Here comes Jack!

It has taken more than six years for my jackfruit trees to bear fruits. I chanced upon the thumb-sized, dull green fruits which I saw hidden among the leaves. How many of them will actually become ‘fruits’ is anybody’s guess?
Jackfruits do not have many takers at my home. In fact, most are unanimous that detest it due to its strong fruity aroma, thanks to its fruity aroma.
I still remember Babu bringing jackfruits home: for he was fond of all kinds of fruits born as he was in Debipur, a small village in Howrah district of West Bengal, where he lived till his schooling and joined the then, Royal Indian Air Force. As is it in most villages in West Bengal it had all sorts of fruit bearing trees—from mangoes to jackfruits. When he retired as a ground engineer, he was considered among the best to handle the indigenously built, puny sized Gnat aircrafts, which served well during the Indo-Pak hostilities in 1965 and 1971. In fact, it was a fighter pilot flying a Gnat, from his squadron, who was posthumously awarded the IAF’s maiden Parma Vir Chakra.
jackfruitBabu introduced us to the world of the largest tree-borne fruit, kathal (jackfruit in Bangla), bringing it home when it appeared in the market. For us, all kathal were same but soon learnt that there were varieties like khaja kathal and moja kathal. The fruits, either eaten alone or along with rice, chappati, chira or muri. The seeds too were taken as delicacies, either boiled or roasted and eaten. Later in life I learnt of varikka and koozha from Kerala and bakke and imba from Karnataka.
Lately, jackfruit has been called a “miracle” food crop because it is easy to grow, survives pests and diseases and high temperatures. Additionally, it is drought-resistant. The meat equivalent for vegetarians, jackfruit’s high potassium content helps lower elevated blood pressure, flavonoids protect against cancer and anti-oxidants fight various other ailments, including anaemia.
Sri Lanka and Vietnam have established jackfruit industries, where the fruit is processed into products as diverse as flour, noodles, papad and ice cream. Jackfruit is also canned and sold as a vegetable for export. However, the same cannot be said about the fruit which originated from India. But that is likely to change, thanks to the efforts of James Joseph, a former director of Microsoft who has launched jackfruit365.com.
“Once you remove the water content of the jackfruit, its 1 kg weight can be reduced to crisp and dry chola pieces that weigh 180g and fit into a ziplock packet. At the point of use they can be re-hydrated and they swell to regular bulb size,” says James whom I came to know while interviewing him on his book, God’s Own Office.
Jackfruit365 operates from Aluva, where James is currently settled, and works with Amalgam, a company based in Wellington Island, to source, process, pack and supply its freeze-dried jackfruit. Visit the site to learn what you can make out jackfruit. Muffins, custard chunky kheer, payasam, spinach salad, kofta, quesadila ….the list is really long.
“When you eat jackfruit, only your tongue should know, really, not the whole world!” concludes James.

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