Some years ago when I was in Malawi and asking myself many questions about hunger, nutrition, malnutrition and related health issues, I was looking for some great solutions about how to stop or decrease the existing problems in this area.
While I was on a plane I needed to find a way to kill some time and picked up an-flight magazine where I found an interesting article about a plant which “might possibly save the world from hunger”. It sounded ambitious and caught my attention. It was a story about a small farm holder who grows jackfruit, until then I had never heard about this fruit before in my life.
Jackfruit is very versatile and can be used raw or cooked. Raw, it is can be eaten by itself, in salads, or used in raw cakes. It can also be dried or baked in pies. With more savoury seasoning it can be used as an alternative for meat in dishes that are traditionally made with chicken or pork. The seeds can be roasted, boiled or ground and used as a flour.
Sounds like it could a superfood, but what do need to know about it?
Health benefits and surviving climate change
My first questions were; where does it grow, what conditions does it need and why should we eat it?
The answers were what I was looking for. Jackfruit trees grow in India, central and eastern Africa, southeast Asia, Philippines, Brazil, Florida and in some other areas, including Mexico. If you think about it carefully in many of those areas there are serious poverty, hunger and nutrition problems. Also nowadays you can buy the fruit in many more international multicultural cities like London. I am sure I didn’t see it in Lithuania yet, but I believe I saw it in an Indian shop in Lisbon.
According to people who look more closely at the benefits of foods from a scientific point of view, the jackfruit is pretty great. It is high in protein, this is very important for children as they are growing (they are not so high in carbs as corn or rice). It is rich in potassium, vitamins A, B and C. It’s also a good source of magnesium, manganese and copper. According some research that I found on PubMed (from 1991, 2011, 2016, they are not new, so why had I never heard about it?) the nutrients in jackfruit have positive impacts on the immune system, aid digestion, can help to prevent cancer, strengthen bones, lower cholesterol and more.
Another important factor about “the fruit that might save the world” is that it is easy to grow it. Now that human activity on this planet has brought us massive climate change and global warming we have started to struggle to have good harvests in many places because of high temperatures, droughts, extreme weather and other challenges the farmers are facing due to climate change. The jackfruit tree is great at surviving diseases and pests, it is drought resistant while having no struggles to grow in high temperatures. If you are vegetarian or vegan you might gently suggest that this can decrease the use of meat that contributes to CO2 emission.
The first time eating jackfruit
Now every week we go to the local market (mercado in Spanish) here in Tijuana and I noticed the huge jackfruits, but I thought we can’t just buy this big fruit, what would happen if we wouldn’t like the taste. After a couple times in the market I realised that people also sell it already cut in small amounts so we don’t need to buy a whole huge fruit. So that is exactly what we did!
We were excited to taste it, well I was for sure and John maybe just a little. As I had read about it before I was expecting a pineapple taste and assumed that we bought a ripe fruit because it was yellowish not green. After tasting I think the one we got was not fully ripe, so it was a sign to maybe try cooking it instead. Anyway I liked this strange pineapple candy with the seed inside 😀
After tasting the fruit I came up with the idea to experiment a bit, and make some healthy lunch with the products we had at home and to use the jackfruit as the star ingredient. I hope you will try it as well and will enjoy as we did 🙂
My recipe – Couscous with jackfruit
- 200gr Jackfruit
- 2 Ripe tomatoes
- 1 Onion
- 3 Cloves of garlic
- 1/2 Lemon
- 1/2 Small chili (whatever variety you like)
- 1 Bunch of coriander
- 2 Spring onions
- A small piece of ginger
- 1/2 Vegetable stock cube
- Salt and fresh black pepper
- Smoked paprika
- Oil (I recommend olive oil)
To start with I would recommend to chop everything you need and place in the separate ‘piles’. I chopped tomatoes into big cubes, onions into small. After it was the turn of the spring onions and coriander, just roughly. The garlic, chili and ginger I tried to chop as finely as possible.
The jackfruit pieces have seeds inside, so I took them carefully with the idea to roast them later. The yellowish part of the fruit I tore into more or less equal size pieces. As it was our first jackfruit dish I wanted to make sure we can feel the taste well so made sure the pieces won’t be too small.
After I got everything ready I started with the basics. I fried the onions in a hot pan with oil adding garlic, ginger, chili, salt, paprika powder and pepper. After the onion became brownish I added the jackfruit pieces.
After a couple of minutes I added the chopped tomatoes, and continued to cook it over a low heat. In total I fried it for around 20 minutes, adding warm water once in a while to stop it drying out (in total I used around 1 glass of water). When there was a couple of minutes left I squeezed in the lemon juice. In the very end it was time for the coriander.
While the jackfruit with all added ingredients were in the pan I started to prepare the couscous at the same time. Preparing couscous is very easy. Heat some water with vegetable stock until it starts to boil and then switch off the heat. Add some oil (a teaspoon), pour in the couscous, mix it with a spoon, cover with a lid and leave it for 10 minutes. This time I used 1 glass of couscous and a bit more than 1 glass of water. For some freshness I added the chopped spring onions.
I would say 35 minutes in total and you can serve it 🙂 You could mix the couscous with the jackfruit or serve the couscous on the plate with the jackfruit on top. John said it tasted a bit like Chinese sweet and sour, because of the pineappleiness of the jackfruit. I thought maybe I put too much chili, but we both loved it!
Roasted jackfruit seeds
The seeds of the jackfruit are edible too but shouldn’t be eaten raw, so you can boil or roast them. and I gave that a try as well. We don’t have an oven here, but I read that roasted jackfruit seeds taste like chestnuts and I truly love them, so I roasted the seeds in the pan. I kept a medium temperature and maybe did it for ten minutes. After I gave them a little time to cool down and peeled the skin off. John loves the smell, but not the seeds the same as with the chestnuts. I liked the smell and the taste. Next time will try to boil them. Some people make jackfruit seed hummus maybe we will give a try one day as well 🙂