Jackfruit is enormous and prickly on the outside. It looks somewhat like durian, though jackfruit can be even larger. It grows in Thailand and other tropical regions of Asia and can be purchased at Asian food markets throughout North America.
Ripe jackfruit can be eaten fresh or used - as they do in Thailand - in desserts such as ice cream. But it's the unripe, green jackfruit that's the most interesting and useful.
It has a texture very similar to chicken or pulled pork, which makes it an excellent 'vegetarian meat' for curries, salads, and noodles.
You can either buy fresh jackfruit or purchase it canned (see 'Buying Prepared Jackfruit' below).
Preparing Fresh Jackfruit
Preparing a green jackfruit takes a little doing, but what you get in return is a lot of food! The extras can be frozen for future use, just like you would with extra fresh meat.
How to Prepare Green Jackfruit
1. Lay down newspaper over a wide working surface. Jackfruit contains natural latex, so if you have a latex allergy, wear gloves (note that natural latex is different than the processed one, which is usually what people are allergic to). If working bare-handed, slather some oil over your hands so they don't get too sticky, and do the same with a sharp serrated knife.
2. Slice the jackfruit into 2 halves. Now keep on slicing until you have large chunks of fruit (leaving the skin on) which can be boiled or put in a pressure cooker.
3. Boil the jackfruit chunks 45 minutes, or until inner flesh is soft and a bit stringy, like chicken If you have a pressure cooker, 10 minutes is usually enough. Any seeds that fall out can be discarded or composted.
4. When jackfruit is cooked, peel off the skin. You will see seeds - these will be tossed - and pods surrounding the seeds.The seed pods can be eaten, as well as the stringy fleshy sections between pods and skin - this is the best!
Dig all this out and cook with it, or bag it and freeze for future use.
5. Use your jackfruit to make vegetarian curry, like Thai Vegetarian Green Curry (add jackfruit instead of tofu), or Vegetarian Thai Yellow Curry (add jackfruit instead of chickpeas). Or add it to Thai salads or Western-type salads, wherever chicken would be used. Here are a great recipe and instructions for making vegetarian pulled pork: 'Vegetarian Pulled Pork Sandwiches' (not my recipe, but a great one, includes more pictures of jackfruit). It can also be added to stir-fries - let your imagination be your guide!
Buying Prepared Jackfruit
Jackfruit can also be purchased canned, either in brine (this is the best one) or in syrup (ripe and sweet and not very useful). If making a curry, you will want to make sure you're buying the one in brine or water as opposed to the one in syrup.
Nutrition Facts: raw fruit jackfruit contains protein and lots of vitamins A, C, calcium, and iron. The canned variety has less than the fresh, which is always the case with any vegetable or fruit.