Hot Mess: The Best Fruit You’ve Never Had

Unless you’ve taken a trip to a South or Southeast Asian country, or frequently stalk Asian markets, you’ve probably never seen a jackfruit.  And trust me, you’d remember if you saw it.

Bigger than a watermelon, pale yellow/green, and covered completely with a rind of tough brown spikes- jackfruits are as ugly as they are delicious.  Reaching up to 80 pounds for a single fruit, jackfruits are considered one of the largest fruits in the world.  The inside of the fruit is full of inedible, sap-soaked fibers that encapsulate rows and rows of pale yellow pods.  If I wasn’t clear enough, digging out the pods takes quite a bit of work and a great deal of patience.

Photo by Jasmine McNenny

These pods are the real fruit.  In each pod is a large, wood-like seed that must be taken out along with a thin filmy membrane.  And with this complete, you can finally enjoy your jackfruit.

Photo by Jasmine McNenny

Now comes the tricky part, for a lot of people have asked me what it tastes like.  Aside from saying it’s probably the sweetest fruit you’ll ever put in your mouth, pinpointing the flavor of a jackfruit is not particularly easy.  It is not juicy, nor is it tart.  It has a distinct, tropical taste that lingers on the tongue long after you eat it.  The best description I can work out is that it is a cross between a banana and a ripe mango.

Photo by Jasmine McNenny

Frankly, the best way to understand the flavor is to taste it yourself.  Its exotic flavor cannot be well explained using the fruits that we come across every day.  Unfortunately, jackfruits are sometimes difficult to find in the U.S., especially here in Ohio, as they come in seasonally, around this time of year.  Because of their size they are also rather cumbersome, not to mention expensive since most places charge by the pound.  If you want to understand the jackfruit without all this hassle, most Asian markets carry canned jackfruit, which contain just the cleaned pods set in a mild syrup.  This was the first time I had tasted jackfruit, and although it’s true that canned was nowhere near as good as fresh, it gives you a good idea of the kind of awesome you’re dealing with.

It’s always a good idea to explore the boundaries of fruitatopia, to get in there and dig around a bit.  There are some really weird things out there and like the jackfruit, which always reminds me of spiny Mario Kart turtle shells, they can be a little intimidating.  But it’s just fruit, it’s food, so it may be worth checking out the oddballs at the farmers’ market.  I mean, it can’t hurt you…except a jackfruit if it falls on you.