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Jack fruit: A fruit, a vegetable and everything

Mon, Jan 26, 2015, 12:43 PM
Thiruvananthapuram, Jan 26, 2015: The one thing that anyone travelling across Kerala just cannot miss is the jack fruit tree as it is tall and well spread. On most occasions, one can see the greenish-yellow jackfruit hanging in adequate numbers - not surprising as this is by far the largest tree-borne fruit.

Over the years this fruit still maintains its status as one that is affordable to all and can be consumed raw or ripe.

Each jackfruit weighs from three to 30 kilograms.

Believed to have originated in the country's southwestern rain forests,the word jackfruit comes from Portuguese jaca, which in turn, is derived from the Malayalam word chakka.

In common parlance, chakka is often referred to as the pre-ripe form and the fragrance of the fleshy jackfruit is first noticed by squirrels and the birds. The ripe form is called chakka pazham.

In Kerala the two most commonly found variety are 'koozha', which is not much in demand as 'varikka' which of late has become a much sought after one.

Molly Thomas, an 80-year-old grandmother from Thiruvalla, said this is one food item that was once the succour of many people, especially the labour class.

"I remember that when work was difficult to come by during the rainy season, my father-in-law used to allow the the labour class to cut the near-ripe jackfruit. The mashed jackfruit, prepared with grated coconut and spices, is not only mouth-watering but also quite a filling meal. Also, the tasty chips prepared from jackfruit is a hit among one and all," Thomas told IANS.

The process of weaning out the pieces after cutting open the jackfruit is a laborious one and is very messy because of the sticky white fluid that oozes out, but for experienced people, it's child's play.

The seed or 'chola' inside each fleshy piece is also used for making excellent dishes. One of the most popular ones is when it's mixed with raw mango and coconut paste and for a curry called 'chakkakuru manga' that is eaten with steaming rice.

Today, the koozha variety is not much in demand and householders find it difficult to dispose it off because after it ripens and falls, it's a big messy affair with lots of flies and birds feeding on it. The varikka variety of a jackfruit is available at a fancy price of Rs.150 upwards.

Countries like Thailand, the Philippines and Sri Lanka have taken the jackfruit to the next level by coming with value-added products.

And last but not the least, while the outer thick skin of the jackfruit is a much sought after feed for cattle, the leaves of the jackfruit tree are equally in demand by goat farmers.
Agency: IANS
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