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How the vegan food trend made a star of the stinking jackfruit (theguardian.com)
45 points by brkumar 33 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 51 comments



>Covered in spikes and emitting a stench of rotting onions,

Wondering if that bit about "rotting onions" is wrong. I'm Indian and live in India, and while I haven't eaten jackfruit often, I have eaten it sometimes (the ripe sweet version), and never got a smell like that from it. I've even travelled for non-trivial periods through Tamil Nadu and Kerala states, where jackfruit is grown a lot, seen it growing on roadside trees, etc. It definitely has a strong smell, but it's just a strong sweet fruity smell, IIRC. Definitely can be an acquired taste, maybe more so for people from the West. But not bad, IMO.

Anyone else know better? or is the rotting onion smell they mention, from when it is not ripe yet, maybe? Because I've not seen/tasted it in that stage.

BTW, I've read elsewhere that it is supposed to be one of those wonder plants, which can help combat malnutrition, hunger, etc., if grown on a larger scale in the tropical (and subtropical?) countries where it can grow, and where there are sometimes food shortages, such as some parts of Asia and Africa.

Same goes for a few other plants/trees (in the sense of wonder plants, though not necessarily all for nutrition - some are for medical, construction or other uses, often multiple uses), like coconut, neem, bamboo, Moringa (drumstick tree), etc.

Edited for grammar.


They grew all over the place where I lived in Nayarit, Mexico. They just had the boring smell of an unripe banana. Kinda tasted like one, too.

Maybe they're confusing yaka with durian fruit?


That gummy substance the article mentions is definitely a bit of a problem, though, even when eating the ripe jackfruit. It gets onto your hands and takes some time and work to wash off.

BTW, the seeds of the jackfruit are also eaten, and are supposed to be nutritious, IIRC (part of that wonder plant stuff). Got a nutty taste. It's added to some curries in Indian cuisine, both North and South, I think. Had it a few times.


Yes, one of my favorite dishes is an item called kootu ([0] but it's just a recipe I picked off Google).

My mom and other elders warn me to eat small helpings because it can screw with digestion, but I'm not sure if that's true.

Jackfruit is a brilliant creation of nature


Yeah, it really sounds like they're talking about Durian. You can barely say Jackfruit is covered in spikes.


Right, good point, I missed that earlier. Not really spikes. Even the photo at the top of the article sort of shows that. They are sharp protrusions on the surface of the skin of the fruit, but since they are not really hard, you can handle the fruit even with them being there. I've picked up heavy jackfruit a few times and not had any problem of being poked by the "spikes". And they get pretty heavy - I think 45 kg is not uncommon for a single fruit.


I'd definitely consider them spike-covered, though so densely packed it's perhaps not so defining.

But their mass and weight sure set them apart! They grow so god damn big it's awe-inspiring to see them on trees along side of the road or beach. As if they are the cocoons of a giant jurassic-era butterfly.

Hard not to wonder how many small animals must have been obliterated by one falling from the tree.

But also how amazing it must have been for an early human or settler to find one in the wild. The amount of fruit you can harvest from one is incredible. Thankfully people would collect them, pluck out all the meat "nodes", and sell them in little bags of 4-6 nodules. I could never eat more than 4 nodules without rummaging for something else in the pantry, they're quite boring.


Good points and analogy :)

The last paragraph reminds me of novels like The Swiss Family Robinson and Robinson Crusoe, which were fun reading while growing up.


Durian is very spiky on the other hand. I've had and seen them both and the rest of the article seems spot-on from what I can tell. It's a weird slip in something that reads so well-informed otherwise.

Jackfruit has a mild, taste with a hint of banana and is odorless. Durian reeks like a trash heap but has a sweet and a little bit sour flavour with a hint of canned pears.


So is yaka the Mexican name for jackfruit? (Just started reading the article, in case it mentions that).

Yes, I had the same thought about whether they confused jackfruit with durian (which AFAIK grows mainly in SE Asia). Never had it myself.


Yeah, force of habit. Never heard of jackfruit until HN where we get an article about them every few months as people discover them.

Two other fruits I think more Americans should try are guyaba/guava and guanabana. Both are somewhat annoying to eat due to the seeds, but they have some unique flavors. Those are my two go-to icecream flavors.

Unfortunately the lack of demand makes them expensive in the US where I was astounded. They almost give them away where I live in Mexico.

Same with dragon fruit. A single fruit was $8 in Texas. Meanwhile I get them from the pitaya guy who rolls down my street 4x for <$1.


Guavas are great. We have them a lot in India. Yes, the seeds are a bit of a problem, though not big, I guess. Used to eat them a lot as a kid with salt. Also, the ones with pink flesh are extra good, though white is more common. Litchis are another great fruit. Don't get them much in many parts of India, though. Not sure why. Maybe not popular, or maybe only grows in some parts. IIRC, had them in Bengal when visiting relatives there.


All those fruits you mentioned are sorta common here in Brazil under the names jaca, goiaba and graviola. You can find them int he supermarket but they're present in many backyards too. They're even used to make flavored beverages like licors and beers and that's before any vegan food trend I can think of.


Those are what we call Jaca in Brazil. You're right: they don't have a bad smell.


Can confirm, I'm American and went to the Philippines for a while, and jackfruit tasted and smelled fine to me. My best description is that it's like the texture and taste profile of a banana (not banana flavor though, just kind of fruity), mixed with tofu or mild cheese.

Durian, on the other hand, looks similar to someone who isn't familiar with both, and has more of that unappealing smell.

I'm honestly surprised that jackfruit isn't more popular. They grow fairly densely (several huge fruits on a single modest tree), are easy to cultivate, and are fairly tasty (though kind of sticky IIRC). If bananas go away (mass death among Cavendish bananas), I wouldn't be surprised to see canned jackfruit take over.


Here's the Wikipedia page for Moringa:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moringa_oleifera

The pods are used in sambar in South Indian cuisine, and are pretty tasty. You have to eat only the inner pulp and seeds, not fibrous outer cover.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sambar_(dish)

I've read the green leaves of Moringa are very nutritious too, though never had a chance to try them.


I think the best description have been given of the smell and taste is "it is a mix between a banana and a camembert" (a french cheese).

Like Joe's use to say: "Custard, good ... jam, good ... meat, GOOD!"


Yo! The author is an idiot! Jackfruit is not Durion! It's like confusing Java and JavaScript!


I bought some jackfruit a while back at the local asian market. The fruit tastes like JuicyFruit gum to me. Not only that, but the seeds are also edible and delicious when roasted, somewhere between a potato and a chestnut. I made a pretty good curry out of them based on this recipe: https://youtu.be/IBoTxDgMauM


I've tried to buy this twice from china through ebay. First time, I got very tiny seeds - I have no idea what the plant is. Second time, I got orange seeds.

I'd have kept trying but I found out that Jackfruit seeds lose viability very fast. So, even if the right seeds were sent, they'd be duds in the 2-3 months it takes to get to me.

Wanted to see if it could be used commercially as a meat replacement in pies.


I've purchased canned jackfruit before from asian supermarkets. Depending on where you live, this could be difficult, but your area may have an H-Mart. I personally wasn't a fan of the texture.


As a vegan, I enjoy jackfruit occasionally but it's a a long ways removed from the taste and texture of the new generation of plant based meats.

If I'm eating healthy I'd rather go for other more accessible fruit, veggies and legumes and if eating for meat taste instead would prefer Impossible, Beyond, Gardein and Hungry Planet etc.


As an omnivore I quite like the fake pulled "pork" made from green jackfruit. It reminds me of the texture of artichoke hearts, whereas lots of the new fake meats fall into the uncanny valley.


I guess there must be a market for it, pizza hut wouldn't have launched it otherwise. btw, not sure if you've tried the recent V2 launches but impossible and beyond keep getting better year on year. I've had omni friends start to post positively about the over the past month or two which is a big change from even just a year or two ago.


It bothers me how often veganism is at odds with the local food movement. It isn't all the time, but it seems to often be. It's hard for me to square any ethical argument for making an obscure fruit or seed from the other side of the planet a staple of my diet, particularly when that food is being produced in regions with environmental destruction unchecked by effective environmental regulation.


Differing regional environmental regulations is indeed a big problem.

One pet peeve of mine is locavores clamoring about emissions from transportation.

Food shipped overseas is not emissions intense at all. Huge tankers are __the__ most efficient means of transportation, emissions-wise. Pair efficient diesel with the physics of huge inertia over a frictionless medium, and gigantic economies of scale.

Usually, growing tomatoes in a greenhouse in Vermont is __more__ emissions intense than shipping them from Chile.


Eating foods that are actually endemic in your region is important. However I will admit the equation probably gets flipped if you live in a region with poor environmental regulation and have the opportunity to eat imported food from a region with better environmental regulation.

As for the matter of emissions, that's a complex issue. In the specific case of heated greenhouses, one must consider the source of the power being used to heat the greenhouse. Not all power is made equal when it comes to emissions. Some places burn coal, others use hydro (clean, but damming rivers causes habitat loss), others use renewables (great) or nuclear (clean and controversial.)

Frankly though food related emissions are going to be a small portion of all global emissions. What concerns me more is habitat loss caused by agriculture, and whether or not the region I'm getting food from has effective regulation in place concerning that (and if not, whether I have any chance of influencing the government in that region.)


More efficient per mile, sure. But how about per total trip length?


The local leg via truck is likely to be much more energy intensive unless you live right next to a seaport.


I would bet that jackfruit from the other side of the world is less emissions-intensive than local beef. The carbon footprint of livestock production is absolutely insane, even if it's local. Of course ideally you'd do something both local and plant-based, but nobody's perfect.


Jackfruit is not veganism. No vegan is eating jackfruit regularly nor for long. It’s an exotic fruit with a trick of being similar to pulled pork in the right circumstances. It’s something some vegans chose to eat from time to time, “to scratch an itch.” Daily vegan calories are going to be from nuts, berries, other produce, grains, and legumes. The US produces vast quantities of all of those.

It bothers me when a fundamentally nonviolent movement is maligned as wasteful, inefficient, or dangerous.


I agree! I think businesses trying to court more people in to trying plant based options may focus more on getting customers than being kind to the earth. Certainly veganism is often very aligned with the local food movement, but this processed packaged kind of product sure isn’t!


Jackfruit is awesome. However, as I discovered, that some people have some level of allergies to the raw fruit (some pollen allergy). You'll know it because your throat will tighten, your eyes will itch, etc. But if it's cooked, it's no problem.

Raw, it is slightly sweet and generally mild in flavor (with a nice texture, imo).

Cooked, it can be torn into strips that is very texturally similar to chicken or pulled pork.


Sounds like oral allergy syndrome, which is actually a response to the proteins in the food: https://www.allergicliving.com/2011/11/30/the-scoop-on-raw-v...

(And while I didn't like jackfruit on initial exposure, I quickly grew to enjoy it - not like Thailand's other stinking fruit, the durian, which some people really love but I detest...)


Disclosure:I am from Kerala so probably a bit biased in favor.

Jackfruit can be used to make jam, dried chips, curries and a bunch of other things that my limited vocabulary restricts me from mentioning. Ofcourse ripe jack fruit is delicious by itself.

To top this, the seed of jackfruit is also used for preparing varios curries. This fruit has a potential that is yet to be tapped to its fullest.


> In May 2018, the Kerala government declared jackfruit the state’s official fruit, with the winning slogan: “Jackfruit is the best fruit. Its fruit has innumerable good qualities.”

This is so charming. Reminds me of Japanese small prefectures and cities and their local mascots and specialties.


Do people understand it’s nutritional value is not equivalent to what it’s replacing (when mimicking meat)? Looking at the “pulled pork” bun on the webpage made me think, would you still feel like this is just fine for lunch if it was slices of pineapple instead inside?


I’m a vegan.

I don’t really like jackfruit, but I can tell you that I don’t look for meat-equivalent nutrition really. I do seek to eat a healthy balanced diet, but removing meat and dairy means changing the rest of your diet to ensure your body gets all that it needs. If you were to go vegan by replacing meat with meat substitutes, you would not be a happy vegan. However the substitutes can be nice. Yesterday I got a beyond burger at Carl’s Jr. The meal had nothing to do with nutrition, but was about a longing for junk food I have missed.

There’s lots of reasons to eat jackfruit and I believe most vegans are clear that jackfruit cannot simply replace pork to make a healthy vegan diet.


I think with pineapple the bun would be all soggy.

A piece of bread and some pineapple would be fine for lunch I think. It would be weird because we don’t think of that combination of foods as a typical sandwich.

Pineapple has a much different flavor profile than jackfruit. Jackfruit is a bit of a blank slate, and has a texture that is the right mix of meaty and tender. Pineapple is very sour and juicy, it’s completely different food.

We think nothing of cucumber sandwiches, tomato sandwiches, eggplant sandwiches, various bean products (tofu, black bean, falafel).

I think you’re playing on the (gustatorily) incongruent nature of a ‘pineapple sandwich’ and conflating that emotion with the relative nutritional qualities that would comprise a ‘pineapple sandwich’ (probably not far off a cucumber sandwich with quince paste).


Heh, I once got a "watermelon steak" at a vegan restaurant in Seattle. Let me tell you, a slice of grilled watermelon is not even remotely similar to a steak.


> Do people understand it’s nutritional value is not equivalent to what it’s replacing (when mimicking meat)?

yes

> Looking at the “pulled pork” bun on the webpage made me think, would you still feel like this is just fine for lunch if it was slices of pineapple instead inside?

yes, that sounds like a way better lunch than pulled pork. I am not vegetarian and I am very active but I don't feel the need to eat meat more than once or twice a week. And even then that's only because I like its taste, afaik there is nothing in meat or dairy you can't find somewhere else.


For some reason, when the topic of veganism comes up, people act like everyone is otherwise incidentally healthy due to their omnivore diet when that's obviously not the case. And that somehow making a conscious decision about what you eat for once puts you at risk for being less healthy.

Meanwhile, our foods are fortified with things like calcium and vitamin D because people otherwise don't get enough. In a nation where we all certainly eat enough. Maybe it's indeed time to drop the idea that we don't have to think about what we eat.


Most people do understand that you need to monitor your nutrition more on a vegetarian or vegan diet, especially if you're converting. For food that's a mimic, it's already hard enough to make something that tastes similar that making it nutritionally equivalent is not realistic.


Having a vegetarian diet, this is the most difficult thing when eating out. More often than not it's extremely carb-heavy and barely any protein. Few places make balanced vegetarian meals - mostly Indian and specifically vegan restaurants.


Some do; some don't.

In my experience, most find a source of protein quickly (tofu, tempeh, peanut butter, chickpeas, quinoa).

But some end up with iron deficiency and may need to take supplements. (Broccoli looks like a comparable source by weight -- 1.1mg per 148g, versus 2.2mg per 85g of beef. But 85g of beef is roughly 3/4 cup by volume, whereas to get the ~300g of broccoli for the same 2.2 mg of iron, you need to eat two stalks or three cups by volume.)


Spinach is a great source of iron. 2.7mg per 100g. Also high in protein. I think there's a reason Popeye is all about spinach.


True, but if you're eating raw spinach you need something like nine cups to get your RDA (assuming RDA of 8mg/day, and about 3 cups per 100g). Females 19-50 are told to eat 2x that; pregnant females 3x (27mg/day(!), source: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Iron-HealthProfessional/).

If you cook it, then your 300g spinach reduces to something like one and a half cups, but you have to be careful to not lose water-soluble iron to your cooking method. Also, you have to like the texture of wilted spinach.

If you're used to eating half-cup sides of spinach, making spinach your primary iron source is a fairly major change to how you eat.


Spinach has oxalic acid that can lead to fragile bones. I wouldn't suggest to eat a lot of it (specially if you are a pregnant woman), unless you take countermeasures to assure a correct calcium intake.


Yes, everyone understands that. Especially vegans.

I really wouldn’t worry about one of the most obese countries in the entire world lacking for calories and protein.


I'm the opposite of a vegetarian and I love jackfruit. I'll admit it's something of an acquired taste and lots of people hate its smell. I love it. Grew up eating it and I'm very happy to see it more easily in my local grocery stores.


AMLO (prez of mexico) is also a fan. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TEjcyRO-vPw




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