I had interviewed James Joseph when he published his book, God’s Own Office, sometime in 2014. We kept in touch as we had similar interests. His jackfruit initiative, jackfruit365.com, has been a path breaking feat focusing on the much-ignored fruit. Here he shares his journey which has resulted in invention of green jackfruit flour, a great boon for diabetics. Read on.
“James, you can’t expect rest of India to eat Kerala’s traditional jackfruit meal. Diabetes is a big problem for whole of India, and you must find a way to add green jackfruit to what people normally eat to make it diabetic friendly.” – Late Dr. APJ Kalam
Once I completed my research with Sydney University to scientifically explain the discovery with Fr. Thomas, my thoughts went back to Dr. Kalam’s ask mentioned above, when he invited me for a meeting at his house, in November 2014. By this time many diabetic patients, had started powdering the freeze dried jackfruit, and mix it with their idli and roti. The powder from freeze dried jackfruit had good binding and worked well with rice and wheat flour and patients could easily add one third portion, without any change in taste or texture. However, time and again, our customers raised their concerns about the product as somewhat expensive for daily consumption, even though the cost was still less than the savings they had on medicines. Any other form of drying wouldn´t have given us the same result with respect to binding and having positive impact on sugar levels.
The HERO ingredient!
Our tests, narrowed the reasons down, to one key nutrient which is retained intact through the expensive freeze drying process, and that was the soluble fibre! The concentration of soluble fibre reaches its peak in mature green jackfruit and gets converted to sugar as it ripens. The soluble fibre serves two great functions. It gives excellent binding for the flour, just like gluten in wheat flour and once inside your body it binds not only just sugar, it also binds cholesterol from getting absorbed into the body. This very ingredient turns into harmful sugar in two days as the green fruit ripens. This explains the ancient Sanskrit text one Ayurveda doctor shared with me during the discovery phase. “Panasam madhya pakvam Lavanadhiyuktham” which means, jackfruit is most nutrient rich when it is in mid-ripe stage. Our ancient scholars knew about this hero ingredient -soluble fibre, which is much less in the tender or ripe stages of a green jackfruit.
After several months of experiments, which took every ounce of engineering still left in me, we got two major breakthrough inventions! First we could develop a green jackfruit flour, which had much more soluble fibre than the powder, made from freeze dried slices. In fact it had more soluble fibre, than the much hyped Oats. It also had less available carbohydrate and sugar. So we had a better product at the nutritional level for our diabetic customers that also had better binding and taste!
Second breakthrough, was developing a continuous process machine, to peel and process jackfruit to flour in the shortest possible time while maintaining global hygiene standards. The labour intensive manual process of peeling and slicing jackfruit had two major problems. Very low productivity due to the size and sticky nature of the fruit and the challenge of finishing the job before the fruit turned ripe. I knew automation was the only way to ensure quality, quantity and to keep the flour economical for the larger diabetic population in India. My search for a machine took me to three Chinese manufacturers and five European manufacturers. The Chinese had a peeling solution for tender jackfruits which are much smaller; but they couldn’t handle bigger fruits. One European manufacturer from Italy agreed to try but came back with the response “it’s impossible!! It’s too big…it’s too sticky… and the stones (seeds) are all over the fruit, not in the middle like in all other fruits!!!” Finally I had no choice than to try and build one ourselves. After making several cross country trips carrying heavy jackfruits in a bag on trains, we finally cracked a continuous process machine which could process truckloads of jackfruits in a day! 25 years after leaving engineering college thanks to the humble jackfruit I now have two pending patents and the all-purpose green jackfruit flour which can make almost all Indian meals with Rice flour or Wheat flour diabetic friendly, is very much affordable for the wider population!
The solution Dr. Kalam had asked me to figure out is finally a reality. Jackfruit365™ Green Jackfruit Flour is being offered in partnership with Eastern Group. The easiest way to reduce your grains by half and double your greens in your plate, without changing what you eat in quantity or taste, for just 5 rupees per plate!