You might be surprised to know that jackfruit – the national fruit of Bangladesh – is a fruit in high demand all over the world.
With the highest nutrition content and being the top in class for the exotic rich taste it offers, why would it not be?
With the discovery of a new variety of jackfruit treesthat bear fruits only in winter season, the government of Bangladesh has planned to plant the variety across the country to make the local fruits available round-the-year.
Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE) found the new variety in Rangamati a few years back and experimentally grafted more than 150 trees.
“As this fruit is not available in winter season, we are planning to produce jackfruit in the winter season,” SM Kamruzzaman, consultant of Year-Round Fruit Production for Nutrition Improvement project, told The Daily Star.
He also said apart from this, the DAE has already brought latex free jackfruit from Vietnam to produce jackfruit chips for commercial production.
“Our traditional variety is juicy and sticky. That’s why it is tough to go for commercial production. We are planning to use the traditional variety of jackfruit as vegetable,” he added.
Experts, however, said although not appreciated by all alike, export of juicy jackfruit is opening up new prospects for the growers.
The gigantic fruit is now exported to the UK, Italy, France, Greece, Germany and some other European countries and also in the Middle-East countries.
In 2013-14 fiscal year, a total of 835.072 tonnes of jackfruit was exported which rose to 1003.437 tonnes in 2017-18 fiscal year, according to Plant Quarantine Wing of DAE.
Apart from this, around 800 tonnes of jackfruit were exported to Europe alone last year.
“Now jackfruit is being exported as both fruit and vegetable. It has good potential in international market as vegetable as jackfruit sandwich is popular in the west. No other fruit is as nutritious as jackfruit. We are now planning for commercial marketing strategy of jackfruit,” Mehedi Masood, project director of Year-Round Fruit Production for Nutrition Improvement project, told The Daily Star.
Experts said because of its versatility, Bangladesh could earn more from jackfruit tree because of all the different products that can be made with its bark, fruit, natural latex, and more.
“Nothing goesto wastefrom jackfruit and no other crop in the world has such diverse utility,” Dr Md Abdul Mannan, professor of Agrotechnology Discipline at Khulna University, told The Daily Star.
Jackfruit trees are generally easier and cheaper to cultivate than other popular fruits because they need nurturing rarely.
Md Manzurul Hannan, managing director of Hortex Foundation, told The Daily Star that the export amount of jackfruit is negligible but it has a good prospect if jackfruit meat, popularly known as vegan meat, is exported.
“Different companies and Bangladesh Agriculture Research Institute are working on processing jackfruit meat. We hope that we will be able to export jackfruit meat soon as globally it has huge demand,” he said.
“This year we are expecting that more than 1,500 tonnes of jackfruit will be exported to UK, Italy, France, Greece, Germany and some other European countries,” Md Abul Kalam, deputy director of Central Packing House of DAE, told The Daily Star.
Reportedly, up to 50 per cent of jackfruits grown in Bangladesh goes to waste, partly because the fruit goes bad if it's not eaten or preserved within a few weeks.
Apart from food and timber, jackfruit has some other benefits including leaves of jackfruit trees is a source of food for goats and the trees produce a sticky latex substance that can be used as glue.
A ‘miracle’ crop?
Jackfruit is being hailed by experts as a “miracle” crop, that could save millions from starvation across the world, according to a report of the Business Insider.
Jackfruit is the largest tree-borne fruit in the world. One fruit can weigh between 10 and 100 pounds and contain hundreds of seeds that are rich in protein, potassium, calcium, and iron -- all of which are important for bodily growth, the report read.
A single jackfruit tree can grow up to 150 jackfruits over the two harvest seasons it typically has each year.
Inside a jackfruit, there are hundreds of the small, yellow, fruit lobes (or bulbs) — each of which contain a highly nutritious seed. The fruit itself is a good source of Vitamin C, while the seeds are rich in protein, potassium, calcium, and iron. About one-fifth of a pound of the fruit has approximately 95 calories, according to the Business Insider report.
“It’s a miracle. It can provide so many nutrients and calories - everything,” Shyamala Reddy, a biotechnology researcher at the University of Agriculture Sciences in Bangalore, India, told The Guardian, the Business Insider report quoted.
“If you just eat 10 or 12 bulbs of this fruit, you don’t need food for another half a day,” the researcher added.
“It has five raw materials in one. No other crop of the world will come near to the number of products and recipes that can be made from jackfruit,” Nyree Zerega, a plant biologist at the Chicago Botanic Garden who has studied the genetic diversity of jackfruit tress in Bangladesh, told Business Insider.
“In Bangladesh, where jackfruit is the national fruit, it is often considered the second-most important crop after mangos,”Zerega said.
“And if you have space to grow something, you almost always have a jackfruit tree — due to both its valuable fruits and timber.”
Poor man’s fruit
“Historically, jackfruit has a reputation for being a poor man’s fruit,” Zerega said. “It’s not the kind of thing that many people would ever think of buying because it grows everywhere in certain parts of India.”
Fortunately for the fruit, it has a growing number of fans advocating for it, trying to raise awareness for its nutritional value.
A jackfruit can either be eaten ripe, when it is soft, fruity, and delicious, or unripe, when it resembles a potato.
In Bangladesh and other parts of Southeast Asia, jackfruit is served in dozens of ways. Jackfruit curry, stir fry, juice, chips, ice cream, and even baking flour -- made from drying and grinding the seeds or fruit -- are just a few examples of the fruit’s remarkable versatility in the kitchen.
However, jackfruit does not keep for more than a few weeks after harvest, Zerega said, so a good way to preserve it (if you’re not going to make a jackfruit feast) is to store it in cans or dry it out into chips.
Besides food, the jackfruit tree provides some of the following:
-- The leaves from jackfruit trees can be a source of food for goats and other farm animals.
-- The bark has an orange colour, that was traditionally used as a dye.
-- The trees produce a sticky latex substance that can be used as glue.
-- Wood from the trees can be sold or used as timber.
One jackfruit tree could bring in more than half the average monthly income for an Indian worker, which is $295, according to the International Labor Organization.
Zeregaalso said that harvesting and processing jackfruit is currently very laborious with little mechanisation, and while farming and exporting jackfruit could grow to be a lucrative business in the future.
“A lot of underutilised crops like jackfruit have a ton of potential to produce food more locally and more sustainable, so there's not as much reliance on imports from other countries. This local market development is important to focus on,”Zerega told Business Insider. “But ultimately they can also provide countless opportunities as valuable export products.”
What’s more, jackfruit trees are generally easier and cheaper to cultivate than other popular staples like wheat and corn because they don’t have to be replanted every year, Zerega said.
“As long as it’s growing in a climate that is conducive to its survival ... jackfruit is relatively easy to maintain,” she added.