BANGALORE, India — At first glance, the jackfruit looks different than what many people are accustomed to seeing. Its big, bumpy green exterior peels away to reveal a fibrous yellow inside reeking of a distinct fragrance, like that of overripe fruit.
But beyond the strangeness of the fruit, its unique attributes could solve a number of problems in the developing world.
The fruit itself is massive, typically weighing between 10 to 15 pounds, with some farmers recording weights over 100 pounds.
The jackfruit has a multitude of nutritional benefits, with high levels of protein, potassium, calcium, iron and vitamin B. From its nutritional merits alone, the jackfruit is in many ways better than current crop staples such as rice and corn.
With reports from the World Bank and the United Nations pointing to climate change for the reduction in rice and corn yields, jackfruit could alleviate the effects of a shortage, perhaps even solve it. The jackfruit thrives in tropical to sub-tropical climates and can grow during droughts and floods. Once extensively grown in countries like India and Bangladesh, its popularity has declined over the years.
Despite its benefits, many farmers have an aversion to the fruit. It is disdained as the poor man’s fruit and most farmers would prefer to grow other crops than the jackfruit.
In consideration of its benefits, the University of Agricultural Sciences in Bangalore, India has devoted two days to increase production and marketing for jackfruit.
Nyree Zerega, director of the graduate program in plant biology and conservation at Northwestern University and the Chicago Botanical Garden, said that the underutilized crop requires little care once it’s established.
As a perennial plant, the jackfruit also does not require any replanting. However, it does take time for the plant to bear fruit. Once planted, the jackfruit takes five to seven years to provide fruit. After it reaches that point, the tree can provide 150 to 200 jackfruit annually.
The versatility of the jackfruit also cannot be ignored.
The seeds can be consumed, as well as both the young and mature variations of the fruit. The jackfruit is processed into a diverse number of products. In Sri Lanka and Vietnam, the jackfruit is processed in products ranging from flour to ice cream.
The wood from the tree is also valuable, used for a variety of purposes due to its high quality and rot-resistant features.
A report from the United Nations found that in places where the government is unprepared for the effects of climate change, the potential for famine, and eventually war, is high.
Turning to the jackfruit could help alleviate many of the pressures that a food shortage would bring. What is needed now is the increased awareness of the benefits such a crop could bring if it were to be produced at a greater level.