Fruit of the month: Jackfruit

Jackfruit or jack tree is a flowering plant from the fig family. It is believed to have originated from the Western Ghats of southern India and the rainforest of Malaysia.
The tree is well-suited in tropical lowlands, and it is grown in every tropical and subtropical region around the world. It grows large fruits, weighing as much as 55 kg and reaching 90 cm high. A matured jack tree produces over 200 fruits per year, yet older ones bear more than 500 fruits. The jackfruit is green in colour, whether ripe or not, so you must rely solely on your smell when choosing a ripe fruit since its aroma can be sensed from far away.
Jackfruit is found in The Gambia during the rainy season. The tree can be found in the forests, especially the upcountry. The fruit matures in the rainy season and is harvested in August. The fruit is transported to the urban areas when harvested and sold in the markets. You can buy jackfruit from the main markets like Serekunda, Banjul and Brikama. At the Sandika in Serekunda, you can find jackfruit at fruit shops. The prices of jackfruit vary from one year to another, depending on the quantity of the harvest.
When you open the jackfruit, you will find millions of fleshy strings, called jackfruit rags, in it. There are bean-shaped achenes embedded in these rags, coated with a firm yellowish aril or flesh, which is the fruit. It has a taste similar to the mixture of pineapple and banana. Both the fruit and the seed are edible. The flesh can be eaten raw while the seed has to be boiled, roasted or baked. When boiled, it is eaten with side sauce made by locals. This sauce is usually tamarind with chilly and lemon.
In some countries, jackfruit is used to prepare a variety of dishes like custard and cake. The arils are sometimes fried or frozen and sold as chips.
Jackfruit is packed with nutrients. It is rich in vitamin C, fibre, protein and has a moderate number of calories.

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