Rhythm Of Nature

Jackfruit – The Largest Tree Fruit

With the state government recently announcing Jackfruit as the official fruit of Kerala, the giant fruit is now more popular than ever.

In Kerala, it is known as Chakka – a delicious giant fruit. However, just like Papaya, since it is abundant locally, many people did not give it the importance it deserved. Now with this announcement on March 21, 2018, that attitude might change for good.

Jackfruit Tree belongs to the family Moraceae and is the largest fruit-bearing tree. The huge compound fruits can be as heavy as 30 kilograms, or even more.

There are mainly two varieties:

  • Varikka – its fruits are more sweet
  • Koozha – fruits are softer and less sweet

Jackfruit is also the largest fruit born on a tree and is the third heaviest fruit of all. Its scientific name is Artocarpus heterophyllus.

The fruit is known as Chakka in Malayalam and the tree is called Plavu.

Jackfruit in Kerala
Jackfruit Tree in Kerala

The Structure of the Fruit

As a compound fruit, it has five main parts. The following are the Malayalam names of each of them:

  • Karimadal – The outermost green covering. It has numerous small spikes on the surface.
  • Koonji – Inside the green layer, there is a white hard part
  • Chakini – Small coverings appearing on top of Chula
  • Chula – The main fleshy part used as food. Each Chula is arranged in compartments inside the fruit.
  • Chakkakkuru (seed) – Each Chula contains one seed covered in a small white film-like layer (pada). The seeds are also used to make dishes along with rice.
karimadal (outer covering)
karimadal (outer covering)
jackfruit when cut
jackfruit when cut
jackfruit - chula & chakini
chula (seed) and chakini

Health Benefits

The yellow fleshy part of Jackfruit is sweet when ripened and rich in nutrients. Moreover, the raw fruit before ripening has other benefits too. It is said to be good for diabetes as it contains low glycemic levels.

It is also rich in fibers and several micronutrients. So it is a superfood although often overlooked in places like Kerala.

Other Benefits of Planting Jackfruit Tree

  • Provides shade: It is an evergreen tree that grows to nearly 30 meters of height found in rainforests also. Since the foliage is thick with multiple layers of branches, it provides excellent shade during hot summers.
  • Controls summer heat & provide cooling: Especially in places like Kerala where the temperature often rises more than 35 degrees Celsius, having this big tree on the premises gives a cooling effect.
  • Great food: Since the fruiting season is during the Summer months, it acts as a great source of food when other crops are scarce.
  • Supports birds & wildlife: Moreover, the sweet fruit is a favorite for birds and wildlife as well. So it plays a role in environmental protection too. A variety of common birds including treepies and woodpeckers depend on this tree for their food during summer.
  • Preserves soil quality: Soil preservation is another important benefit. As I stated earlier, the thick evergreen foliage cover prevents the soil from overheating. It preserves the moisture content and quality of the soil.
  • Rich organic matter/humus: The dry leaves also act as a good organic matter. This can be very useful when you want to plant vegetables or flowers in your home garden.
jackfruit tree

Kerala Style Dishes

Jackfruit is great for preparing a variety of delicious dishes. Here are some of the popular Kerala dishes made out of Jackfruit:

  • Chakkappuzhukku – The chopped flesh of raw fruit is made to a sticky dish served alone or with rice
  • Chakka Upperi – The sliced fruit is roasted in coconut oil
  • Chakka Varattiyathu – A halwa-like dish made with jaggery and ghee.
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