What The Heck Is Jackfruit And Can It Really Taste Like Pulled Pork?

Senior Writer
08.03.16 14 Comments
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My doctor was pretty serious this time. My yearly physical has often included the phrase “You should cut down on red meat,” but this time he was much more direct, “You need to cut down on red meat.” “Blasphemy,” I thought, with my Homer Simpson-like brain visualizing the big, juicy steak that I’d grill for dinner that night — a celebration of the fact that I’d gotten a physical for the fourth year running. “In fact,” my doctor added, “you should consider cutting red meat out of your diet entirely.” The nerve of this well-educated physician.

Of course, I knew he was right. My cholesterol is higher than the lawn section at a Dave Matthews Band concert and, as such, I’ve been a man of white meat for the past seven months. I cheated with three small steaks during that time, and I keep track of that number because it’s significantly less than “at least one a week.” But it didn’t help enough, as my latest bloodwork came back with grease dripping from it.

“That’s it,” my doctor said, as if he was sitting inside the Pope-mobile, sensing danger. “You’re done with red meat until I tell you otherwise.”

So, what’s a meat-loving guy to do when his favorite meal is ripped away from him by some jerk who is trying to increase his life expectancy? Turns out all you ever really have to do is say that you can’t eat red meat and nutrition “experts” will come running like you just fired the bat signal into the night sky. One brief mention to a fitness-minded friend of mine resulted in: “You should try jackfruit.” Another friend offered me a dozen or so easy fish recipes (which he clearly just copied from Pinterest) before adding: “Also, check out jackfruit.” It was like one of those old movie scenes where I’m lost in a strange city and every neon sign reads, “Jackfruit!

Okay, so what the hell is jackfruit?

The problem with questions as headlines (especially those unintentionally laden with innuendo) is that they’re like inviting vampires into your home. The point of this is self-discovery — in that I’d never heard of jackfruit before people started telling me I had to try it. But once you ask a question like this in this time of Internet Know-It-Alls, you can expect everyone to tell you their version of the truth, in addition to: “Um, excuse me, but jackfruit is only the most important fruit in the world and it’s going to save modern society, thank you very much.”

Having no clue where to find jackfruit or what to do with these big, green, spiky melon-looking things, I called upon Upton’s Naturals founder Daniel Staackmann to give me a crash course in all-things jackfruit. He was much more helpful and personable than a routine Google search, starting with the basics.

Jackfruit is a type of tree that is very well-endowed when it comes to fruit. You’ll know a jackfruit tree when you spot its big, old fruitballs hanging out for the world to see, as if it’s bragging about having the biggest fruit of any tree. Impressively, a single jackfruit can grow to be 100 pounds, and it has plenty of uses. When ripe, the yellowish jackfruit’s taste is comparable to “pear, pineapple, banana and papaya,” but I’m here to talk about the unripe stuff, which supposedly tastes like pulled pork or chicken. Fruit that tastes like meat? I’m taking crazy pills!

Staackmann’s company claims to be “the first company to make pre-seasoned, heat-and-serve, natural jackfruit nationally available to the U.S. market.” That’s certainly better than “Try our jackfruit if you dare!” — so I decided to take the plunge. First, though, I needed more history on this supposedly popular fruit, like…

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