Image by Maurício Padovani
By Amy Grant
You may have seen an extremely large, spiny behemoth of a fruit in the produce section of a local Asian or specialty grocer and wondered what on earth it could be. The reply, upon inquiry, may be, “That’s a jackfruit.” Okayyyy, but what is a jackfruit? Keep reading to learn more about this unusual and exotic fruit tree.
Jackfruit Tree Info
From the family Moraceae and related to the breadfruit, growing jackfruit trees (Artocarpus heterophyllus) can attain heights of 80 feet with a straight trunk branching out from the base. Jackfruit tree info finds these trees cultivated in India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Australia, Kenya, Uganda and Mauritius. They may also be found in Brazil, Jamaica, the Bahamas, south Florida and Hawaii.
This otherworldly looking oddity has a very thick rubbery rind with short blunt spikes and up to 500 seeds. The average fruit is around 35 pounds but in Kerala, India a 144 pound jackfruit was displayed at a festival! All but the rind and core of the fruit is edible and the odor is in another category of scents than can be imagined. In fact, the fruit of growing jackfruit trees have been described as smelling either like a combination of grapefruit, banana and cheese or akin to spoiled onions blended with sweaty gym socks and cloyingly sweet. I can’t bear to think of the latter description!
All parts of the jackfruit tree produce opalescent, sticky latex and the tree has a very long taproot. Growing jackfruit trees have flowers borne on short branches extending from the trunk and older branches.
How to Grow Jackfruit
So now that you know what is a jackfruit, you may be wondering how to grow jackfruit trees? Well, first of all you need to live in a humid tropical to near tropical climate.
Growing jackfruit trees are extremely sensitive to frost and cannot abide drought. They flourish in rich, deep and somewhat porous soil. They enjoy a constant source of moisture though they cannot tolerate wet roots and will cease to bear fruit or even die if kept too wet.
Altitudes over 4,000 feet above sea level are detrimental as are areas of high or sustained winds.
If you feel you meet the requirements above, then propagation is usually attained via seeds, which have a short shelf life of only a month. Germination takes 3-8 weeks but can be sped up by soaking the seeds in water for 24 hours. Once the growing jackfruit trees gain four leaves, they may be transplanted although the extra long and delicate taproot may make this difficult.
If after all my pessimistic jackfruit tree info you decide to give it a whirl, there are certain items regarding jackfruit care that you should know. Growing jackfruit trees produce within 3-4 years and may live to 100 years old with productivity declining as they age.
Fertilize your growing jackfruit tree with nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and magnesium applied in a ratio of 8:4:2:1 to 30 grams per tree at 6 months of age and doubling every 6 months up to 2 years of age. Past the two year mark, growing jackfruit trees should get 1 kg. per tree in the amount of 4:2:4:1 and is applied before and at the end of the wet season.
Other jackfruit care dictates the removal of dead wood and thinning of the growing jackfruit tree. Pruning to keep the jackfruit at about 15 feet high will also facilitate harvesting. Keep the tree roots damp but not wet.