You can tell when a jackfruit is ready to pick by its bloated, uncomfortable look, like an ageing gourmand after the cheese course, and its distinct onion breath. It is laughably easy to cultivate; in Brazil it’s classed as an invasive species.
Take a machete to the rind and inside you’ll discover an abundance of satiny, pale-golden “arils” or bulbs – fleshy outgrowths surrounding the seeds. In flavour terms, the flesh is often said to resemble banana, pear, bubble gum or a combination of all three. Jackfruit can be hard to find, primarily because it’s so perishable. Tinned ripe jackfruit is readily available, however, and tastes not unlike ripe mango wrapped in slivers of parmesan and Bayonne ham.
It is in its more fibrous, unripe tinned form, however, that jackfruit has become a talking point, particularly as the feature ingredient in vegan “pulled pork”. Like pork, jackfruit has a tendency to shred when cooked, but the pig population of the Carolinas should not rest easy yet. True pulled pork is a reciprocal arrangement between sticky, spicy sauce and unctuous meat. Green jackfruit contains no fat and is low on flavour. It’s like eating tinned artichoke hearts stewed in barbecue sauce. To date, my most successful trial has involved frying the flesh first, to crisp it up and add some taste. I added it to a thick curry sauce, which infiltrated the fronds, compensating for the fruit’s rather flimsy mouth-feel. All things considered, I’d suggest jackfruit is better approached as a novel variety of vegetable than as a meat substitute.•