Jack of all Trades – Why Kerala loves its Jackfruit!

The tropical state of Kerala in South India hides a gem of a fruit within the backyards of its homes – The Jackfruit! This fresh delicacy is one the best options for vegans and vegetarians to try when visiting Kerala.

What’s so special about the Jackfruit? After all, it’s just a fruit right?

With Kerala being aptly named “God’s Own Country,” I’d like to think of the jackfruit as God’s own food – For the nutritional value of this large fruit equals its size! The richly fibrous jackfruit is high on carbohydrates, Vitamin A and potassium. It’s not very pricey or exclusive, and comes in various forms so that people from all walks of life can savor it.

The Jackfruit Tree – Mother of all fruits

Another reason why I hold the jackfruit in high regard is because it’s kind of like the mother of all fruits. The humble jackfruit tree produces many dozens of fully ripe fruits in its lifetime, each weighing anywhere from 3 to 35 kilos! All this with almost nil care! The jackfruit tree grows on its own with almost no special nutrients or pesticides needed. These organic fruit bounties are naturally resistant to heat, drought and disease.

What’s more, every element of the tree has its uses. In my hometown, my grandmother would feed the outer thorny cover of the fruit to cattle and the tree’s leaves to goats. The bark of the tree is used in house construction to reduce heat and battle heavy monsoon rain. Occasionally, it’s also reused to make windows and doors, and even furniture.

Every month we choose a country and send its vegan/vegetarian cuisine to your inbox

Delicious jackfruit recipes for the vegan palette


Let’s begin with global dishes. I’ve tasted a barbequed version of this fruit, and also the pulled smoked jackfruit. These are vegan alternatives for meat foods. Jackfruit absorbs all the flavours of its seasonings, making it an awesome addition to a main course. In Hispanic cuisine, jackfruit tacos are a huge hit. Also, these fruits are used in smoothies and frozen desserts.

In Kerala, jackfruit is served in combination with coconut and jaggery. I suggest tasting some of the curries that accompany boiled rice such as the jackfruit seed stir fry, breadfruit masala and another special coconut-milk based dish containing raw mango and this king fruit.

For those with sweet tooth, Jackfruit has many versatile items made from its flesh such as:

  • Jackfruit jam
  • Steamed jackfruit and jaggery cakes wrapped in bay leaves known as Kumbilappam
  • Fresh jackfruit ice cream
  • Jackfruit wine – a rare wine made in households in central Kerala

Another amazing dish to try is the chakka puzhukku, a mashed mélange of unripe jackfruit, green chillies, turmeric, curry leaves and grated coconut. This dish resembles mashed potatoes. It’s usually served with onion chutney for vegetarians and with spicy red fish curry for non-vegetarians.

One of Kerala’s most tasty snacks – the chakka varathathu – or sliced jackfruit fry is a sinful delight made from deep-fried tender pieces of the fruit with a bit of salt and turmeric.

Jackfruit in medicine

My respect for this tree grew abundantly after recently knowing that these tender fruits have a role in cancer prevention treatments in allopathic medicine. The leaves of the jackfruit tree forms part of many ayurvedic preparations.

Conclusion

To summarize, this fruit tree is a true hero in vegan cuisine and forms part of the overall healthy lifestyles of south Indians. So when you’re visiting Kerala, make sure your taste buds savour this abundant fruit in all its freshness and vigour at least once. However, be cautious and do not eat pre-cut fruits which are sold on the street to avoid any chances of getting sick. Looking for traditional vegan and vegetarian food from Kerala on the savoury side? Read my article on Kerala Sadhya. Let me know in the comments below, have you tried jackfruit before?

Tagged , , ,