The jackfruit is the national fruit of Bangladesh, it is one of the largest tree borne fruits in the world. Many Bangladeshis living in the UK love this fruit and it is a source of nostalgia for them.
Every summer, it is on sale in the Bangladeshi-owned groceries.
In the UK, they are not only unique and exotic but are very expensive, usually ranging between £12 to as much as £100 with an average price of £3.50 per kg. For some UK Bangladeshis, jackfruits are the king of fruits and they will buy at least one fruit every year to eat and distribute to friends. Often, the jackfruits are on display outside shops which attracts the attention of not only Bangladeshis, but curious looks from the White British public who have never seen this fruit before.
I was born in the UK and my father, a second generation Bangladeshi, introduced me to jackfruit at a very early age. Like the rest of my family, I love the taste of jackfruit. In UK Bangladeshi-owned groceries, no other fruit brings together strangers for a chit-chat as jackfruit does. You will often see people gathering around jackfruits, feeling and smelling them to check if they are good or bad.
Ironically for a man who loves jackfruit, I often hear my father singing the following song which he heard when he was a small boy in the Sylhet region of Bangladesh: “Aam khao, Zam khao, Khatal khaio-na. Khatal khaile pete oshukh-hobe Daktar paibe-na”, which can be roughly translated as follows: “Eat mangoes, eat plums, but do not eat jackfruits. Eating jackfruits will give you stomach illness and you will not find a doctor”. However, jackfruit is increasingly gaining reputation as a nutritious superfood and even some celebrities in the West admit to loving it. Recently, Kourtney Kardashian surprised many by stating that jackfruit is one of her three favourite “superfruits”.
Jackfruit is considered by some a “miracle” food crop that can save millions from hunger. It can be a replacement for staple crops such as wheat and corn, the fruit is also rich in various nutrients and minerals.
A recent study reported that consuming jackfruit regularly may control blood sugar levels. Jackfruit is considered to be a good alternative to meat which makes it attractive to vegetarians and vegans. Even the seeds of the jackfruit are useful and can be used for cooking; recently it has been used as an ingredient for chocolate.
Researchers from the University of São Paulo in Brazil and the University of Reading in the United Kingdom reported that jackfruit seeds are suitable for producing ingredients which can substitute for cocoa beans. Jackfruits have many qualities that make it an ideal crop; it is drought-resistant, withstands attacks from pests and can grow easily at high temperatures.
Therefore, it could be a very important crop of the future as the world faces the challenges of global warming and water shortage. Scientists and entrepreneurs in Bangladesh could do more to harness the potential of their national fruit.
The govt could organise an annual festival to celebrate the national fruit and bring together farmers, scientists and entrepreneurs to enhance the use of this versatile and valuable fruit. Next year, I hope to get involved in organising a Khatal uthshob (jackfruit festival) in the UK to celebrate the national fruit of Bangladesh and highlight its potential as a food that could save millions from hunger.
Zaid Haris from United Kingdom