When you last heard from me, we had enough mangoes and bananas to feed a small army. Today, we can provide fruit salad for a battalion. Super Mario, our amazing gardener, just brought us a jack fruit from his tree. The photo above is the largest photo I have every put on this blog, which is fitting, as the jack fruit is the largest tree-borne fruit in the world, weighing up to 80 lbs. and 36″ long. I should be glad he gave us a small yaka, as it is known here in Mexico. It only measured 16″ long and weighed a mere 21 lbs.
From past experience I knew this was going to be sticky business, getting it cut up, cleaned and bagged for the freezer. The skin contains a sappy latex that could patch tires. The last time we cut up jack fruit, I had adhesive-like little globs stuck to the kitchen counter for weeks. This time we took extra precautions. Newspaper everywhere. Disposable gloves. Knife coated with vegetable oil. Old t-shirts. Muddy Waters on the cd player. I bet Muddy never ate jack fruit, but maybe I underestimate him.
Just getting it cut in half left the knife incredibly sticky. See those thin white lines of latex, seeking anything to stick to? Great effort and lots of oil will be needed later to finally clean my Henckel boning knife. It is still on the kitchen counter, magnet-like, attracting anything not tied down to hold in its sticky clutch.
My can-do husband Russ is the man for any job, thank goodness. If this had been up to me, I’d still be stuck to the table, fighting off strands of latex. He cut out the drupes of fruit, each one encasing a large, smooth seed. In case you don’t know, drupe is botanical-speak, meaning an individual fruit that forms with many other drupes in a single mass. Each jack fruit is a mass of many fruits. So is pineapple.
After one hour, a twenty-one pound jack produced seven pounds of fruit. This one had a mild flavor, but we have had others that tasted like a banana-flavored apricot. There is something about musky, tropical flavors that is hard to describe, probably because they can not be compared to any other familiar fruit. (Update: It seems the flavor is still developing in the fridge. Twenty-four hours later, a container of jack fruit has taken on a very sweet, cantaloupe-like flavor, but better than any cantaloupe I have ever eaten. )
Jack fruit originated in India and are now grow throughout tropical regions of the world. If you are driving along the coast road south of San Blas in the state of Nayarit, you will see road-side stands selling whole jack fruit and bags of cleaned fruit during the summer months. Sometimes they are in the local grocery stores, but not often.
To make a quick breakfast smoothie, or licuado as they are known in Mexico, take one small banana, an equal amount of jack fruit, about five or six ice cubes, a half cup of plain yogurt and one raw egg. Blend until smooth, adding cold milk or water for a drinkable consistency.