Ask any Malayali, she or he would have a jackfruit story to tell you, mostly related to childhood. This fruit has inspired many a creative mind. A movie has been made with jackfruit as the theme and recently a ‘chakka pattu’ from the movie Kuttanpillayude Shivarathri got released, garnering attention from all. A fruit available aplenty in our backyards, it has been ignored for a long time for various reasons. However, jackfruit, jack of all fruits, made a comeback once its health benefits came into the limelight. Malayalis realised the strength of this largest tree-borne fruit and slowly started bringing it back to the dining table. If jackfruit dishes were limited to a few earlier, now you could find almost all forms. The fruit has become the talk of the town again as the state government declared it as the state fruit. We have the elephant as our official animal, the great hornbill as bird, Kanikonna as flower and pearl spot as fish. And, now jackfruit has got its due recognition.
“It is an honour for the fruit,” opines Manoj Niraksharan, a writer and an ardent jackfruit lover. His love for jackfruit dates back to his childhood. It has never diminished and he still promotes the fruit as he believes it deserves recognition.
“This is available on our premises. There are, in fact, more jackfruit trees in our surroundings that produce more than what a family requires. Hence, it is wasted a lot. We have to use it wisely,” Manoj says. In his opinion, the current step should tackle it and help benefit those who cultivate it. “One reason behind the wastage of jackfruit is that the trees are mostly tall and it is difficult to bring down fruits borne on the top area. So, when the government declares it as the state fruit, it should implement mechanisms to properly harvest it and make use of it. Then only the mission would be complete. If you travel to tribal areas, you could see it in every courtyard. It is because jackfruit can amply provide for a family. It is healthy too,” he says.
Nutritionist Priyadarshini elaborates on that. “Jackfruit seeds contain a good amount of protein,” she says. “This can be added to different dishes. Actually, you can replace lentils in your daily diet with this. It can aid healthy blood circulation that is vital for hair growth,” she adds. Not just that, in her opinion, it is a great source of Vitamin C and antioxidants, which can strengthen our immune system. “A strong immune system can protect our body from many common diseases such as flu,” she says, adding, “Antioxidants, phytonutrients and flavonoid provide protection from cancer. Antioxidants found in the jackfruit protect the body from free radicals that are produced due to oxidative stress in the body. These damage the DNA of our cells and produces cancer cells. Jackfruit also provides protection against colon, lung and oral cavity cancer. It has potassium that maintains the sodium level in the body. Good level of potassium helps to maintain the fluid level to balance electrolytes. Hence, it is useful to reduce high blood pressure, stroke and heart attack,” she adds.
How can we include it in our diet? Besides the seeds, jackfruit flour is available in the market for dishing out jackfruit food. Jeemol Korth Verghese, a baker, has started making jackfruit bread. “It is sugarless bread, which is a mix of jackfruit flour, wheat and ragi. I started experimenting with it as I heard about its healthy side,” she says. She believes that the declaration would bring more attention to the fruit. “It is always best if the resource of our food is near to us. Then we would get the purest form. That is the bright side of jackfruit. It is available everywhere and when it gets such a recognition, people will started studying about it more,” she feels. However, Manoj feels that besides acknowledgment, there should be proper ways to popularise the fruit. “It has varieties. Places like Indonesia have similar fruits. We should conduct fests to introduce them to our people.”