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Have You Tried the Fruit With the Meaty Texture?

Bet you don't know jack about jackfruit? Well, you're not alone. But that's going to change soon, as more cooks embrace the meaty texture of this funny-looking fruit. For many years, jackfruit has been available in canned form, a staple of some Indian curry dishes. But now it's starting to show up on restaurant menus and in pre-flavored, ready-to-eat packages in specialty supermarkets with slick packaging designed to speak to hipsters. Here's the 411 on the world's largest tree fruit.

What's Jackfruit Look Like?

Picture a watermelon that broke out in hives. Jackfruit's exterior is drab green, covered in close-packed knobby bumps. Jackfruit can grow up to 80 pounds, but is typically harvested at 15 to 30 pounds.

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Jackfruit on a tree in Thailand. Photo by Bigstock.

What's It Smell and Taste Like?

Ripe jackfruit is intense, with an aroma that's been compared to Juicy Fruit gum. Unripened jackfruit is more mild and starchy, making it a great candidate to be marinated and then braised.
Jackfruit can be eaten ripe, like a traditional fruit. Or, as is becoming popular, it can be served unripe in savory dishes, much like you would pulled pork or shredded chicken. The ripe fruit is custardy and soft, with a mild mango flavor. Under-ripe jackfruit takes on the flavors around it.

BBQ Jackfruit Sandwich. Photo by Bigstock

I bought a fresh one. Now what?

First, lube up. For real. Jackfruit is covered in sticky resin, so you'll want to coat your hands in cooking oil for easier clean-up. Use a sharp knife to remove the fruit's core and free the edible jackfruit pods. Trim away the fibrous strands around each pod. Slit the pod lengthwise to remove the pit. The flesh is now ready to use in recipes like a low-carb Jackfruit Pancake.

Fresh Jackfruit

Photo by Bigstock

Cooking with Jackfruit 101

The easiest way to start cooking with jackfruit is to buy a package of the ready-to-eat stuff, like those made by Upton's Naturals or The Jackfruit Company. It's perfect for quick meals. Simply heat and eat. Pop curry-flavored jackfruit over rice. Tuck barbecue jackfruit between the halves of a soft bun and top it with coleslaw. Upton's Chili Lime Carnitas Jackfruit is perfect for taco night.

Once you're more confident with jackfruit, seek out the canned, water-packed variety and mix it with your favorite seasonings and sauces for pulled "pork,"jackfruit curry and more.

Pro tip: Jackfruit is high in potassium, calcium and iron. But it only has about 2 grams of protein per half-cup serving. Pair it with beans or another high-protein food for a meal that's a nutritional juggernaut.

Looking for jackfruit recipes? Try these:

Jackfruit Pulled Pork

Myanmar Chicken and Jackfruit Curry

Jackfruit Shawarma

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About Heather Lalley

Heather Lalley is a Chicago-based food writer and mother of two. She has degrees in journalism and baking & pastry, and is the author of "The Chicago Homegrown Cookbook," a farm-to-table book about Chicago chefs who work closely with local farmers. She's a vegetarian, so she won't steal your hamburger -- but you'd better watch your fries and tater tots. Follow her on Twitter @flourgrrrl.