Will Jackfruit Be the Next Big Food Craze?

6989055133_037cff16ef_zHello, Jack.

There’s a new fruit in town.

Jackfruit is starting to build some major buzz.  It was the big news coming out of last week’s Natural Products Expo East.  Two U.S. companies showcased jackfruit products on the exhibit floor: The Jackfruit Company and Upton’s Naturals.  And Food Business News cited jackfruit in its roundup of major trends from the show:jackfruit


The demand for plant-based nutrition has given rise to creative new alternatives to animal protein, such as the jackfruit, an emerging “it” ingredient in the natural and organic marketplace. High in fiber and low in calories, this large Southeast Asian tree fruit has a texture likened to that of pulled pork, and at least two companies at Natural Products Expo East are offering it in packaged, ready-to-eat formats.

Chicago-based Upton’s Naturals produces barbecue and chili lime varieties of seasoned jackfruit. The Jackfruit Co., Cambridge, Mass., offers packaged young jackfruit in barbecue, Tex-Mex, curry and sesame ginger flavors. The latter company was founded on the mission to convert jackfruit waste into nutritious food and improve the livelihoods of farmers in India.

jackfruit company

Entertainment magazine E! cited jackfruit as a “hot new vegan ingredient” after spotting it taking pork belly’s place in baos (steamed buns) at Susan Feniger’s Street Food in LA.

Business Insider recently wrote about jackfruit and included interviews from experts gushing over the fruit’s potential to save millions from starvation.  A single fruit could feed your family for an entire meal, according to Nyree Zerega, a plant biologist at the Chicago Botanic Garden who has studied the genetic diversity of jackfruit in Bangladesh.

That’s partly due to its size, but also because of the many different ways that people have learned to prepare the jackfruit.  It can either be eaten ripe, when it is soft, fruity, and delicious, or unripe, when it resembles a potato.  In Bangladesh and other parts of Southeast Asia, jackfruit is served in dozens of ways.  Jackfruit curry, stir fry, juice, chips, ice cream, and even baking flour — made from drying and grinding the seeds or fruit — are just a few examples of jackfruit’s remarkable versatility in the kitchen.

Here’s a look at Business Insider getting a taste of jackfruit

The Guardian called jackfruit a “miracle” food crop because of its size, resistance to pests and drought, and impressive nutrition credentials. Researchers have suggested it could replace wheat, corn and other staple crops that may come under threat because of climate change.

Once you get through its tough, green, knobbly exterior, you’re hit with a faint whiff of onion, sticky sap and odd looking seed pods that taste like a cross between a pineapple and a pear. So far, so fruity. But what really sets the jackfruit apart is what it can do to savoury dishes, especially its ability to imitate pulled pork after several hours on the hob.

PicMonkey CollageJF

The Guardian says:

In London, vegan street-food and supper-club contingent Club Mexicana uses it in burritos and tacos to delicious effect. It’s their most popular dish by far, and suppliers are struggling to keep up with demand. Cook and owner Meriel Armitage says that customers often think it’s meat and are “always amazed it isn’t pulled pork”. She learned about the ingredient when working at one of London’s oldest vegan cafes. “It has been used for years by veterans of the vegan scene, but it has been kept a bit of a chef’s secret.”

Countries like Vietnam, Philippines and Malaysia are minting money from jackfruit, Shree Padree told Business Insider.  But ironically, the motherland of jackfruit (India) still hasn’t understood jackfruit’s importance.  Reportedly, up to 75% of jackfruit grown in India goes to waste, partly because it has a reputation for being a poor man’s fruit, Nyree Zerega said.

It’s not the kind of thing that many people would ever think of buying because it grows everywhere in certain parts of India.  Fortunately for the fruit, it has a growing number of fans advocating for it, trying to raise awareness for its nutritional value.

This certainly must be true.  I found this site from India: Jack “The Wonder” Fruit, so perhaps India is beginning to eye the potential of jackfruit.

Perhaps you haven’t heard of jackfruit yet, but it’s starting to appear on blogs and Pinterest (especially among vegan and vegetarian bloggers), so there seems to be a lot of excitement brewing over jackfruit.  I haven’t tasted it yet, but I’m eager to try it fresh (perhaps I’ll head to Chinatown here in Chicago) and check out some of the new prepared products. It sounds like there’s a good sustainability and nutrition story, and I love the versatility.

Maybe it will emerge as a popular new plant-based protein — riding the wave of mushrooms, beans and grains as meat substitutes or extenders.

Sounds great.  Let’s just curtail the talk of miracles.

 

Images: jackfruit on the tree by Sergey Yeliseev; jackfruit hoagie with peach bbq sauce by H.C., jackfruit taco by Cynthinee,  bbq jackfruit by Rambling Dream and jackfruit torta by Jacqueline,on flickr.

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