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Sticky, smelly yet wholesome

Jackfruit, which can be eaten in the raw and ripe state, and its seeds contain calorific and medicinal value.



ANY WHICH WAY: Jackfruit bulbs are delicious raw or as ice cream, jelly, chutney, syrup and jam

THE JACKFRUIT is native to the dense forests of the Western Ghats, but it is now common throughout Asia, Africa and the tropical regions of the Americas.

The tree is common in hundreds of thousands of Indian homes, and it provides food and shade along vast stretches of our national highways, riverbanks and railways.

It provides shade to cash crops like coffee, betel nut, cardamom and pepper that need it.

The ripe fruit smells like rotting onions from the outside, but the fruit flesh inside smells like banana or pineapple. Unripe fruit can be sliced and cooked like green plantain.

The sticky smelly latex it exudes when cut is difficult to wash away, so it is wise to rub the knife and palms with oil before getting down to dicing and slicing.

The ripe fruit bulbs are delicious raw or as ice cream, jelly, chutney, syrup and jam.

The pulp, when boiled in milk, yields delicious orange-toned custard, while frying dry, salted bulbs serves up an alternative to potato chips.

The Central Food Technological Research Institute (CFTRI), Mysore, is a world leader in devising methods to preserve and candy jackfruit pulp.

They came up with a canning method that lets the fruit retain its beta-carotene content for up to two years.

The pulp yields heady liquor when fermented. The seeds can be curried, eaten roasted, soaked in sweet syrup, or even ground up to yield flour for blending with wheat flour.

According to traditional Chinese medicine, eating the ripe fruit counteracts the harmful effects of alcohol on the body.

The Chinese were among the first to recognise the nutrition potential of the seeds, but their views on the aphrodisiacal (?) nature of the seeds are not rooted in reality. In other cultures, the ash of the leaves is a traditional antiseptic. The latex is a folk cure for snakebites, abscesses and lymph node swelling.

Root decoction is an old cure for fever, diarrhoea, asthma and skin diseases.

The fruit is nearly as calorie-dense as the custard apple. Hundred grams of the edible flesh, including the seeds, contains almost 100 calories, most of it as sugar and starch.

The flesh is rich in beta-carotene and potassium, while the seeds are rich in thiamine and riboflavin-B vitamins. Eating uncooked, unripe fruit can cause indigestion; the culprit is an enzyme that inhibits the gut's protein-digesting enzyme, trypsin. Cooking destroys this inhibitor.

The ripe fruit increases gut motility and can cause diarrhoea in those who eat too much of it.

RAJIV M.

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