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Jack of all fruits

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A SPLENDID SIGHT A jackfruit tree laden with fruits
A SPLENDID SIGHT A jackfruit tree laden with fruits

Sweet jackfruit stew anyone?

It has an ugly exterior but is unbelievably sweet inside. It has seeds that are round or oval. Jackfruit grows firmly on the branches, the trunk and the roots of the tree and is cultivated at low elevations in South East Asian countries In South India, jackfruit is a popular food, ranked next to mango and banana in total annual production, whereas in Ceylon, it is planted mainly for timber. The tree is stately, 30 to 70 feet tall, with green, alternate, glossy and somewhat leathery leaves up to 9 inches long. All parts contain sticky, white latex. Short, stout flowering twigs emerge from the trunk and large branches or even from the soil-covered base of old trees. Largest of all tree-borne fruits, jackfruit may be 8 inches to 3 feet long and 6 to 20 inches wide, weighing about 20 to 45 kg. The rind or exterior is green or yellow when ripe and has numerous hard, cone-like tips attached to a thick and rubbery, pale yellow or whitish wall. The interior consists of large `bulbs' of yellow flesh, huddled among narrow ribbons of thin, tough undeveloped perianths and a pithy core. Each bulb encloses a smooth, oval, light brown seed covered with a thin white membrane. There are 100 to 500 seeds in a single jackfruit. A fully ripened fruit gives out a strong odour. In South India, jackfruits are mainly classified into two types - koozha chakka (which has small, fibrous, soft, mushy, but sweet carpels) and koozha pazham (which has crisp capers called varika).

Medicinal use

Jackfruit has many medicinal uses. The root is a remedy for skin diseases and asthma; its extract is used to treat fever and diarrhoea. The bark is used as a poultice. The wood has a sedative property. The jackfruit pulp and the seeds are considered a tonic by the Chinese. It also helps one get over the influence of alcohol. The starch from the seeds is used to relieve biliousness and the roasted seeds are said to be an aphrodisiac. The burnt residue of jackfruit leaves mixed with burnt corn and coconut shells is used to heal ulcers. It is a good source of vitamin B1 and B2.

Cuisine

For cooking, the raw fruit is cut into large chunks. Here the only handicap is the gummy latex which will get stuck on the knife and the hands unless they are rubbed with oil. The chunks are boiled in salted turmeric water until tender. Then the delicious flesh is cut from the rind and served as a vegetable along with the seeds. The flesh of the unripe fruit can be canned in brine, sun-dried and stored for years. The tender ones can be pickled with or without spices. The ripe jackfruit pulp can be made into ice-cream, chutney, jams and jelly. The seeds are eaten, boiled or roasted. The dried flour of the seed is used in making bread. Now for a recipe. Gudeg Jogja(Sweet jackfruit stew)IngredientsShallots: 15gm
Cashew nuts: 50gm
Garlic: 10gm
Thai ginger: 10gm
Raw jackfruit: 250gm
Chicken (small pieces): 1kg
Bay leaves: 5gm
Coriander seeds: 15gm
Cumin: 10gm
Coconut milk: 500ml
Tamarind: 50gm
Salt: a pinch
Sugar: 50gm
Water as required
Refined oil: 75mlMethod: Trim and cut the jackfruit into 1-inch thick pieces. Boil till it becomes soft. Ground the cashew nuts, shallots, cumin and coriander. Heat oil in a non-stick pan, sauté the paste, add bay leaves and Thai ginger. Then add the chicken. Stir-fry till the chicken becomes tender, add some water, sugar and salt and bring to a boil. Add the jackfruit and coconut milk and bring to a boil. Garnish and serve hot with rice.HRUDANANDA BEHERA

(Sous Chef, Hip Asia, Taj Connemara)

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