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Jackfruit: Nature’s Reward for Health, Culture, and Prosperity

Jackfruit Cultivation and Economic Implications

The jackfruit, known as “Kathal” in Hindi and “Panash” in Odia, stands as a botanical wonder within the Moraceae family. With an average lifespan of 60 to 70 years, this towering tree reaches heights of nearly 100 feet, adorning tropical lowlands across various nations, including India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and the rainforests of Southeast Asia.

Health and Nutritional Marvel

This prodigious tree offers not just fruits but a treasure trove of health benefits. Jackfruit consumption brings an array of advantages, from fortifying hair and eyesight to aiding in digestion and anemia prevention. Rich in vitamins like A, B-complex, C, and E, and minerals such as iron, magnesium, and potassium, it’s a powerhouse of nutrition, providing 95 calories per 100 grams.

Cultural Significance and Coping Mechanism

In indigenous communities, the jackfruit serves as more than a fruit; it’s a lifeline during food scarcity, combating hunger and food insecurity. It’s a common sight in the backyards of rural households in Odisha and Jharkhand, resonating deeply with cultural and culinary traditions.

Underappreciated Potential and Wastage

Despite its immense benefits, the jackfruit remains undervalued and underutilized. Its substantial size, along with the challenges in harvesting and processing, results in significant wastage—up to 60-70% in India alone. The lack of proper supply chains exacerbates the issue, preventing its rightful recognition.

Culinary Versatility and Global Market

This fruit, with both ripe and unripe variations, is a culinary gem, integral to South and Southeast Asian cuisines. While ripe fruits sweeten desserts, canned green jackfruit, with its meat-like texture, finds use in various products, from noodles to chips, and even in international markets.

Economic and Health Potential

Despite its drought resistance and minimal maintenance requirements, the jackfruit’s full potential remains largely untapped. Its various parts, from fruit to leaves and seeds, hold immense nutritional and economic promise, offering scope for value addition and industrial applications.

Also read: Millets to Ensure Food and Nutritional Security of Indigenous Communities

Global Initiatives and Recognition

While certain countries recognize its importance, many more efforts are needed to fully harness the potential of the jackfruit. Initiatives in Vietnam, Malaysia, and Sri Lanka are showcasing the benefits of processing and promoting value-added products, creating economic opportunities and livelihoods in rural areas.

Overcoming Challenges

The challenges around harvesting, processing, and marketing need attention. The development of ready-to-cook and ready-to-eat products, along with efficient supply chains, is crucial to minimize wastage and enhance its market presence.

The untold story of the jackfruit’s potential, its significance in combating food insecurity, and its nutritional benefits hold a promise for a sustainable and thriving future. This incredible fruit’s potential in diverse sectors, from health to economics, is yet to be fully realized and could serve as a beacon of opportunity for many communities.

Anatomy of the Jackfruit

Jackfruit fruit on a tree
Jackfruit on a tree

Tree Structure and Foliage

The Artocarpus heterophyllus, an evergreen wonder, boasts a short trunk with a dense treetop. Sometimes, it forms buttress roots, while its reddish-brown bark secretes milky sap upon injury.

The leaves, arranged spirally and alternately, are characterized by their gummy texture and thickness, ranging from 20 to 40 cm in length and 7.5 to 18 cm in width. While young trees showcase irregularly lobed or split leaves, older trees boast rounded, dark green leaves with smooth margins.

Floral Enigma

Jackfruit trees exhibit cauliflory, with inflorescences emerging from the trunk, branches, or twigs. Being monoecious, they bear both male and female flowers. The male flowers, greenish and sometimes sterile, house straight stamens with roundish yellow anthers. The female flowers, greenish and hairy, contain an ovary with a broad scar. Blooming typically spans December to February or March.

Fruit Formation and Composition

The ellipsoidal to roundish fruit, a product of multiple flower ovary fusion, develops on a long, sturdy stem on the trunk. Varying in size, the fruit transitions from yellowish-greenish to a mature yellowish-brown, weighing up to 55 kg—the largest among tree-borne fruits. Each fruit holds a fibrous core, surrounded by many individual 10-centimeter-long fruits. Within, 100 to 500 seeds reside, with a composition of edible seed coat, seeds, undeveloped perianth, and core.

Also read: Seed Balls: Ensuring Afforestation on Degraded Lands and Forests

Maturity and Aromatic Splendor

Maturity of these fruits unfolds during the rainy season, from July to August. The bean-shaped achenes, covered with a sweet, firm yellowish aril, exude a delightful aroma reminiscent of pineapple and banana. However, the inner part secretes a sticky, milky liquid, challenging to remove even with soap and water, requiring alternative solvents for cleansing.

The intricate and aromatic journey from inflorescence to the tantalizingly ripe jackfruit is a testament to nature’s craftsmanship, presenting both a culinary delight and a botanical marvel.

Versatile Culinary Marvel of Jackfruit

Jackfruit isolated on white

Ripe Delicacies

Ripe jackfruit, naturally sweet with delicate hints of pineapple or banana, serves as a versatile ingredient in various culinary creations worldwide. It finds its way into a myriad of delectable dishes, from custards and cakes to regional delights like es teler in Indonesia or halo-halo in the Philippines, where it’s mixed with shaved ice for a refreshing treat.

In Southern India, it’s a staple in traditional breakfast idlis, enriching the rice-based dish, while its leaves act as a natural wrapper for steaming. The innovative use of jackfruit even extends to dosas, where its flesh is ground and mixed with the batter for a unique flavor.

Seed Utilization

The seeds extracted from ripe fruits possess an edible quality once cooked, boasting a milky, sweet taste often likened to Brazil nuts. These versatile seeds can be boiled, baked, or roasted, delivering a flavor reminiscent of chestnuts when prepared the latter way.

Popular as snacks, the seeds are either boiled or fire-roasted, making delightful treats or used in desserts. In Java, they are commonly cooked and seasoned with salt for a savory snack. Furthermore, in Indian cuisine, they are integrated into traditional lentil and vegetable curries, enriching the dish with their unique taste and texture.

Leafy Goodness

The young, tender leaves of the jackfruit tree aren’t left out either. Their tenderness renders them perfect for culinary use, offering a vegetable-like quality that adds depth to various dishes.

From its tantalizingly sweet ripe arils to its versatile seeds and tender leaves, the jackfruit, in its entirety, stands as a treasure trove for culinary exploration and gastronomic innovation across cultures and cuisines.

Certainly, here’s the nutritional information presented in a tabular format:

NutrientQuantity per 100g
Energy397 kJ (95 kcal)
Carbohydrates23.25 g
– Sugars19.08 g
– Dietary Fiber1.5 g
Fat0.64 g
Protein1.72 g
Vitamin A1%
Thiamine (B1)9%
Riboflavin (B2)5%
Niacin (B3)6%
Pantothenic Acid (B5)5%
Vitamin B625%
Folate (B9)6%
Vitamin C17%
Vitamin E2%
Other ConstituentsQuantity
Water73.5 g

This breakdown showcases the nutritional content and percentage of the daily value (%DV) of various vitamins and minerals found in uncooked jackfruit per 100 grams.

Nutritional Composition and Utilization

The edible portion of jackfruit consists of 74% water, 23% carbohydrates, 2% protein, and 1% fat. Raw jackfruit, in a 100-gram portion, provides 400 kJ (95 kcal) and is particularly high in vitamin B6 (25% Daily Value). It also contains moderate levels (10-19% Daily Value) of vitamin C and potassium, with limited amounts of other micronutrients.

Jackfruit Seeds and Their Use in Cuisines

Jackfruit seeds offer a partial solution for food security in developing countries. They are roasted, boiled, made into curries, and consumed by various communities.

Culinary Uses

The ripe fruit offers a unique flavor profile, combining notes of apple, pineapple, mango, and banana. Varieties are categorized by the fruit’s characteristics, including the hard and soft versions. In various cuisines, unripe jackfruit is used in curries and pickles and can be compared to artichoke hearts when prepared. It’s a versatile ingredient, often used as a vegetarian meat substitute in curries and stews.


Jackfruit boasts a sweet and fruity aroma, detected through the presence of key volatile compounds. The ripe fruit exudes a strong, somewhat unpleasant aroma reminiscent of pineapple and banana. After roasting, the seeds can be used as a commercial alternative to chocolate aroma.

Culinary Applications Across Various Regions

The utilization of jackfruit in various Asian countries involves diverse methods of cooking and consumption. It’s used in sweets, curries, desserts, and as a standalone dish.

Importance and Cultural Significance

The jackfruit has a rich cultural heritage and practical significance in various parts of the world. It’s an essential agricultural element in India and Southeast Asia, with religious, traditional, and national significance in various countries. For instance, in India, the wooden plank made from the jackfruit tree’s wood is used during Hindu ceremonies. In Vietnam, its wood is prized for making Buddhist statues in temples.

Also read: Unlocking the Hidden Treasures of Non-Timber Forest Products (NTFPs)

Manufacturing and Wood Uses

Apart from its culinary value, the jackfruit tree’s wood is utilized in manufacturing, such as making barrels, drums, furniture, and even crafting musical instruments like the kutiyapi and Indian string instruments.

With its multifaceted significance in cuisine, nutrition, manufacturing, and culture, the jackfruit holds a crucial place in various aspects of life across several countries.

Jackfruit Cultivation

Young female tourist in Asia holding jackfruit in hands on fruit plantation
Jackfruit plantation

The cultivation of jackfruit involves minimal pruning, primarily for dead branch removal. It requires periodic branch twisting or cutting to induce new growth for the next season. Additionally, some trees need selective fruit removal to enhance the development of other fruits. The plant largely depends on stingless bees as pollinators for cultivation.

Production, Marketing, and Commercial Availability

In 2017, India was the leading jackfruit producer, followed by Bangladesh, Thailand, and Indonesia. The marketing structure is quite intricate, involving producers, traders, and middlemen like wholesalers and retailers.

These fruits are often available in fresh, canned, and frozen forms and are processed into various products such as flour, noodles, and ice cream in countries like Sri Lanka and Vietnam. In the US, availability has increased in grocery stores, in both prepared dishes and as ready-to-cook ingredients. However, it poses an invasive threat in Brazil.

Invasive Species and Conservation

In regions like Brazil, jackfruit becomes invasive, spreading and competing with local species, particularly in forest environments. The widespread availability of this fruit encourages growth in small mammal populations, impacting local bird species.

Proper organization and market connectivity can generate substantial income from jackfruit cultivation, especially if growers have efficient access to direct markets. There are multiple traditional recipes, especially in Maharashtra and Odisha, but despite its diverse utility, social status and appreciation for the fruit remain low.

Economic Implications and the Need for Promotion

India has significant room for learning and improvement in utilizing jackfruit. Preventing wastage and promoting this fruit should be incorporated into the national agricultural and food policy.

Public awareness campaigns can significantly boost local consumption and demand. Developing accessible technologies for jackfruit processing and involving agricultural universities in its cultivation are crucial steps toward maximizing the potential of this crop.

With its extensive applications and potential economic benefits, jackfruit could play a more significant role in India and around the world if properly managed and promoted. Awareness, technological innovation, and government support are key to harnessing its full potential.

Also read: Wild Food Plants (WFPs) – A Key Component To Ensure Food And Nutritional Security

Common Pests Affecting Jackfruit

Weevil Up Close at Night in Belize

Shoot and Fruit Borer

  • Egg to Adult: Females lay eggs and develop rapidly during flowering and fruiting periods. Larvae, identified by reddish-brown color with black spots, cause significant damage by burrowing into tender shoots and fruits.
  • Damage: Contributes to 30─40% damage from flower bud to fruit ripening.

Spittle Bugs

  • Lifecycle: Eggs overwinter in twigs, hatching in early May. Nymphs secrete a protective spittle that helps them feed on tender one-year-old growth, leading to mold and twig damage.
  • Damage: Feeding on twigs and subsequent mold development due to secretions.

Mealy Bug

  • Lifecycle: Eggs laid on the host, producing mobile crawlers (first instar nymphs) that settle on plants, suck sap, and create colonies.
  • Damage: Presence of white-powdered adults, honeydew excretion, flower drop, and sooty mold, affecting inflorescence and growth.

Bud Weevil

  • Life Cycle: Egg to grub to full-grown grubs that bore into tender flower buds, causing premature dropping and infesting leaves.
  • Damage: Hinders growth and causes flower drop.

Bark Eating Caterpillar

  • Life Cycle: Females lay clusters of eggs on tree bark; resulting caterpillars damage tree bark and hinder sap flow.
  • Damage: Nibbling on bark, creating silk webs, and affecting tree growth and fruiting.


  • Lifecycle: Different nymphal stages (instars) suck sap from leaves, buds, and pods. Aphid attacks cause leaf curling, stunting, and the development of sooty molds.

Leaf Webber

  • Lifecycle: Eggs hatch, leading to larval development in leaf folds; the pupation process includes silk cocoon formation.
  • Damage: Larval feeding and presence of webbing on plant parts.

Stem Borer

  • Lifecycle: Eggs laid on trees, hatching into larvae that tunnel through the sapwood, causing large tunnels and disrupting sap flow.
  • Damage: Hinders nutrient and water transport, wilting, and terminal shoot drying.

Castor Capsule Borer

  • Lifecycle: Larvae bore into shoots and capsules, affecting tree health and producing characteristic webbing and excreta.
  • Damage: Boring into capsules, silk webbing, and hindering tree health.

Natural Enemies and Impact

Several parasitoids and predators naturally control the population of these pests. Bears, drawn to ripe jackfruit, contribute to ecological balance but also impact jackfruit trees during the summer months. Effective pest management and early detection are crucial to preserve jackfruit trees and fruit yield.

Also read: Potential of Multi-Purpose Tree Species (MPTs) for Enhancing Food Security, Sustainable Livelihoods, and Climate Resilience

Ravi S. Behera
Ravi S. Behera
Mr. Ravi Shankar Behera, PGDAEM, National Institute of Agricultural Extension Management (MANAGE), Hyderabad is an independent freelance Consultant and Author based in Bhubaneswar. He is an Honorary Advisor to grassroots Voluntary Organizations on Food Security, Forest and Environment, Natural Resource Management, Climate Change and Social Development issues. Ravi has lived and worked in various states of India and was associated with international donors and NGOs over the last twenty three years including ActionAid, DanChurchAid, Embassy of Sweden/Sida, Aide et Action, Sightsavers, UNICEF, Agragamee, DAPTA and Practical Action. He has a keen interest in indigenous communities and food policy issues.


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