Jackfruit – The Tropical Fruit Tree
Jackfruit, with its scientific name as Artocarpus heterophyllus, is said to be native of Southern and Southeast Asia. And it has a long history in which archeological researches have shown that jackfruit was cultivated in India from 3000-6000 years ago, while it was identified under a Sanskrit name as panasa. Nowadays, jackfruit has become a well known tropical fruit tree and has been growing throughout the region.
The common English name ‘Jackfruit’ is first used in 1563 by the physician and naturalist Garcia de Orta in his book. However, there are many different names for jackfruit in each language and region. For Cambodia, jackfruit is called ‘Knol’.
Jackfruit adapts well to humid tropical weather and it has been treated as the largest tree-born fruit. The largest fruit is about 36 kg in weight and up to 90 cm long, 50 cm in diameter.
Jackfruit trees are growing into big sizes; depend on the area of plantation. The leaves are from 10-15 cm long in oblong, oval shaped and have deep green color. The flowers are growing out from the trunk and big branches, from there the flowers developed into fruits and become mature at 4 to 8 months after flowering.
The fruits have the exterior compound with green color when young and turn to yellow or brown when ripe. The inside of the fruit contains edible yellow bulbs (commonly called flesh) which surrounded by many small white strings. The strings are also edible, but they don’t have the sweet taste, so mostly are discarded. The seeds stay inside the yellow bulbs, each bulb has one seed.
All parts of jackfruit contain a kind of sticky, white latex. When open up the fruits, we need to use the cooking oil to take off this latex, before we can take out its flesh. We also use cooking oil to clean the knife and our hands that latex has accumulated.
Jackfruit in Cambodia
In Cambodia, jackfruit is mostly grown in Kampong Cham province, where there are many big size of jackfruit farms. In other provinces are growing as family farm only. In recent years, a new species of jackfruit has been imported from Malaysia and has been growing in the area around Kirirom National Park. And this species has hard flesh which is focusing as supply for production of dried jackfruit chips. However, the local jackfruit chips are produced by small production enterprises only. It still needs to import from Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam for the local consumption.
The season of jackfruit in Cambodia is between March to May when the weather is hottest in the year. During this time jackfruit is well ripen and available in cheap price. However it’s available all year round.
There are two main varieties of jackfruit in Cambodia which distinguishable by the characteristic of the flesh. The one with hard and firm flesh and the fruit is bigger, is called ‘Knol Nang’. The one with softer flesh and sweeter taste is called ‘Knol Bay Sra’.
The Use of Jackfruit
The attraction of jackfruit is firstly its fragrance and then the starchy, fibrous, and sweet flesh. Mostly jackfruit is served as fresh fruit. However, it’s also prepared into many kinds of cakes.
The unripe or green jackfruit is used as vegetable for the Khmer soup, Samlor Korko, which it added the natural sweet taste to the soup.
The soft fresh jackfruit flesh is served with steamed sticky rice as a kind of dessert.
Num ansom knol is a cake in which sticky rice and ripe jackfruit flesh are wrapped in the banana leaf then boiled or steamed.
The seeds of ripe jackfruit are also edible, it’s boiled with salt or grilled to get cooked and served by removing the outer skin.
Jackfruit flesh is also prepared as preserved food as canned in sugar syrup or dried and make it as jackfruit chips.
The jackfruit trees with ages from 20 years up, their woods can be used to product furniture. The gum from its tree is used to repair pots with small holes.