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.
Tropical Fruits in Cambodia
Cambodia is a country located in tropical area of Asia, where the soil and climate are suitable for planting almost kinds of tropical fruits. Most of all fruits and vegetables are planted and harvested naturally, which are very good for health. Fruit is also a favorite of Cambodia people consuming daily as nutrition food beside main meals of rice. Through out the whole year, Cambodia always has plenty kinds of fruits in all season. The price are reasonable so that everyone can afford for fruits. Below are photos of tropical fruits growing in Cambodia, and some are really Khmer fruits which I couldn’t find the English name for them.
Jujube has its scientific name as Ziziphus Jujuba Mill. China is the homeland of jujube since more than 4000 years ago with more than 400 cultivars in its family. Now jujube has been growing in all over the world where having tropical climate.
In Cambodia, a cultivar of bigger fruits is growing as farm. But for other cultivar of smaller fruits (as in the photo above) are planted as fruit tree in home garden. Depend on cultivar, fruit can be round or elongate, the biggest size could be equal to an egg. The whitish flesh of sweet and sour flavor is covered by thin, edible skin. Inside has a hard seed. The young fresh fruit is green and turn to yellow-green as it ripens. Until the fruit is fully ripe, it has black-red color and the flesh become soft, the skin become wrinkle. Fresh mature jujube is very popular in Cambodia than other form of snacks made of jujube, because the flesh is crisp, sweet and some sour in taste.
Papaya (La hong)
Carica papaya is the scientific name of papaya and it homeland was Mexico. Papaya is a very good fruit for health as it contains many nutrition, especially, it is rich in vitamin A which is very beneficial for eyes and skin. Immature fruit has green color skin and slowly turn to yellow or orange when it ripens. Ripe papaya is eaten as fresh fruit or made into fruit juice. Green papaya is used as vegetable in cooking, for instance, papaya salad, papaya soup with pork, Papaya sour soup, Samlor Kokor (Khmer vegetable fish soup), etc. It’s also pickled for serving with grilled meat, pork rice, num pang sach (bread serve with meat) which are typical breakfast of Cambodians. Another kind of food made of green papaya is Mam La hong, it’s papaya fermented.
Sugar Apple (Plae Teab)
Rose Apple (Chumpu)
Pursat Orange (Pursat)
Grapefruit (Kroch Thlong)
Dragon Fruit (Plae Sroka Neark)
Guava (Tro Baek)
Jew Plum (Makak)
Jew Plum or Ambarella fruit or Makak in Khmer has scientific name as Spondias dulcis. The fruit is at egg size or a bit bigger, grow out in clusters of more than a dozen. The thick skin of the fruit is green when young and turn to be yellow or orange when ripe. Both young and ripe fruits are edible with different flavor. In Cambodia, the young or green Makak is always popular as snack serving with salt-added-chilly. The flesh is crisp and has yummy sour taste (as in the photo about, Makak is already taken out its skin). When it ripe, the flesh become soft and has yellow color like ripe mango, however, it has sweeter taste. Makas has one hard seed with soft thorny and growing harder after mature, but when the fruit is young, the seed is also eaten.
Pomegranate (Plae Toteum)
There are several species of Pomegranate, it’s obviously seen by the color of its inner is red or white and also the size of the fruit. Usually the pink color is more delicious. Inside the cover, there are numerous seeds that covers by juicy flesh. There is no pomegranate farm in Cambodia, so it’s always imported from China, Thailand, Korea. Cambodian plant Pomegranate as ornamental plant in home garden only.
Star Apple (Plae Teuk Dos)
There are many varieties of star apple, the purple and green are common. The fruit has got star pattern when cut into half, that’s why it’s called star apple. It also has milk-like water, so Cambodian called it milk fruit (Plae = fruit; Teuk Dos = milk). The flesh is aromatic, soft and sweet, but it has the sticky white latex on the skin layer which could stick onto your mouth. My way to eat star apple is after cut it into half, I use spoon to get it flesh.