Appears in
Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About

jackfruit also known as jak, Artocarpus heterophyllus, and its close relation A. integer, the champedak (or chempedak), belong to the same genus as the breadfruit. They are thought to be native to S. India, whence they spread to Sri Lanka and over the mainland of SE Asia, keeping to a more northerly habitat than that of the tropical breadfruit. Although cultivation of the jackfruit is greatest in India and Sri Lanka, it is practised in many other countries.

The fruit itself is enormous, occasionally reaching 40 kg (90 lb) in weight, which makes it the largest of tree-borne fruits. It grows directly from the trunk of the tree on a short stem. It is a composite fruit with a structure like that of the pineapple, but less tidy; the sections are clustered in irregular clumps. The fruit is elongated, its green skin fissured by the hexagonal boundaries of the sections and covered with spikes. Each fruit contains up to 500 large, starchy, edible seeds which are sometimes known as ‘breadnuts’, although the true breadnut belongs to a different species. Where the chempedak, a slightly smaller but similar fruit, is grown, it is usually as a source of these ‘breadnuts’.