intimidated by its ginormous size and hard spiky shell, something reminiscent of a poisonous gigantic sea urchin or some kind of alien landmine. But, already cut in quarters, and sealed in plastic wrap, it looked a little bit like a very elongated pineapple and actually a little friendly. I popped a nice one, about 20 inches long, into my basket and headed to checkout.
The checkout lady somehow figured out (was I that obvious a novice?) that I’d never handled this fruit before, and gave me a few tips. Mainly, to oil my hands or wear gloves when handling it. Not because of the spikes, but because the inside of the fruit, especially the white fibrous part and core, is very sticky and resinous, and this stickiness does not wash off easily even with soap. She said these were ripe and perfect to eat. The skin was brownish (unlike the green one in the photo above), indicating its ripeness, and it smelled lusciously sweet. The green ones shouldn’t be eaten raw, and must be cooked. This way they are laxative and tasty, but raw will cause stomach upset. Also, she reminded me, the spiky skin of a jack fruit softens when they are ripe and there is no discomfort handling them (she was right).
Jack fruit varies in shape and size, depending on where in the “tropics” it’s grown, ranging from round to oblong, and from a few pounds to as much as 50 pounds each. Jack fruit trees are also prolific, bearing anywhere form 50 to 200 of these magnificent offspring.
The next morning I excitedly tackled Jack, first giving my hands a generous coating of coconut oil. Since it was already cut open, all I had to do in order to remove the core was take a sharp paring knife and run it down at an angle along each side of the spine, and it pulled right out. The core is pretty solid and woody, easily identified, and came out in one long piece.
The next task was to separate the fruit pods from the white fibrous stuff separating them. These mostly pulled free easily just giving a gentle tug with my fingers.
By the way, here are a few nutritional facts about jack fruit. While it is full of fiber (and known to help maintain good digestion) it is not fibrous. The texture is similar to papaya. Jackfruit is high in anti-oxidants/vitamin C, B-complex vitamins, potassium, calcium and iron.
Inside each fruit pod you will find a seed. Some were already exposed because I’d purchased a pre-cut quarter of jack fruit, and the seeds were easy to pop out. For the others, I could either squeeze out the sides or use my knife to cut open the flesh a little to pop it out. Also easy. Just a little time consuming. I think with a little practice I will develop better technique and it would go more quickly.
The jack fruit’s seeds are edible too, if cooked, and can be used similar to how you would use chestnuts. They are high in protein too. I took all the seeds and boiled them for about 20 minutes in lightly salted water until soft. The skins split and turned sort of whitish.
When they were cooled, I peeled off the outer layer and they looked sort of remotely like, well, chestnuts. See the nice all-brown one below… that’s the first one I peeled.
I peeled a few this way and ate one or two. They are pretty bland and starchy tasting. I did not feel like experimenting further at this point, since my mind was really on eating the jack fruit, not the seeds. But I think these would go great in a holiday type stuffing (you can freeze the cooked seeds, or dry the raw seeds to cook later), in curry, a soup or stew. I’ll bet you could also roast them, and use them in recipes that way, or try spicing them up a little and making a sort of munchy snack. Next time I buy jack fruit (and there will be a next time) I’m going to save the seeds and have fun playing with possibilities.
But, back to eating the fruit!
I also thought the edible part looked so good I couldn’t wait another minute. After eating at least 5 or 6 pods on the sly, I decided it was time for breakfast. My husband and I each enjoyed a bowlful of jack fruit with a sprinkling of blueberries and homemade yogurt.
Simple, and simply delicious! The fruit is very sweet, with its flavor somewhere between pineapple and ripe banana. So so soooo good! There was enough leftover for later, so I put those in an airtight container in the fridge. They were just as spectacular the next day!