Jackfruit

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Jackfruit, Artocarpus heterophyllus

Family:  Moraceae  

Also known as: Jack Tree, Jack or Jakfruit

Ever had a Jackfruit Margarita?  They’re almost as good as those My Patty’s makes from Mangos!

Believed indigenous to the rain forests of the Western Ghats of India, the Jackfruit – called Yaka here in Mexico – is wonderfully delicious.

No lime sized fruit are the tree-borne monsters of the Artocarpus heterophyllus.   Similar to a Breadfruit (Artocarpus altilis), the Jackfruit is the largest tree-borne fruit in the world averaging ten to sixty pounds (4.5-27.3 kg), sometimes reaching upwards to 150 pounds!

It’s difficult to imagine the “final product” derived from the large, thick and rubbery skinned, somewhat watermelon shaped fruit, with its short, blunt spikes.  Its fruit skin color is green when immature, and greenish-yellow or brownish-yellow when ripe.  All parts of the Jackfruit tree – including the fruit – produce a whitish, unbelievably sticky, latex goo!  (One way to thwart this when striving to acquire the sweet pulp is to coat your hands with vegetable oil!)

The fruit’s interior consists of large edible, aromatic, crispy, soft bulbs of yellowish flesh that enclose smooth, oval, white to light-brown, seeds.  These are three quarters to one and one half inches (2.54-3.81 cm) long and one-half to three-quarters of an inch (1.27-1.91 cm) thick, numbering from 30 to 500 per fruit.

When fully ripe, the unopened Jackfruit may initially emit a somewhat strong and, to some, disagreeable odor said to smell like decayed onions.  Conversely, the pulp of the opened fruit smells – and tastes – similar to a combination of apple, banana, mango and pineapple!

With a straight trunk that branches out from its base, Jackfruit trees can grow up to eighty feet (24.38 meters).  When but three or four years old a young tree can begin producing fruit and may live a complete century, though its productivity will decline with age . . . Begrudgingly, I might relate to that!

Its fairly large leaves are a dark green, glossy and leathery.  On a mature tree they are oval shaped but are deeply lobed on young shoots.  Its flowers are on short, stout flowering twigs which emerge from the trunk and large branches.  It is a monoecious tree (having both male and female flowers on the same tree).  Its small male flowers are held by a thin pedicel (a stem that attaches a single flower to the inflorescence) while the female flowers are larger and the pedicel is quite thick. The time from flowering to fruit maturity ranges from five to six months.

Jackfruit trees are tolerant of mild to moderately windy conditions and believed to not be all that fond of salty conditions.  They should be planted in full sun and, as they can become quite large, away from other trees, buildings and structures, and power lines for optimal growth and fruit production.  They flourish in deep, rich and rather porous, well-draining soil.  While enjoying constant moisture they are incapable of sustaining wet roots – which will cause them to cease bearing fruit or even die.

After planting, following the beginning of new growth, apply one-quarter pound (113.40 grams) of fertilizer – like 6-6-6 with minor elements and 30% of the nitrogen from organic sources – per tree.  Repeat this application every six to eight weeks for the first year, then, gradually increase the amount as the trees grow.  Pruning to keep the Jackfruit at about 15 feet (4.57 meters) high will facilitate easier harvesting.

There are several wood boring insects that may attack its wounded limbs or dead wood. It is susceptible to various scales and mealybugs may attack stems and fruit.  Male flowers and fruit may be attacked by Rhizopus fruit rot and fruit by gray mold.  Trees are susceptible to root rot and several fungi can cause leaf spotting.

Should you wish to grow your own Jackfruit from a seed, such is not all that difficult.  But the first thing to remember is that the seeds have a short “shelf life” of only around one month.  So you’ll need to proceed with your project in a rather expeditious manner. Generally, germination takes three to eight weeks.  However, this can be sped up by soaking the seeds in water for 24 hours prior to planting.  Once your sprouted Jackfruit has four leaves it may be transplanted.  But – this word of caution – all Jackfruit trees have long and rather delicate taproots, even when young.  So, transplant with great care . . . . . and eat with greater relish!

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This moderately young specimen is a most prolific producer of the large, great tasting, fruits.

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Dave and I came upon this Jackfruit tree during one of our morning walks. When but three or four years they begin producing fruit and may live a complete century.

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Its thick, rubbery skinned fruit has short, blunt spikes and is green when immature, and greenish-yellow or brownish-yellow when ripe.