If you’re a lover of exotic fruits and you want to try growing something different this year then jackfruit could be your next challenge. Native to tropical Asia, the fruits can be hard to find in stores. All the more reason to grow your own at home!
Jackfruit has grown in popularity over the past few years. Not only does it make a delicious vegetable, but the seeds are edible, and it can even be used as a meat substitute.
If you live in a warm climate, you can succeed in growing this unusual fruit. Here’s how:
A Bit About Jackfruit
Jackfruits (Artocarpus heterophyllus) are distinctive for their appearance and flavor. They’re huge with a spiky shell and a bold scent. The flavor is sweet and fruity, like a mix of mangos, pineapples, and bananas.
Jackfruit trees are large, often reaching up 70 feet in their native home. In Hawaii and Florida, it rarely reaches that tall, staying under 40 feet. You can grow it in USDA Growing Zones 10-12, and in 9b so long as you are prepared to protect it or bring the plant indoors during cool weather. The trees have long taproots, so they don’t transplant well.
The leaves on the tree are up to eight inches long and glossy green, while the fruits themselves can reach up to two feet long. They’re huge! They’re the largest tree-borne fruit in the world.
The rind stinks. People liken it to stinky cheese. That’s why most people prefer to prepare the fruits outdoors. The flesh, however, is sweet and clean-smelling. Inside the rind are sections of flesh wrapped around each large seed.
Best Jackfruit Cultivars
Jackfruit is divided into soft and hard types. There are many cultivars out there. Here are some good ones from growing in the US:
‘Black Gold’ has a high portion of flesh, which is dark orange and extremely flavorful. The flesh separates easily from the skin and seeds.
‘Dang Rasimi’ originated in Thailand and is extremely productive. The flesh is firm and dark orange with a mild flavor.
‘Golden Nugget’ hails from Australia and has small fruits with a high percentage of soft, edible flesh. Even better, the flesh has no fiber.
‘Honey Gold’ is a dwarf cultivar that stays under six feet tall, making harvest a breeze. Of course, you’ll get far fewer fruits off the plant, but still plenty for a small family.
‘Lemon Gold’ as the name suggests, has bright yellow, firm flesh.
‘Kun Wi Chan’ has massive, firm fruits with a mild flavor.
‘NS1’ is one of the oldest cultivars out there. It’s a robust producer with firm, dark orange fruit.
‘Tabouey’ produces long, thin fruits with a firm, pale yellow flesh. It has a mild flavor and is nearly scent-free.
First of all, you need to have the right climate for growing jackfruits. Since jackfruit is a tropical fruit, it thrives in hot weather. The lowest temperature it can survive in is 28°F. In addition to temperature, it also needs high humidity and regular water.
If you live in Zone 9b, you can grow a dwarf variety in a container and bring it indoors during the winter.
Jackfruits have huge seeds and a ton of them, so it’s natural to wonder about planting them to create new trees. It’s actually easy to propagate jackfruit from seed so long as the seeds are fresh. Use them within a few weeks of removing them from the fruit.
Plant the seeds an inch deep in a six-inch compostable pot filled with a seed starting mix. It’s important to use a compostable pot because you don’t want to damage the taproot when you transplant the seedling.
Place in a spot with full sun and keep the soil moist. Once the plant has four leaves, you can harden it off and plant it in its permanent spot.
Caring for Jackfruits
Plant the seedling in full sun. Seedlings, whether you buy them or start them yourself, should be planted in the spring. The soil should be loamy, rich, and well-draining with a neutral pH.
Growing jackfruit means that you need to water frequently if you don’t naturally receive the right amount of rain. Watering is especially important when the tree is young because it needs as much support and the least amount of stress as possible.
When the weather is extremely hot, you might need to water more regularly than normal. However, be cautious about overwatering, since jackfruits can’t handle soggy roots.
If the soil feels moist then the plant has enough water. If it feels dry more than an inch or so down, then you might want to grab your hose and top the soil up with some water. Add a thick layer of mulch to help suppress weeds and retain moisture in the soil.
Jackfruit trees should be fertilized every 4 months with an all-purpose fertilizer.
Jackfruit Pests and Diseases
Jackfruits trees rarely experience issues with pests and disease. As long as you know what to watch for in advance so you can take quick action, you should be able to avoid serious damage.
Most of these pests and diseases can be easily controlled with water management and insecticide sprays. Be alert and check your plant’s health regularly.
Watch for aphids, jackfruit fly, and longicorn beetles. In the US, aphids are the most common pests and cause yellowing leaves. They also attract sooty mold with the sweet, sticky honeydew that they leave behind.
You might rarely see pink rot, which is a fungus that attacks the plant. You’ll see a pink fuzz on the stem of the plant. This can be treated with a copper fungicide.
How to Harvest and Use Jackfruits
You need to wait about four years before the tree will start producing fruits. When it’s ready, the fruit should sound somewhat hollow if you tap it and the stem should be yellow. Some cultivars might turn yellow or brown when they’re ready.
Once it’s time to harvest, slice or cut the fruit off with a knife or clippers. The fruit should ripen further off the tree. You might need an assistant to help remove the fruits as you sever them from the tree.
The tree exudes a sticky latex, and this can gum up your tools. Coat them in olive oil to prevent the gum from sticking to your tools. Some people have luck harvesting during the afternoon when the latex flows more slowly.
Keep the fruit in a cool spot, between 50-55°F, until you’re ready to eat it.
You can harvest early before the fruit is fully ripened and use the flesh as you would a vegetable. Mature fruits are best used as you would fruit. The seeds can be eaten, as well. Try roasting them.
The flesh has a firm, stringy texture that is similar to chicken or pork. It also absorbs the flavor of anything you put on it, so it makes a perfect meat substitute.