JACKFRUIT is a very popular fruit in Bangladesh, though not appreciated by all alike. It is sweet, delicious, juicy and very tasty. Jackfruit with rice and milk is a great traditional delicacy in the summer. Because of its popularity, it has been named the national fruit of Bangladesh.
Known as the poor man's fruit, jackfruit is now considered as a miracle food of south and south-east Asia as it is likely to save millions of people from starvation when major staple crops like wheat, corn and rice would be under threat from climate change. According to the World Bank and the United Nations, rising temperatures and unpredictable rainfall have already reduced yields of major crops and could lead to food wars within decades. Now researchers say jackfruit could help provide a solution to the likely food crisis. Jackfruit is the largest tree-borne fruit, weighing from 10 lbs to over 100 lbs. “It's a miracle. It can provide so many nutrients and calories – everything,” said Shyamala Reddy, a researcher at the University of Agricultural Sciences in Bangalore. “If you just eat 10 or 12 bulbs of this fruit, you don't need food for another half a day.” The fruit is rich in energy, dietary fiber, minerals, and vitamins and free from saturated fats or cholesterol, making it a healthy summer fruit.
The versatility of the jackfruit and the tree is enormous. A jackfruit tree can live for 100 years and bear 100 to 250 pieces every year. Green jackfruits make delicious curries. The seeds of the fruit are extremely high in Vitamin B1 and B2 and have very high starch content though the iron and calcium contents are low. The seeds can be dried and preserved for later consumption. The timber of jackfruit is used for making excellent furniture, doors and windows. Goats relish the leaves of jackfruit trees while the leftover of the fruit is a treat for cows. The branches and dry leaves of the tree are used as firewood. As a matter of fact, no part of the fruit or the tree is wasted.
In view of the fruit's likely use as a supplement for staple crops, it is necessary to start large-scale cultivation of jackfruit, particularly on high grounds as the current varieties of the plant can't survive on wet soil. It is also necessary to conduct research to further improve its nutritional values, to increase the yield, to develop new varieties which can be resistant to flood and salinity and to find ways for preservation of the fruit for consumption throughout the year.
The writer is a former chief engineer of Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission.