Jackfruit: Artocarpus heterophyllus
One of our favorite species we grow here in Florida, is the Jackfruit. Originating in India, this versatile fruit tree is now distributed throughout the tropics and has been grown in Florida for over one hundred years. Just twenty years ago jackfruits were and extreme rarity in Florida markets and fruit stands.
Thanks to the rapid growth of the tree, unique taste, and high market price, the fruit is now regularly found at Asian markets, tropical fruit stands, and other fine produce vendors. Jackfruits can not tolerate heavy frost, so their growth is limited to coastal Florida and protected locations. A healthy specimen can grow between four and six feet annually, although trees can be maintained at 15 feet in height. The trees seem to thrive in fertile, deep, well drained soil, but can also grow in Florida sand, and lime rock with supplemental water and nutrients.
The jackfruit is truly a “Jack” of all trades, with many culinary and craft uses. The young leaves, flowers, and immature fruit can be cooked and eaten. The halfway mature fruit can be peeled, diced, and slow cooked, resulting in a very convincing “pulled pork” substitute. The mature fruit is extremely sweet and aromatic, with flavors resembling banana, pineapple, mango, and bubblegum. The large seeds are also edible when cooked, and taste similar to chestnuts. The latex-like sap has been used as a glue for craft and construction, as well as and adhesive for bug, rat, and bird traps. The hard, durable wood of the jackfruit has a nice light yellow hue, and is highly prized for the construction of instruments, decorative carvings, and furniture. Late summer is prime jackfruit season here in Florida, go out and try some. You don't want to miss out on this culinary adventure.