Artocarpus heterophyllus, or jackfruit, goes by many names including jak, jaca, nangka, khanun, khnor, maki mi, may mi, and mit to name a few. Although its exact origin is unknown, the fruit is likely indigenous to the Western Ghats of India and was one of the first cultivated fruits. More broadly, jackfruit has historically been a staple food in India, Myanmar, China, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, and the Philippines.
One of the world’s largest fruits, jackfruit typically weighs about 35 pounds although the fruit can grow much larger—with one weighing 144 pounds recorded in India. The fruit rind and core are inedible, but the flesh cooked or served fresh is a staple food for many in Southeastern Asia.
Ripened jackfruit has a strong odor, often described in colorful terms such as a mix of banana and stinky cheese or even sweaty socks. If consumed ripe, it is recommended to prepare the fruit outside or to immediately dispose of rinds due to the strong smell. Nearly all parts of the jackfruit tree can be used, including the trunk, leaves, fruit, and seeds. Although the fruit can be consumed fresh, both ripe and unripe, it is often cooked, canned, or processed into ice cream, jam, jellies, or pastes among other things. Jackfruit is also considered a meat substitute due to its high nutritional value and meat-like texture when cooked.
References: Purdue University Extension, University of Florida IFAS Extension, University of Hawaii College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources.
TYPES, VARIETIES & CUTS
A wide variety of species and cultivars of jackfruit are grown across Asia, Southeast Asia, the Pacific, Africa, and the United States. Since jackfruit is relatively new to the U.S. market, there is still uncertainty about optimal varieties.
Generally, jackfruit come in two types: firm or soft. Varieties recommended in the United States include Black Gold, Dang Rasimi, Golden Nugget, Honey Gold, Kun Wi Chan, Lemon Gold, and NS1. Most have been developed overseas in Australia or Malaysia.
Jackfruit’s outer skin, made up of hexagonal, conical apices, becomes greenish yellow to brownish yellow when ripe. The flesh or pulp can range in color from amber to dark yellow or orange. Jackfruit is a compound fruit that contains between 100 and 500 seeds ranging in size from three-quarters of an inch and 1.5 inches in diameter. The seeds can also be cooked and eaten, with a taste similar to chestnuts. When the tree or fruit is cut or damaged, it will ooze a very sticky, white, rubbery latex that can be used as a glue or paste.
References: University of California, University of Florida/IFAS Extension, University of Hawaii CTHAR.
PESTS & DISEASE
As jackfruit has limited commercial production in the United States, research into pests and diseases is ongoing.
Longicorn beetles when in the larval stage destroy plant stems often leading to reduced yields. Larva from the oriental jackfruit fly can seriously affect trees and fruit, but covering the fruit in protective bags while developing can help protect fruit and control infestations.
Jackfruit is vulnerable to many boring insects such as the spined oak borer, shoot borer, as well as other pests including bud weevils, spittle bugs, mealybugs, scales, thrips, and aphids. Mammals, too, often feed on and destroy jackfruit, especially civet cats and wild boars in some regions.
Jackfruit trees are at risk of root rot if soil is overly moist for long periods, especially during flooding. Pink rot can be identified by whitish spots developing on branches, eventually expanding to encircle the branch and turning a salmon pink color. Stem, fruit, and male inflorescence rot can be destructive to production. These soft rots attack the tree and young fruit preventing maturity and limiting yields at harvest.
Leafspot can be caused by a number of different fungi and appears as darkened lesions on a leaf’s surface. Other diseases that can disrupt growing and maturity include grey blight, charcoal rot, collar rot, and various types of rust.
References: Purdue University Extension, University of California, University of Florida/IFAS Extension, University of Hawaii.