A couple of years ago I did a post about the term “foodie.” What it meant to me, how other people see it, etc. I almost feel like it’s a bit archaic these days, as more and more people are becoming more and more exposed to different foods. I don’t really consider myself a foodie, just a food lover. And I believe that part of that relationship that I have with food centers on me being open to trying new things. So recently I decided it was time for me to delve into the wild world of jackfruit. I have heard so much about it, in particular that it is a common meat substitute for many vegans. So I wanted to share my experience this week for those of you who have never had it (or possibly even heard of it), and maybe hear from those of you who do eat it and your thoughts on it.
Because I don’t know anyone with a jack fruit tree in their backyard, and the prospect of hauling around – and then cleaning – a whole fresh jackfruit wasn’t terribly practical, I (sort of) copped out and got mine canned from the gang at Trader Joe’s. I sincerely did not know what to expect, as I have never even so much as smelled jackfruit, let alone tasted or cooked with it. For those of you who don’t know much about it, jackfruit is a tree fruit native to Southeast Asia, and is very common in cuisines of those countries. It is large and slightly spiked on the outside, and the fruit on the inside can be eaten slightly unripe and fully ripened. Every single part of the fruit can be used – the wood from jackfruit trees is highly prized – so it’s also environmentally sound. In Asian and Indian cuisines it is most often found in various curry dishes, but is consumed in other dishes as well.
I would like to say whether or not it lived up to my expectations, but I honestly didn’t know what to expect when I opened the can. At first blush it looks (and smells) a lot like artichoke hearts, a food that is in my Big 5 Favorites of all time, so I was definitely ready to give this stuff a try. Although I was still a bit confounded on how this was eventually going to translate into a product that would convince me I was eating meat. Since it was my first time around, I decided to keep the cooking simple; I broke the jackfruit up into smaller pieces – which, as a side note, did have the somewhat stringy appearance of pork or chicken. I then threw it into a pan and warmed it over medium heat for several minutes and seasoned it . I wanted to try it in its most basic form and in BBQ sauce, to try to get an impression of what other folks were experiencing. The fruit simply heated up and seasoned once again made me think of artichoke hearts: it had that slightly sharp taste and chewy texture that I love. It made me think I may want to try jackfruit on an antipasti plate or even a salad sometime. As for the addition of the BBQ sauce…well, I can see where some people would think it was a reasonable substitute for barbecued meat. But…as a person who eats meat fairly regularly, I’m not sold. It just wasn’t quite there for me, but I am willing to give it another chance in the future.
Jackfruit has plenty of other redeeming qualities. There is a laundry list of benefits to eating various part of the fruit in various incarnations. It promotes healthy skin, hair growth, a stable immune system and provides a natural energy boost. It is also high in protein and Vitamin A, which is crucial for healthy teeth, good vision and bone metabolism.
So for a first experience, I would call this a success. I won’t be stacking cans of jackfruit in my pantry, but I do plan on adding it into my diet here and there in the future. The pros far outweigh the cons for me, and if you haven’t experienced this “miracle” fruit – I hate using that term, but I’m not sure what else to call it – you should at least give it a chance. Do a little research, and then jump in with both feet. Have a great week!