Even if you consider yourself a fruit connoisseur, it’s still possible that you don’t know jack – fruit, that is.
Though increasingly popular nowadays, jackfruits have always maintained an enigmatic air about them, with their mystery only deepened by the fruit’s simultaneous appearance on dessert menus and under the term “vegetable meat.”
But don’t worry, it’s our job here at FruitStand to know jack about jackfruit – and all the different delicious varieties it comes in!
Hit the Road, Jack
When we said jackfruits were mysterious, we really meant it: To this day, scientists aren’t quite sure just where in the world the fruit first got its start.
It grows splendidly in several major areas, including both South Asia and Southeast Asia, where scientists guess the fruit was domesticated simultaneously – though independently. Today, it remains a hugely popular crop throughout Asia, rivaling the mango and even banana in some places, and grown everywhere from India, Burma and Sri Lanka to China, Malaysia and the Philippines. (Commercialization of the crop has also led to smaller-yet-consistent growing operations everywhere from Hawaii to Australia to Africa.)
Yet while botanists are still unsure how the fruit got its biological start, historians are pretty sure about how it traveled across the globe, with the Australasians largely credited for giving the fruit early legs (or, more likely, as it were, sea-legs), before it landed on the radar of European colonists, who dutifully brought the strange fruit back to their home continent.
Indeed, this may have been where the jackfruit’s story would’ve ended if it weren’t for a French ship which, upon being captured by its mutinous crew, landed in Jamaica and spread the good word of jackfruit throughout the Caribbean. From there, future European explorers kept the fruit moving steadily westward until it finally made it to the Americas – though gardeners there had a heck of a time trying to get any crops to plant any firm roots.
Still, they kept on trying, thanks in no small part to the jackfruit’s perplexing yet mesmerizing outward appearance, and uniquely sweet insides.
Jack of All Trades
If you’ve never encountered a jackfruit before, you might rightly be frightened the first time you saw one. The fruit can resemble more weapon than food, with its intimidatingly large size and hard outer casing that’s covered in small spikes.
Cracking one open isn’t the easiest task, but it’s infinitely and instantly rewarded with what you’ll find inside.
Jackfruits have a uniquely sweet and fruity smell that beckons anyone curious or hungry enough to try it. And the fruit itself is equally tasty, with a mildly sweet flavor that reads somewhere between pineapple and banana.
The interior layout of a jackfruit is as strange as its outside, with its pouches of edible flesh sitting in small pockets, and wrapped in bright orange or yellow edible coats of skin.
Jackfruit seeds are also edible, and typically roasted and eaten like chestnuts.
In its native Southeast Asia, the fruit lends itself to any number of dishes, including ice creams, and custards or even mixed with shaved ice. It’s also not immune to bakers, with jackfruit commonly mixed into batters for cakes and dosas.
And the heavy texture of the fruit’s flesh is what gives it that other odd nickname, “vegetable meat,” with the fruit also prepared in savory sauces that can disguise it as a carnivore-friendly ingredient. (It’s a popular vegan replacement for pulled pork.)
But, rivaling even the many types of ways jackfruits can be enjoyed are the many different types of jackfruits. Each area seems to have their own jackfruit priorities, but some of the most popular types of jackfruits around the world include:
Black Gold Jackfruit
While this is one of the most popular types of jackfruits on the market, it’s actually typically grown in the more-unusual jackfruit locale of Australia.
Each Black Gold jackfruit can weigh up to an impressive 15 pounds, covered throughout in a deep green hide that’s blanketed in spikes. But on the inside, this type of jackfruit is a big old softy, with orange-colored flesh that’s especially sweet and aromatic.
Technically a jackfruit hybrid, Cheenas are a mixture between a jackfruit and a champedak. As such, this type of jackfruit isn’t quite as big as its cousins, coming in at an average of just 5 pounds, growing in a lighter shade of green and rocking much blunter spikes.
Still, there’s no compromise when it comes to the fruit’s tastiness. Cheenas are actually more suitable for savory dishes than other types of jackfruits, with a taste that registers more earthy than sweet.
Another Australian-grown crop, these might be the smallest types of jackfruit of all, coming in at an average of just over 3 pounds.
But Cochin jackfruits still have plenty of personality, with a distinctively round shape that helps them stand out. And on the inside, the fruits are much more edible than most of their larger cousins – and we mean literally. More than 35 percent of a cochin jackfruit can be consumed, including its soft and mild flesh and large seeds.
Dang Rasimi Jackfruit
This cultivar may be more jack rabbit than jackfruit, with Dang Rasimi varietals known for their vigorous and fast-growing yields.
First grown in Thailand, this type of jackfruit weighs on the heavier side, at around 17 pounds each, and also delivers plenty of flavor in those speedy growth spurts. Dang Rasimi are known for their deep orange flesh and beautiful mild-sweet flavor and smell, which comes in a bit like mango.
Golden Nugget Jackfruit
A type of jackfruit truly worthy of its name, this varietal is, indeed, small, yellow and round – and worth its weight in gold.
Coming in at an average of just 7 pounds, Golden Nugget jackfruits make up for lost size with big portions, with nearly 41 percent of the fruit considered edible. And that’s a great thing, because Golden Nuggets are also renowned for their distinctly delicious dark orange flesh that can come in anywhere from buttery soft to medium firm, depending on ripeness.
Golden Pillow Jackfruit
Another Thai variety, this cultivar is considered one of the most beautiful types of jackfruits, thanks to its large, uniform shape, beautiful green hue and blunted spikes.
Weighing in at an average of 8-12 pounds, there’s still plenty of the Golden Pillow to love, and this type of jackfruit also rocks a uniquely crunchy flesh inside, delivering all the classic jackfruit sweetness with a whole different bite.
But no matter which cultivar you choose, it will definitely be worth your time to get to know jack.