Anyone travelling across Kerala just cannot miss the jackfruit tree hung with thick bunches of greenish-yellow jackfruits. The trees are spread across the state.
Over the years this fruit still maintains its status as one of the most affordable to one and all and can be consumed raw or ripe. Each jackfruit weighs from three to 30 kilograms.
Believed to have originated in the country’s southwestern rain forests,the word jackfruit comes from Portuguese jaca, which in turn, is derived from the Malayalam word chakka. In common parlance, chakka is often referred to as the pre-ripe form and the fragrance of the fleshy jackfruit is first noticed by squirrels and the birds. The ripe form is called chakka pazham.
“I remember that when work was difficult to come by during the rainy season, my father-in-law used to allow the the labour class to cut the near-ripe jackfruit. The mashed jackfruit, prepared with grated coconut and spices, is not only mouth-watering but also quite a filling meal. Also, the tasty chips prepared from jackfruit is a hit among one and all,” Molly Thomas, an 80-year-old grandmother from Thiruvalla told IANS.
The process of weaning out the pieces after cutting open the jackfruit is a laborious one and is very messy because of the sticky white fluid that oozes out, but for experienced people, it’s child’s play. The seed or ‘chola’ inside each fleshy piece is also used for making excellent dishes. One of the most popular ones is when it’s mixed with raw mango and coconut paste and for a curry called ‘chakkakuru manga’ that is eaten with steaming rice.
“When eaten with typical Kerala fish curry, mashed jackfruit is second to none. We have now started promoting this among the foreign tourists who opt for home stays,” Jacob Punnen, who rents out rooms in Kottayam, told IANS.
Today, the koozha variety is not much in demand and householders find it difficult to dispose it off because after it ripens and falls, it’s a big messy affair with lots of flies and birds feeding on it. The varikka variety of a jackfruit is available at a fancy price of Rs.150 upwards.
“We have both varieties of jackfruit. Of late, it’s buyers from Tamil Nadu who come and buy the varikka variety. They do not want the koozha variety. They rip us off as while we get around Rs.10 for a varikka jackfruit, we are told that they sell it from above Rs.100. See, if we do not sell it for Rs.10 per piece, then it will become food for the birds