By Noris Ledesma, Curator of Tropical Fruit
Jackfruit (Artocarpus heterophyllus) is a tropical tree native to western India. Cultivated in Florida for more than a century, it makes a handsome tree with the added benefit of a large (up to 70 pounds) tree-born fruit. When fully ripe, the unopened jackfruit has a strong sweet odor, and its ripe fleshy bulbs smell of sweet pineapple and banana. Inside the leathery exterior are starchy seeds surrounded by a sweet and aromatic flesh, with a distinctive flavor reminiscent of bananas and tutti-frutti.
Jackfruit trees are best planted when the temperatures are warm. A healthy grafted tree should be used in order to produce a healthy and productive tree. The planted tree should be thoroughly watered to remove air pockets, and won’t need supplemental irrigation after the tree is established. However, for those with a need to over-water, the jackfruit may be your answer, as it can withstand daily drenching with no ill effects.
Grafting Jackfruit: Please Click Here
Fertilizer: Soils should be as fertile as possible and will benefit from the addition of plant mulch to the soil surface. Such amendments improve water-holding capacity, nutrient retention and availability and soil structure. Wind, when associated with low humidity, is detrimental to the health of young trees. The tree is not tolerant of salt in the soil, water or air. Fertilization is best done by three applications per year in March, July and September of an 8-3-9.
Pruning: Jackfruit trees will form a stately, dense and rounded canopy with a minimum of input, but horticultural management is necessary to maintain a small, healthy and productive tree. With annual pruning the tree is easily maintained at a height and spread of 6 to 8 ft. Pruning should be done once per year following harvest of the major crop, or towards the end of the growing season.
What to plant: Today we enter a new era for the jackfruit in Florida. Superior cultivars are now available, modern propagation and growing techniques have been developed.
‘Black Gold’ Selected in Australia is a vigorous tree, with a dense and highly manageable canopy. The deep orange flesh is soft, with a strong, sweet flavor and aroma. The flesh is easily removed from the fruit compared with other cultivars.
‘Dang Rasimi’ was selected in Thailand and has a mild, sweet flavor and a sweet, pleasant aroma. ‘Dang Rasimi’ is one of the most vigorous jackfruit cultivars, and must be annually pruned to maintain size.
‘J-30' was selected in Malaysia. The tree is vigorous, forming an open, conical canopy. Fruit are uniform with a firm deep orange flesh. The flavor is rich and sweet with only a slight aroma to the flesh and fruit.
'Sweet Fairchild' was selected in Florida. Fruiting is heavy and consistent, averaging 90 kg or more per year. The fruit is about 8 kg with a light yellow flesh and mild, sweet flavor.
The fruit bulbs are used in soups, main dishes, desserts, milk drinks, ice cream and fruit salads. In India it is preserved by boiling with sugar syrup, butter and coconut milk. The jackfruit bulbs freeze well and they may be used at a later time like fresh fruit. The fresh bulbs are excellent dried or preserved in syrup.
Immature fruits can be cut into segments, boiled and eaten like a vegetable. The seeds are good boiled and roasted. Ripe fruit can be chilled or mixed in a fruit salad. This is one of the most versatile fruits. Used immature as a vegetable, stuffed or sautéed mixed with any kind of meat or fresh served as a fruit. Use your palate as a guide when being creative; here are 2 recipes to get you started with the largest fruit in the world.
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