Jackfruit (Artocarpus heterophyllus) is a unique tropical fruit with a distinct musky smell and deliciously sweet taste. Jackfruit can grow to enormous sizes with specimens measuring between 4 and 24 inches in length and 10 to 30 inches in diameter. Weighing between 10 and 100 pounds, it’s the largest tree-borne fruit in the world.
Jackfruit is widely grown throughout Asia and India but can thrive in any tropical location. It’s the national fruit of Bangladesh, where it is considered the second-most important crop after mangoes.
Jackfruit starts out green, turning light brown and spreading a strong fragrant, fruity scent once it ripens. The fruit is round or oblong-shaped, and has an outer surface covered with blunt thorn-like projections that soften as the fruit ripens. Inside each fruit are hundreds of small, succulent yellow lobes.
Jackfruit trees can bear as many as 250 fruits per season. Although still considered an exotic tropical fruit in the U.S., it has gained popularity among vegans and vegetarians as a meat substitute. After about an hour of cooking, unripened jackfruit starts to resemble the flavor and mouth-feel of pulled pork.
The video above demonstrates how to grow a jackfruit tree from the seed of a fruit. Keep in mind that being a tropical fruit tree, it cannot tolerate frost, cold weather or drought.
If you live in an area with a year-round humid, tropical climate, such as southern Florida, Mexico or Hawaii for example, you could grow it outdoors. If you’re above growth zone 10, you’ll need to grow your jackfruit tree indoors.1,2,3
Alternatively, you could grow it in a large pot kept outdoors in the summer and indoors in the winter. Unfortunately, a potted tree might never produce fruit, as the trees normally grow up to 70 to 80 feet in height when grown outdoors.
What’s more, it can take up to 14 years before the tree starts producing. Still, you could try it as a novelty, and who knows, if you’re both patient and lucky you could perhaps get some fruit.
Growing Jackfruit from Seed
To access the seed, cut the jackfruit open as shown in the video. The edible lobes are lined with fibrous material that you’ll want to remove (it’s safe to eat but doesn’t taste like much and is tough to chew as it’s very fibrous). Remove one of the lobes and crack it open with your fingers. Inside each lobe, you’ll find a large seed.
Once removed from the lobe, the seed will remain viable for up to a month. To plant the seed, simply place it in a starter pot filled with fast-draining potting soil, adding a thin layer of soil over top. To boost odds of germination, soak the seed in water overnight before planting. Keep the soil consistently moist but not too wet, as excessive wetness can kill the plant.
Place the pot in a sunny window or in a sunny spot outdoors. Jackfruit has no dormancy period, so it needs to be kept warm throughout the year. A weak fertilizer can be used weekly on seedlings and young plants.
Gardening Know How4 recommends fertilizing with an 8:4:2:1 mix of nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium and magnesium, adding 30 grams of the fertilizer at six months and then doubling that amount every six months until the tree is 2 years old. After that, they recommend applying 1 kilo (2.2 pounds) of fertilizer per tree, twice a year — before and after the wet season — at a ratio of 4:2:4:1.
Seeds will germinate in three to eight weeks. Ideally, use a slightly oversized pot right from the start to avoid early transplantation, as the plant has a delicate taproot that is easily damaged.
It’s safest to leave it undisturbed for the first year. In the second year, you can repot it into a container that is two sizes larger. If you do need to transplant early, the seedling should have no more than four leaves on it. After that, the long and delicate taproot will make it very risky to transplant.
Nutritional Benefits of Jackfruit
A hundred grams (3.5 ounces) of jackfruit contain 23.25 grams of carbs, 1.5 grams of which are fiber, and 95 calories, along with 110 IUs of vitamin A, 13.7 milligrams of vitamin C and 24 micrograms of folate. The fruit also contains several important minerals, including calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorous and potassium.5
It’s also a good source of flavonoid pigments such as beta-carotene, xanthin, lutein and beta-cryptoxanthin, offering antioxidant and vision support. A study6 published in the journal Plant Foods for Human Nutrition indicated the pulp of jackfruit is a natural source of antioxidants that protect cells from free radical damage and assist in repairing damaged molecules, like DNA.
Animal research7 published in 2015 found diets rich in jackfruit seeds resulted in higher levels of beneficial high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol and lower levels of the more harmful low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, very-low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) cholesterol and triglycerides.
According to the authors, “Artocarpus heterophyllus seeds could be beneficial to health because of its ability to increase plasma HDL and reduce plasma LDL, VLDL, cholesterol, triglycerides and atherogenic indices at higher diet concentration.”
Being a good source of potassium, jackfruit may also be beneficial if you’re struggling with high blood pressure, which is commonly the result of an imbalance between sodium and potassium intake, opposed to simply excessive amounts of salt.
Jackfruit also contains lignans and saponins, beneficial phytonutrients with anticancer properties. Lignans help block the effects of the hormone estrogen, which may decrease risk of hormone-associated cancers such as uterine, ovarian, breast and prostate cancer. Saponins, meanwhile, are known to optimize immune function and reduce risk of heart disease.8
Interestingly, jackfruit peel — considered an agricultural waste product — has been studied9 for its ability to remove the heavy metal cadmium, a known carcinogen that harms DNA and disrupts the DNA repair system.
Jackfruit — A Low-Glycemic Boon for Diabetics That Could Reduce Global Hunger
A study10 published in the Ceylon Medical Journal categorized jackfruit as a low-glycemic index fruit, which is attributed to its dietary fiber content. Jackfruit may even be used to fight high blood sugar level, according to a Sydney University Glycemic Index Research Service study commissioned by Jackfruit365.11
Results showed 30 grams of raw jackfruit had a glycemic load of 17 and “would be suitable for consumption in controlled amounts by people with diabetes … especially if used to replace higher glycemic load carbohydrate in a meal.”
Researchers also regard jackfruit as a “miracle” food crop that could be a replacement for staple crops that are under threat from climate change. It is very easy to grow and can survive high temperatures, pests and diseases.
According to Shyamala Reddy,12 a biotechnology researcher at the University of Agriculture Sciences in Bangalore, India, the jackfruit is rich in calories and nutrients and if a person eats 10 to 12 bulbs, he or she won’t need food for another 12 hours. For these reasons, he believes jackfruit could help save millions of people from hunger.
Try This Tasty Jackfruit Recipe
While jackfruit is a delicious treat eaten raw, you can also use it in your cooking. As mentioned, many vegans have started using it as a meat substitute. Here’s a simple recipe for jackfruit curry. Many other recipes, including recipes using the jackfruit seeds, and illustrated instructions for how to cut the fruit and remove the seeds can be found on The Fresh Market’s website.13
- 500 grams fresh jackfruit
- 2 medium tomatoes pureed
- 1 teaspoon virgin coconut oil
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon nigella seeds
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 dried red chili peppers
- 1 small onion (chopped)
- 1 inch ginger (chopped)
- 1 teaspoon coriander powder
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon Himalayan salt
- 1 to 1.5 cups of water
- Heat extra virgin coconut oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the cumin, nigella and mustard seeds and let them sizzle for about a minute. Add the bay leaves and red chili peppers, and then cook for several seconds. Add the onion, garlic and ginger, and just a pinch of Himalayan salt. Cook until translucent (five to six minutes) and remember to mix occasionally.
- Add the turmeric, coriander and black pepper, mixing well. Stir while adding the pureed tomato, jackfruit and the rest of the salt. Cover and cook for approximately 15 minutes.
- Uncover and cook for another few minutes to make the tomato puree thicker. The jackfruit can also be shredded.
- Add the water and then cover and cook for 15 minutes. Taste and adjust the flavor accordingly, then reduce the heat to medium low and cook for an extra 10 minutes or longer, until your desired consistency is achieved. Garnish with cilantro and serve.