Spiky, green fruit with a pleasantly strong smell, whose popularity was limited to India and South Asia, has made it’s to the global market. India is the largest producer of jackfruit and it’s increasing popularity as a ‘superfood’ has given India the opportunity to capitalise it.
It is being viewed as a meat alternative — touted by chefs from San Francisco to London and Delhi for its pork-like texture when unripe.
“There are a lot of enquiries from abroad … At the international level, the interest in jackfruit has grown manifold,” Varghese Tharakkan told AFP news agency from his orchard in Kerala’s Thrissur district.
On an average, the fruit, which weighs five kilogrammes (11 pounds). It has a has a waxy yellow flesh when ripe and is eaten fresh. It is often used to make cakes, juices, ice creams and crisps.
When unripe, it can be cooked in a variety of ways like it can sauteed, minced or can be added in curries. In the west, shredded jackfruit has become a popular alternative to pulled pork. It is even used as a pizza topping.
James Joseph quit his job as director after monitoring the growing popularity of jackfruit as a meat alternative. The pandemic has created a crisis which will work in the favor of jackfruit’s craze.
He explains, “Coronavirus caused a fear for chicken and people switched to tender jackfruit. In Kerala, lockdown caused a surge in demand for mature green jackfruit and seeds due to shortage of vegetables due to border restrictions.”
Joseph adds, “You get a hard bite like meat – that’s what is gaining popularity and like meat it absorbs the spices. When we did a nutritional analysis, we found jackfruit as a meal is better than rice and roti (bread) for an average person who wants to control his blood sugar.”
Joseph worked with Sydney University’s Glycemic Index Research Service in order to establish possible health benefits of the jackfruit.
As it requires less maintenance and is drought-resistant, food researchers believe it could emerge as a nutritious staple crop.