Shobha visited her aunt(atthai) in Saibaba Colony last week and was gifted a large chunky jackfruit. The atthai has a few jackfruit trees in her compound and tends to their nutrition requirements meticulously. As a result the trees bear fruit for about 3-4 months every year.
The cutting & hacking, removal of the thick prickly skin & removal of the velvety yellow fruit & ejection of the seeds is an expert job and this duty is normally handed over to Shobhas father. But notwithstanding his "expertise: this process leaves behind quite a mess which requires articulate clean up. This time around we were lucky - our newly appointed man Friday appeared to be an expert too on this subject. He was excited at seeing the jackfruit and immediately took the fruit away to a remote corner and went about the task of skinning the fruit. He did this with such clinical precision and did not leave behind any kind of mess.
The skin had been neatly chopped away, the sticky interiors were expunged, the velvety fruit sliced open & seeds removed and the fruits deposited attractively in a steel bowl.
Some people love both the aroma & the taste of jackfruit - Shobha & her father fall in this category. Others like me are neutral to smell but like the taste of the ripe fruit. A third category like Guhan find both the smell & taste disgusting & nauseating - Guhan is very clear - its either he or the jack fruit, both cannot coexist in the same room - so make your choice !
The jackfruit tree bears fruits in the trunks or near the base of older branches from where the female flowers emerge in the first place. Given that jackfruit is the heaviest among the tree borne fruits, reaching up to 35 kg in weight, it is possible that the trees bear them in the trunk or older branches that are strong enough to hold the fruit.
Origin: The jackfruit is believed indigenous to the rain forests of the Western Ghats of India. It spread early on to other parts of India, Southeast Asia, the East Indies and ultimately the Philippines. It is often planted in central and eastern Africa and is fairly popular in Brazil and Surinam.
Jackfruit can be eaten unripe (young) or ripe, and cooked or uncooked. The seeds can also be eaten cooked or baked like beans. The leaves are sometimes used as a wrapping for steamed Idlis. Jackfruit is commonly known as "Pala Pazham" in Tamilnadu and "Plava or Chakka" in Kerala. The tree is found in almost every household in Kerala. (Family elders: Can you recollect the abundant "plavus" in the spacious compound around Lakshmi Nivas ?) A large variety of dishes are prepared with both the unripe as well as ripened fruit. Chakka Varaval, Chakka Mezhukku Varatti, Chakka Aviyal,Chakka Chips, Elisseri,Chakka Varatti (Jam), Chakka Pradaman(payasam or kheer) are some of the popular dishes served in Kerala weddings.
Tit Bit: Another innovative way of consuming this fruit - slice open the velvety fruit on one side, lift the flap, add a few teaspoons (or tablespoons if you wish) of honey, close the flap & drop the whole thing into your mouth golgappa (panipuri) stye. Its heavenly, simply melts in your mouth & slides smoothely down your gullet !