Article from The Master Gardening Bench, Manatee County Master Gardener Newsletter
by John Dawson




Jackfruit


Jackfruit (Artocarpus heterophyllus) is native to parts of South and Southeast Asia, and is believed to have originated in the southwestern rain forests of India, where it has been an important food crop for over 6,000 years. It is the national fruit of Bangladesh. The name Jackfruit is derived from the Portuguese word for the fruit “Jaca” and was called “Jacks” by the early English colonizers. It is also a distant larger relative of the Breadfruit.

The unripe fruit (inedible unless processed), fruit pulp and seeds (boiled or roasted) are all used in various recipes. To me, the fruit pulp reminds me of the aroma and flavor of “Juicy Fruit” gum, which is a melding of peach, banana, cantaloupe and pineapple flavors. The skin of unripe jack fruit must be peeled first and discarded, then the whole fruit can be chopped and cooked (sometimes with coconut milk) to be eaten. When unripe (green), it is remarkably similar in texture to chicken, making jackfruit an excellent vegetarian substitute for poultry and has been referred to and can be found in cans as “vegetable meat”. It is also boiled and used in curries. Roasted seeds are supposed to taste somewhat like chestnuts.

The tree if left unpruned, can reach a height of up to 40 feet. The homeowner can maintain a jackfruit tree at fifteen feet by judicious pruning after fruiting, which usually occurs in spring/summer. Jackfruit develops massive fruits from the trunk and lower branches (truly awesome, you have to see one attached to a tree to believe how big they really get). Because the flowers and fruits develop directly from the trunk they are termed cauliflorous. Since individual jackfruits are composed of many ripened ovaries from many densely-packed female flowers, they are technically referred to as multiple fruits (think pineapple).

Jackfruit is the largest tree-borne fruit in the world, reaching 80 pounds in weight and up to 36 inches long and 20 inches in diameter. The exterior of the compound fruit is very bumpy and is light green or slightly yellow when ripe. The interior consists of large edible pods of yellow, fruity-flavored flesh that encloses a smooth, oval, light-brown seed. The seeds are 3/4 to 1.5 inches long and 1/2 to 3/4 inches thick. There can be as many as 100 to 500 seeds in a single fruit, which are viable for no more than three or four days (so plant quickly).

When fully ripe, the unopened jackfruit emits a strong disagreeable odor, resembling that of decaying onions, while the pulp of the opened fruit smells of “Juicy Fruit” gum.

Jackfruit trees in the home garden require full sun about 25 feet away from other trees and structures and in an area that does not flood after heavy rains. The tree when acclimated, will withstand occasional freezes; however, leaves may be damaged at 32°F , young branches at 30°F, and young  trees may be killed at 28°F (>6 hrs).

Jackfruit may be propagated by seed, grafting, and cuttings. Jackfruit from seed may begin fruit production in the 3rd to 4th year. If you want to try growing from seed, remove all of the pulp, collect the seed and plant to a depth covering ½ to ¾ inch of soil. Plant seedlings when they attain heights of 2 to 4 ft.

The best time to plant these seedlings is in late spring or early summer, early in the rainy season. Dig a hole 3 to 4 times the diameter and 3 times as deep as your pot. Backfill the hole with some of the soil removed to make the hole. Remove the tree from the container and place it in the hole so that the top of the soil media in the container is slightly above the surrounding soil level. Fill soil in around the tree roots and tamp slightly to remove all air pockets. Water the soil around the tree roots and apply mulch keeping at least 10 inches from the trunk. Do not fertilize at planting.

See “Jackfruit Growing in the Florida Home Landscape” (http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/mg370) for more detailed information regarding the care of your tree. There are many “You Tube” videos showing how to prepare Jackfruit and Googling “Jackfruit Recipes” will yield hundreds of recipes.



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Bibliography

Dawson, John. "Jackfruit." www.manatee.ifas.ufl.edu. The Manatee County Master Gardener Newsletter. Aug. 2012, Volume 11, Issue 8. Accessed 1 July 2017.

Published 1 July 2017 LR
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