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What is jackfruit and why is it pulling ranks over pork?

This vegan alt meat is a perfect substitute for shredded pulled pork, says Andrea Fedder.

by: Andrea Fedder | 23 Mar 2020

Heard about jackfruit? It’s the food industry’s latest love child in the plant-protein arena, and it’s making bacon-sized waves.If there’s one meat that carnivores harbour nightmares about giving up above any other, it’s bacon. Just thinking about the scent of rashers crisping up in a frying pan is enough to set mouths watering. But whether we like it or not, the world is shifting attention to greater awareness around animal agriculture, animal cruelty, and environmental impact. Enter the elusive jackfruit.

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What is jackfruit?

Jackfruit is a fruiting tree species – the largest tree-born fruit in the world, in fact – and belongs in the same family as mulberries and figs. The fruits are hard-skinned, oblong, almost coconut-sized orbs with a fleshy texture that tastes similar to mangoes and pineapples when ripe.Native to the tropical regions of the Western Ghats in India and Malaysia, the fruits of this tree can weigh up to 55kg each, with a mature tree producing around 500 fruits per year. The jackfruit has since spread around the globe, now also growing in Africa and Brazil. It’s frequently featured in Southeast Asian cuisine and has also been turned into chips, noodle-like products and ‘canned vegetable’-style products.The seeds can also be toasted and eaten.


How is it replacing bacon?

The inside of a jackfruit is made up of multiple pale, plump bulbs connected to the centre. When this flesh is still in the unripe stage, it has a neutral potato-like flavour and a rather stringy texture. This makes it ideal for absorbing seasoning and spices and can therefore mimic a shredded pulled pork dish effectively, especially when the dish involves a peppery maple-like sauce or the sauce has a soya base.

What are the health benefits of eating jackfruit?

These massive fruits are not just a powerhouse of potential flavour. They’re said to pack a nutritional punch, too, offering high vitamin and mineral density, not to mention fibre and antioxidants. The seeds alone are little protein bombs – music to a vegan’s ears.

What are the environmental factors of jackfruit farming?

According to Danielle Nierenberg, the president of Food Tank – an organisation with focus on sustainable agriculture solutions – jackfruit is drought, pest and disease tolerant. Jackfruit trees are also easy to grow and are amenable to high temperatures.In a world under increasing food poverty and an environment taking strain, jackfruit farming could not only assist in alleviating such conditions, but also offers a far lower climate impact than meat farming.


How to cook and eat jackfruit to substitute bacon?

Jackfruit can be a fairly smelly and messy business to prepare when you’re working with a ripe fruit. Experts suggest defleshing the fruit outdoors to get the yellow flesh bulbs separated from the husk, so as not to bring the stench indoors. The fruit also oozes a latex-like goo between the flesh and the peel. Pro tip: Cover the blade of your knife and hands with oil to make cleaning easier. If you’re attempting a pulled pork or bacon alternative, you’ll want a green fruit that hasn’t ripened yet. The good news is that these are also less odorous to pre-prep. From there it’s a matter of separating the flesh, boiling it to get the stringy meat consistency and then seasoning it with a selection of spices and umami-flavoured sauces. You can also buy the fruit pre-prepped and canned. Woolworths sells BBQ pulled jackfruit in a 140g pack, but if you’re hoping to try it at a restaurant, check out this list of SA’s vegan restaurants

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Read more on: features  |  jackfruit  |  food trends  |  vegan

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