Jackfruit, (Artocarpus heterophyllus), which in Swahili is known as fenesi, is one of the most important trees grown on home gardens.
The tree is usually medium-sized and is easily recognisable, courtesy of its huge fruits. It grows well in soil that is well drained but moist.
It gives higher yields than most tree species and bears the largest known edible fruit, which can weigh up to 35kg.
A full mature jackfruit can have a length of about 91cm and width of 50cm. The fruit has a green exterior rind that is composed of apices or spikes that cover a whitish wall.
The jackfruit has a distinctive, sweet and fruity aroma. There are two varieties; soft flesh and firm flesh. They are a dietary source of potassium, iron, magnesium and calcium.
The bulbs of jackfruit contain simple sugars (fructose and sucrose) that constitute about 19.8 grammes per 100 grammes of edible jackfruit bulbs and in total provide 95 calories. They are, therefore, a good source of energy for human beings.
The fruit is rich in dietary fibre, which is important for good digestive health and promotes regular bowel movements.
It also contains vitamin A, which is useful for maintaining integrity of mucosa and skin. The low glycemic index of the jackfruit promotes better blood sugar control.
Jackfruit is commonly propagated by sowing seeds; an easy, cost-effective and suitable method of cultivation. The seeds may be selected from a well-grown and ripened fruit. Germination can be improved by soaking the seeds in water for 24 hours.
Complete germination is achieved within 35-40 days. Alternatively, seedlings can be raised in pots and after one or two years, planted in the field.
The fruits will mature in about three to eight months after flowering. Maturity is gauged using the following indicators:
The skin turns from light green to yellowish green, the apices or spikes grow further apart and become slightly flattened, the last leaf on the stalk turns yellow and the fruit produces a dull, hollow sound when tapped. Two or more of these indicators are used to evaluate the maturity of the jackfruit.
Harvesting is done by cutting using a sickle or by climbing the tree, cutting the stalk of the fruit and carefully lowering it to the ground with a rope.
Three to seven days after harvesting, the mature fruit ripens and begins to emit a strong, fruity, characteristic fragrance. A ripe jackfruit can stay fresh for about three to 10 days.
SCALE UP ITS CULTIVATION
The jackfruit tree has several uses. On gardens at home, the dense jackfruit canopy is ornamental. It is also a source of timber that is durable, ages to a reddish brown colour and is reported to have anti-termite properties. The branches and trunk are burned for fuel.
The leaves and fruit waste are used as feeds for pigs, goats and cattle. Small ruminants eat the leaves while cattle and pigs eat the fruit. The waste after removing the pulp from fruits is good fodder for cattle and pigs.
Jackfruit is eaten fresh or preserved in various ways. It has several culinary uses. The unripe fruit is used in curry and the dried seeds are used as an ingredient too.
The seeds are also milled into a flour that is used in various dishes but mainly in bread dough and for other baked products.
The fruits can also be boiled or roasted and eaten like nuts. The fruit is sliced or diced and mixed with others to make salad.
It can also be cooked in coconut milk and eaten with rice or as a snack. Jackfruit is not the only part of the tree that is used as food and for food additives.
The tender young leaves are cooked and eaten as a vegetable. The mature leaves are used to wrap food while cooking; particularly when steaming.
The pulp of the young fruit is cooked, forming a starchy food with thick consistency, a staple among some Asian communities. The young fruit is also pickled and canned in brine or curry.
The ripe fruit is used to make jam, jelly and chutney. This is one of the ways the fruit can be preserved when there is a bumper harvest.
The fruit can also be dried for use when the fresh ones are not available. When mixed with sugar or honey, the fleshy part of the fruit can be used to make candy.
The fruit pulp can flavour ice cream, yoghurt and other drinks. Like other canned fruits and vegetables, jackfruit can also be canned for use in areas where the tree is not grown. Fermented fruit produces good wine.
There is tannin in the bark of the jackfruit tree. When boiled with alum, wood chips, or sawdust, the bark yields dye.
When cutting into a jackfruit, a very sticky latex is produced by the rind and fibrous parts of the fruit. The latex can be used in food industries such as those that produce chewing gum.
Considering the availability and accessibility of the jackfruit on home gardens, farmers can scale up its production. The crop is already suited to the household and farming systems of small farmers who can improve their livelihoods by producing the various products for both use and sale.
The many benefits of the super fruit
The fruit replenishes energy. A 100g serving of the jackfruit contains 94 Kcal and is loaded with good carbohydrates.
The fruit regulates blood pressure and ensures better cardiovascular health.
It improves digestion and bowel movement.
It helps prevent cancer and enhances vision.