Jackfruit is both the name of the fruit and of the tree, it grows on. Jackfruit grows on both the branches and trunks of trees that can reach up to 20 meters tall. Jackfruit begins as small, flowering pods on the end of straight green stalks.
As they mature and enlarge, the flowers fall away revealing hundreds of small, hard, cone-shaped protrusions. At full maturity, Jackfruit can measure up to 80 centimeters long and 50 centimeters wide and can weigh anywhere from 10 to 50 pounds. The rind of a Jackfruit will change color from bright green to a dull yellow as it ripens and it may develop dark patches. Fully ripe Jackfruit will fall from the tree, so it is often harvested early to avoid having the large fruits fall on top of anyone. Inside of the fruit, just beneath the rind are the bright yellow bulbs that make up the edible portion of the Jackfruit.
A pithy core runs down the length of the fruit and connects the bulbs to the rind. The fleshy bulbs are 5 to 7 centimeters long and triangular. Young Jackfruit has a crisp, crunchy texture whereas more mature fruit may be firm or much softer and almost custard-like, depending on the variety. Anywhere from 100 to 500 edible, brown seeds are housed within the fruit. The one-inch seeds are covered by a thin white membrane, which can be removed if preparing the seeds for roasting. The aroma of a mature Jackfruit has been described as off-putting, similar to overripe fruit. Younger fruit has a sweeter aroma. Jackfruit has a sweet taste and a flavor that is likened to bananas, pineapple and even bubblegum. As the fruit matures, the bulbs become a darker orange-yellow and the taste gets sweeter.
Jackfruits are cut in half lengthwise, exposing the soft pulp surrounding the seeds. Using coconut oil on the knife and hands can prevent them from being coated in the latex present in the rind and pith. Using a long knife, cut from the stem lengthwise, horizontally, much like a watermelon. Once the Jackfruit has been halved, the bulbs can be removed and deseed. The Jackfruit bulbs can be eaten fresh, frozen, cooked, or pureed.
Younger Jackfruit is added to curries and can be roasted or baked and eaten as a vegetable. It is often shredded and used as a meat substitute. Riper Jackfruit bulbs are added to salads. Make jam or ice cream from pureed bulbs.
Boiling Jackfruit bulbs in milk and then straining off the liquid will result in a custard-like consistency once it has cooled. Jackfruit can be dried and then fried in oil, salted, and eaten like potato chips.
Jackfruit seeds can be roasted and eaten like chestnuts or dried and ground into flour. Jackfruit does not keep well once it is ripe. Unused portions of prepared fruit can be refrigerated for a few days or frozen for a few weeks.