is a species of tree in the mulberry family, Moraceae. It is native to parts of South and Southeast Asia. The jackfruit grows well in the tropical lowlands. Its fruit is the largest tree borne fruit in the world, being seldom less than about 25 cm (10 in) in diameter. Even a relatively thin tree, around 10 cm (4 in) diameter, can bear large fruit. The fruits can reach 36 kg (80 lbs) in weight and up to 90 cm (36 in) long and 50 cm (20 in) in diameter. The jackfruit is something of an acquired taste, but it is very popular in many parts of the world. The sweet yellow flesh around the seeds is about 3 - 5 mm thick and has a taste similar to that of pineapple, but milder and less juicy.
The jackfruit is native to India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka. It is also possibly native to the Malay Peninsula, although it it may have been introduced there by humans. It is commercially grown and sold in South, Southeast Asia and northern Australia. It is also grown in parts of Hawaii, Brazil, Suriname, Madagascar, and in islands of the West Indies such as Jamaica and Trinidad. It is the national fruit of Bangladesh and Indonesia. Jackfruit plants are frost sensitive. The jackfruit bears fruit three years after planting. In areas where they are cultivated, jackfruit trees are a highly valuable resource, particularly for poor rural families. The tree bears fruit for over six months, yielding many fruits over the course of the season. The starchy fruit is a good substitute for rice, for which reason the tree is called "rice tree" by rural Sri Lankans.
The jackfruit has played a significant role in Indian agriculture for centuries. Archeological findings in India have revealed that jackfruit was cultivated in India 3000 to 6000 years ago. Findings also indicate that Indian Emperor Ashoka the Great (274 - 237 BC) encouraged arbori-horticulture of various fruits including jackfruit. Varahamihira, the Indian astronomer, mathematician, and astrologer, wrote a chapter on the treatment of trees in his Brhat Samhita. His treatise includes a specific reference on grafting to be performed on trees such as jackfruit.
The jackfruit is considered an invasive species in Brazil, specially in the Tijuca Forest National Park in Rio de Janeiro. The Tijuca forest is mostly an artificial secondary forest, whose planting began during the mid-nineteenth century, and jackfruit trees have been a part of the park's flora since its founding. Recently, the species expanded excessively, due to the fact that its fruits, once they had naturally fallen to the ground and opened, are eagerly eaten by small mammals such as the common marmoset and the coati. The seeds are dispersed by these animals, allowing the jackfruit to compete for space with native tree-species. Additionally, as the marmoset and coati also prey opportunistically on bird's eggs and nestlings, the supply of jackfruit as a ready source of food has allowed them to expand their populations, which has negatively impacted the local bird population. Between 2002 and 2007, 55,662 jackfruit saplings were destroyed in the Tijuca Forest area in a deliberate culling effort by the park's management.
Jackfruit is commonly used in South and Southeast Asian cuisines. It can be eaten unripe (young) or ripe, cooked or uncooked. The seeds may be boiled or baked like beans. The taste is similar to chestnuts. The leaves are used as a wrapping for steamed Idlis.
Forest & Kim Starr