From Legends to Plates: A Journey into the World of Jackfruit in India
by Kalpana Jha on Dec 01, 2023
You know that we use Jackfruit in the Kathal ka Achaar we make at JhaJi Store.
This year, we had decided to build deep relationships directly with farmers for as many ingredients as we could.
In that regard, we had the opportunity to sit with Ram Bali Sahni ji. He has been farming Kathal in his farm outside Darbhanga for the last 40 years. He shared so many anecdotes in that conversation, that we got curious about Jackfruit in India.
And that is how this blog came to be.
Ram Bali ji’s stories have made their way into this blog. And the jackfruit from his farms have found their way in our pickles.
I hope you find delight in reading and munching on these stories 🙂
Introduction to Jackfruit: What is Jackfruit, its History, and Origin
Scientists have a fancy name for this fruit, 'Artocarpus heterophyllus Lam,'. Most of us just call it jackfruit.
And the fruit carries fascinating history that all started right here in India.
Evidence shows that people in India were enjoying jackfruit thousands of years ago.
One famous food historian named K.T. Achaya ji says it goes back 3000 to 5000 years in the Western Ghats.
Another smart person, V.N. Misra ji, who works with the Indian Academy of Sciences, found proof of jackfruit being grown in places like Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh between the 4th and 2nd centuries BC.
In more recent times, there was a special book written in 1563 by a person named Garcia Da Orta. This book was the first to mention jackfruit. It talked about lots of things found in India, like spices, plants, fruits, and minerals.
When the Portuguese arrived in places like Goa and Kerala, they learned about this amazing fruit from the locals. They even adopted the name "jackfruit" from them. In Malayalam, a language spoken in Kerala, it's called Chakka.
As time went on, this tasty fruit started to spread to different parts of India. It's pretty cool because the Jackfruit is unique in its ability to grow in all sorts of climates and soil types. It can handle extreme droughts and floods, and it doesn't need a lot of attention from farmers. That's why many farmers love growing it.
Jackfruit didn't stop here.
It traveled far beyond India's borders and found its way to other tropical countries. These include Bangladesh, Myanmar, Malaysia, Nepal, Thailand, Vietnam, China, Philippines, Indonesia, and Sri Lanka.
There's a botanist named Augustin Pyramus de Candolle who lived in the 19th century. He studied plants and discovered that Jackfruit is grown extensively across southern Asia. From Punjab to China, and from the mighty Himalayas to the beautiful Moluccas, you can find Jackfruit trees.
Jackfruit also made its way to Latin American and East African countries. It's like the fruit wanted to explore the world!
And wherever it went, the Jackfruit didn't miss picking up new names.
In many parts of North and East India, people call it Kathal or some variations of that word. But did you know that in Manipur, they call it Theibong? And in Meghalaya, it's called Katus. In Mizoram, they have a different name for it too – Tlangnuam.
Let's not forget about the regional names in other Indian languages!
In Marathi, people call it फणस-Phaṇasa.
In Telugu, it's పనస-Panasa.
In Malayalam, it's ചക്ക-cakka.
And in Kannada, it's ಹಲಸು-Halasu.
Let's take a little trip around the world and discover some of the international names for Jackfruit.
In Thailand, they call it ขนุน (K̄hnun).
In Malaysia and Indonesia, it's known as Nangka.
And in the Philippines, they refer to it as Langka.
A big shoutout and thanks to the awesome team at InDifferentLanguages for helping us find these names in different languages.
It's amazing how the same fruit can have so many different names!
I’ll like to know,
How Do You Pronounce Jackfruit in Your Region?
Tell us in a comment or tag us @jhajistore and #MyJackfruitStory on Social Media to let us know.
Growing and Harvesting Jackfruit: Featuring Ram Bali Ji
Ram Bali ji showed us around his farm and told stories about Jackfruit cultivation.
You won't believe the heights these jackfruit trees can reach on the farm! Some of them grow as tall as 80 feet, which is about as high as an eight-floor apartment building. Can you imagine that?
These amazing trees love warm and humid climates, which is why they thrive in places near the equator. Not just in India, but also in other countries of South East Asia and South America.
To be happy and healthy, jackfruit trees prefer soil that drains well and has a sandy loam texture. It should be packed with organic matter to keep them nourished. These trees need regular watering, especially when it's dry outside.
Ram Bali ji shared an interesting fact with us. He said it takes somewhere between 3 to 8 years for a newly planted tree to bear fruit. That's quite a wait, but it's worth it!
When the fruit starts growing, you'll find it on the branches and trunk of the jackfruit tree. It takes about 3 to 8 months for the fruit to fully ripen.
When it's growing on the tree, the fruit is usually green or yellowish-green, depending on how far along it is. As it ripens, it turns a beautiful yellow or brownish-yellow color.
Here's a tip for knowing when the jackfruit is ready to be harvested. You'll notice a delightful, sweet aroma wafting from the fruit. It's hard to miss! The skin will start turning yellow or brown, and when you gently press the fruit, it should feel slightly soft.
Harvesting jackfruit requires a delicate touch. It involves using a thread and gently moving it back and forth to separate the fruit from the branch. Once it's carefully plucked, the fruit is placed on the ground to make sure it doesn't get damaged.
And just like that, you can have a jackfruit in your hands, ready to enjoy!
An incredible fully grown jackfruit tree can give you around 200 fruits every year. But if you have a more established tree, you might even get up to 500 fruits annually. That's a whole lot of jackfruit goodness!
These trees usually bear fruit during the summer and rainy seasons, so it's a treat to have fresh jackfruit during those times.
Did you know that almost half of the jackfruit in India comes from places like Orissa, Bengal, and Chhattisgarh?
Kerala, the beautiful state, is responsible for one out of every seven jackfruits produced in the country. No wonder they consider it their state fruit!
Fruit in Focus: Key Facts about Height, Weight, and Shape
Jackfruit is one of the biggest fruits in the world. It can weigh up to 35 kilograms! It can also grow up to an impressive length of 90 cm (35 inches) and have a diameter of 50 cm (20 inches).
It makes sense that some people regard it the King of Fruits.
Ram Bali ji shared his experience of the largest fruit he has seen, measuring 3 feet in length and 1.5 feet in diameter. That's gigantic!
When you look at a jackfruit from the outside, you'll notice its rough, green or yellowish-green skin. It often has spines or bumps that give it a unique appearance. Be careful though, because this thick and tough skin is not easy to cut or peel.
Now, let's take a peek inside the jackfruit.
You'll see neatly divided segments that are connected by a fibrous and sticky core. And there, nestled inside the jackfruit, you'll find large yellow bulbs.
Each of these bulbs contains an edible seed that can be used in salads, snacks, or even ground into flour for baking. Talk about versatility!
Now, let's talk about the taste of jackfruit. It's sweet and fruity, with a flavor that some people describe as a delightful mix of pineapple, banana, and mango. Yum!
As for the texture, the fruit itself is soft and slightly chewy. However, there is a fibrous and stringy core in the jackfruit that is usually not eaten.
How would YOU describe the taste of the Jackfruit?
Tell us in a comment or tag your social media post
with @jhajistore and #MyJackfruitStory to let us know.
Health Benefits and Nutritional Value of Jackfruit
Jackfruit not only tastes delicious, but it also brings a bunch of benefits to our health!
First of all, jackfruit is packed with fiber. And you know what that means? It's great for our digestion and helps keep tummy troubles like constipation at bay. No more tummy woes!
The fiber in it is also a soluble form of fiber. Which is really good for our heart health.
And here's another incredible thing about jackfruit. You see, it doesn't have a big impact on our blood sugar levels. So, it's a good choice for people managing diabetes.
Vitamin C and antioxidants found in this fruit are also great for our skin. They keep our skin naturally firm and glowing.
Oh, and my daughter also made a contribution here. She discovered all the ways in which jackfruit is actually good for the environment.
Jackfruit trees are resilient and can thrive with limited water. They don't need harmful chemicals like pesticides and fertilizers, which makes them a sustainable choice for farmers.
When you grow jackfruit alongside other crops, it even enhances the health of the soil and prevents erosion. It's a smart and sustainable way to use our land.
The trend of people taking up Jackfruit as a vegan meat alternative is fast growing. It makes sense because the two have such similar texture.
Jackfruit in Indian Cuisine: Food Items from Across india
People love this fruit in both its raw and ripe forms. When it's raw, it's perfect for creating savory dishes like vegetables and pickles. But when it's ripe, it's a true delight to enjoy as a fruit all on its own.
The best part is that jackfruit is such a versatile ingredient. It can add a unique touch to a variety of culinary creations. Let me tell you about a few of them:
Chakka Puttu: This is a delicious South Indian breakfast dish from Kerala. You can find an amazing recipe for Chakka Puttu by Mahima Ji.
Jackfruit Curry: When it's time for lunch or dinner, this South Indian dish from Andhra Pradesh will satisfy your taste buds. Check out the recipe for Jackfruit Curry from Hebbar’s Kitchen.
Kothalor Pitha: For a delightful snack or dessert from Assam in the North East, try Kothalor Pitha. I'm sure you'll love it! You can find a tasty recipe for Kothalor Pitha by Sangita ji.
Himachali Kathal Madra: Let's head to the beautiful state of Himachal Pradesh in North India for a scrumptious lunch or dinner option. Himachali Kathal Madra is the way to go. Give it a try with the recipe for Himachali Kathal Madra by Sneha ji.
Halasina Hannu Gatti: If you're looking for a mouthwatering breakfast, lunch, or snack from Karnataka in South India, Halasina Hannu Gatti is the answer. Don't miss out on this treat! You can find a recipe for Halasina Hannu Gatti by Bhusanur ji.
Konkani Jackfruit Bhajii: Traveling to the West, we have a delightful breakfast, lunch, or snack option from Maharashtra. Konkani Jackfruit Bhajii will surely make your taste buds dance. Check out the recipe for Konkani Jackfruit Bhajii by Ruchkar Mejwani ji.
Bihari Kathal Ki Sabzi: For a flavorsome lunch or dinner from Bihar in the East, Bihari Kathal Ki Sabzi is a must-try. Get ready to savor the deliciousness with the recipe for Bihari Kathal Ki Sabzi from Recipe Mantra.
These are just a few examples of how jackfruit can be transformed into mouthwatering dishes from different regions of India. There's so much more to explore and create with this incredible fruit.
Jackfruit in Indian Culture and Traditions
Jackfruit holds a significant place in local traditions across India, extending beyond its role as a delicious fruit. It is widely revered as the fruit of the Gods, and people offer it to their deities in various parts of the country.
In Bihar, for example, Ram Bali ji reminded us that Jackfruit is specifically offered on the occasion of Nag Panchami.
1. Nag Panchami: The Sacred Connection Between Jackfruit and Snakes in Bihar
On Nag Panchami, there is a tradition of eating Mango and Jackfruit-based meals. This happens all over Bihar.
Monsoon season’s Nag Panchami (Saawan Nag Panchami) is the day of the festival. People prepare and bring their offerings to Nag Devta all day round.
During monsoon, Bihar is inundated with snakes. As their nests get waterclogged, they enter villages.
Along with praying to the God of Snakes, people also have a tradition of lining the surrounding of their homes with Kheel (Puffed rice).
It's a way of protecting their homes and showing respect to the snakes.
2. Ammachi Plavu: The Jackfruit Tree that Saved Raja Marthanda Varma
The local people call this tree ‘Grandmother Jackfruit Tree’.
This tree is said to have protected King Marthanda Verma, who was the Prince of Travancore in mid 1700s.
He found a safe haven in the tree as a prince, while trying to escape from the royal enemies. He did so on the advice of a young boy shepherd.
Later, astrologers calculated the boy as Lord Sree Krishna in his child form, ‘Unnikrishna’.
When Marthanda Verma became the king, he built the Sree Krishna Swamy Kshetram in remembrance of that boy.
This is the same site where the stump of the tree is still preserved today. Almost 300 years later.
3. Bhagya Chandra and The Sacred Jackfruit Tree of Manipur
In 18th century, Raja Bhagya Chandra, or Ningthou Ching-Thang Khomba, was the king in Manipur.
After a defeat at the hands of the king of Burma, Raja escaped and found refuge in Assam. But the king of Assam didn’t trust him entirely.
He was asked to fight an elephant to prove his valor.
A devotee of Lord Krishna, Bhagya Chandra asked for help. Sree Krishna made himself available in a Jackfruit tree in Kaina, in modern-day Manipur.
With Shree Krishna by his side, the elephant never fought Bhagya Chandra. Instead, it bowed in reverence.
The king of Assam then believed the Raja and helped him win his kingdom of Manipur back.
In gratitude, Raja Bhagya Chandra got 6 images of Lord Krishna made from a jackfruit tree.
This tree was located on the Kaina hill which is the site of the modern-day destination in Thoubal district, in East Manipur.
After ritual worship, the tree was uprooted and brought down the river to the placed called Langthaband. Here, the images were carved out of the dried out wood from the Jackfruit tree.
The first image went to Govindaji Temple in Imphal palace. This place is the modern day Kangla Fort.
The second went to Bihoynath Govinda in Sagolband.
Third went to Shree Gopinath in Ningthoukhong.
Fourth went to Shree Nityananda at Khwai Lamabam Leikai, in Imphal.
Fifth went to Shree MadanMohan at Oinam Thingel, imphal
Sixth went to Anuprabhu of Nabawip at Nadia of West Bengal.
And the seventh was installed in Lamangdong. This one came to be known as Advaita Prabhu.
These stories showcase the deep connection between jackfruit and the rich traditions of different regions in India.
It's truly fascinating to see how jackfruit is not only cherished for its taste but also revered for its cultural significance.
Jackfruit Products: The Versatile Uses of the Fruit, Plant & Tree
Raja Bhagya Chandra wasn’t the only one carving images from Jackfruit tree.
In fact, this is big business in cities like Perumbavoor, Mysore and Salem.
Each of these cities are proud homes to several furniture manufacturing units, that use Jackfruit tree’s wood.
The wood from the Jackfruit tree is sturdy and resistant to termites. People appreciate such durable furniture, made from this wood.
Other artisans in Bengal and Nagpur have found a use for the fibrous outer layer of Jackfruit.
They are making decorative items like masks, figurines, coasters, wall hangings, and sculptures from Jackfruit tree.
Finally, Jackfruit is being adapted into snacks and condiments.
Including our own Kathal ka Achaar
Make Kathal Great Again: Concluding Remarks
From its use in festivals to the creation of furniture and handicrafts, Jackfruit continues to play an important role in Indian society.
The market for jackfruit and jackfruit-made products is on the rise in recent years, thanks to its health benefits and versatility.
As the Jackfruit market continues to grow, it offers a unique opportunity for farmers and entrepreneurs to build sustainable businesses. This not only promises to help our economy but also preserve our cultural heritage.
Professor S. Rajendran teaches economics at the Gandhigram Rural Institute in Tamil Nadu. He quotes that the demand for jackfruit in Tamil Nadu and Kerala alone has reached 100 metric tonnes per day during the peak season.
Meghalaya's Chief Minister, Conrad K. Sangma, proudly declares that Meghalaya alone produces jackfruit worth Rs. 400 crore every single year. He's aiming even higher, with plans to scale it up to Rs. 1000 crore
In 2018, an exciting program called Mission Jackfruit was launched by the Meghalaya government. It's a five-year plan implemented under the Directorate of Food Processing.
The mission's goal? To reach out and impact a whopping 82,200 farmers, along with 50 small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and 200 Nano enterprises over the next five years. It's a big step towards supporting and promoting the jackfruit industry.
Kerala's Agriculture Minister, V.S. Sunilkumar, believes that the state's jackfruit and its value-added products have the potential to generate a whopping annual business worth Rs. 30,000 crore.
This development is not only beneficial for our economy but also supports our hardworking jackfruit farmers.
So the next time you see a Jackfruit, consider its rich history and all the possibilities it holds. Whether you are enjoying it as a fruit, a snack, or an ingredient in your favorite dish, remember that you are also connecting with a part of India's vibrant and diverse culture.