Adi Chakke!

TNIE explores the journey of jackfruit, uncovering its origin, cultural significance, health benefits, and culinary versatility
A monkey seen eating jackfruit
A monkey seen eating jackfruitPhoto | Express

KOCHI: There is nothing quite like jackfruit to turn a regular day into a celebration at home. As soon as the trees start bearing fruit, all members long for that irresistible aroma of ripeness.

When the sweet scent finally drifts through the backyard, it is like a magnet pulling everything together under the shade of the jackfruit tree. With great care, the elders begin cutting the giant fruit down and transporting it to the kitchen. Cutting it is not an easy task. It takes a lot of effort to avoid the sticky sap clinging to our hands and clothes. That is where the oil comes in handy. And as one slices it up, it is a must to set aside some pieces for neighbours.

Then the elders will gather around and separate the ripe fruit’s flesh. It’s a cozy scene, filled with laughter, memories, a little bit of rain, and the sweet aroma filling the air. But the magic is that no matter how much they extract, the bowl never seems to fill up completely. Because the quick hands of the children are ready to snatch up every piece before they even hit the bowl.

The seed of the fruit is also not thrown away. They may seem small, but they are mighty when it comes to flavour, and will be the star ingredient in the delicious curries in the coming days.

The Origin

Jackfruits, scientifically known as Artocarpus heterophyllus Lam, is an emotion and an experience for Malayalis. And these largest tree fruits on the planet are believed to have originated in the lush rainforests of the Western Ghats. Some research suggests India as its place of origin.

The fruit’s origin can be traced back to Maharashtra, Karnataka, and Kerala dating back around 3,000-6,000 years, some say. Also, jackfruits have been cultivated in India for thousands of years, earning its status as one of the oldest cultivated fruits in the world.

As time passed, jackfruit found its way beyond the borders, spreading its branches across Southeast Asia, including countries like Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, and the Philippines. In Sri Lanka, it has been a staple food since ancient times, serving as a reliable source of sustenance for both people and livestock, especially during times of scarcity when staple foodgrain were in short supply.

Despite its South Asian origins, jackfruit has made itself at home in tropical and subtropical regions around the world. Warm and moist climates in Asia, Africa, and some parts of South America provide the ideal conditions for jackfruit trees to thrive.

There are numerous strains of jackfruit, with around 30 varieties found in the Indian subcontinent and another 30 types in Malaysia. The main varieties are firm and soft, each offering unique textures and flavours.

Cultural significance

The word ‘Chakka’ as Malayalis call it comes from the word Che-Kai, which means a group of green fruits joined together. And that’s exactly how a jackfruit looks — like a bunch of fruits packed inside a spiky green shell.

The name ‘jackfruit’ actually comes from the Malayalam word ‘Chakka’. Interestingly, the journey of the name ‘jackfruit’ began with the observations of Portuguese scholar Garcia da Orta in 1563. He encountered this unique fruit during his explorations in the Indian subcontinent and referred to it as ‘jaca’ in his writings.

In Kerala, the story of Sakthan Thampuran, the ruler of the erstwhile kingdom of Cochin, setting a feast entirely with jackfruit, when it wasn’t available anywhere in the kingdom is quite popular. Legend has it that when the order was passed to bring jackfruits, people from various parts of the kingdom came to the royal household with jackfruits

The fruit finds its way into celebrations, weddings, and daily meals, serving as a main course, snack, and even dessert option. There are the crowd’s favourites like chakkakuru and manga curry, where the seed is sliced and cooked with coconut milk, raw mangoes and curry leaves. This creamy tangy curry would be one of the highlights on the dinner table. 

However, for many, nothing tops the scrumptious medley of flavours of a chakka puzhukku, a preparation of mashed raw jackfruit, mixed with a spicy coconut paste and flavoured with mustard seeds, curry leaves, and coconut oil. It pairs well with fish curry and in some regions, the preference is for pork. Back in the day, after a long day on the field, this dish was in demand as it could easily satiate a person’s hunger due to its high starch content and nutritious value. Then dishes like chakka erisseri, chakka thoran are also constants across regions.

Then comes the sweet delight, chakka varratti, prepared in a large uruli in which jackfruit puree, ghee, jaggery and cardamom are stirred for long hours on a low flame.

The laborious halwa-like dessert is a sought-after one. This jam-like dessert can also be made into ada, when mixed with rice batter and steamed within banana leaves. New arrivals like tandoori jackfruit and Jackfruit ice cream also prove that one can create an endless number of dishes with jackfruits.  

This is one of the reasons why the Kerala government in 2018 declared jackfruit as the official fruit of the state. The then agriculture minister V S Sunil Kumar mentioned in the Assembly that the state can generate a revenue of `30,000 crore through value-added jackfruit products. 

Farmers friend 

Balachandran Balu, a farmer from Ottappalam says jackfruits are ‘hopeful’ fruits.

“They are easy to grow and not much attention is required. Organic fertilisers like cow dung, neem cake, goat dung, and timely pruning can give greater yield. Also, jackfruits have demand throughout the year, they can be produced even during off seasons like August and September. Due to its demand, a kilo is being sold for Rs 100. It is profitable,” he says. 

In a year, a tree can produce at least 50kg of jackfruit. On the downside, jackfruits won’t be good during the rainy season.

“Though jackfruits are available now, technically the season is almost over. However, during monsoon season, rain can affect the quality of jackfruit. A difference in taste can be experienced, and it can’t be sold for a good price,” says Balachandran, who now focuses on the Vietnamese cross-bred variety, Ayurjack. 

Health Benefits

Jackfruit is not just delicious; it’s also packed with nutrients. For starters, it’s rich in vitamin C and antioxidants, which help fight inflammation in your body, lowering your risk for chronic diseases like diabetes and cancer. Plus, its high fibre content keeps your digestive system running smoothly, preventing constipation and potentially reducing the risk of ulcers. For those with diabetes, jackfruit’s slow digestion rate can help control blood sugar levels. Furthermore, its potassium content supports heart health by regulating blood pressure, while its fibre helps lower cholesterol. Additionally, the vitamin C in jackfruit protects your skin from sun damage and ageing, and its phytonutrients may even have cancer-fighting properties. With all these health benefits, it’s no wonder jackfruit is a popular choice for both nutrition and taste.

Sri Lankan Jackfruit Curry

Recipes by Chef Arun Vijayan


  • Coconut oil: 80 ml

  • Raw jackfruit: 350 gm (cubes)

  • Sri Lankan roasted curry powder: 15 gm

  • Garlic: 10 gm (chopped )

  • Ginger: 10 gm (chopped)

  • Turmeric powder: 3 gm

  • Black pepper powder: 5 gm

  • Cinnamon stick: 1

  • Salt: To taste

  • Curry leaves: 1 sprig

  • Shallots: 20 gm (peeled)

  • Coconut milk: 50 ml (thick)

  • Tamarind pulp: 15 ml

  • Sugar: 5 gm

  • Panda leaves: 3

Method: Heat oil in a pan and add cinnamon sticks, garlic, ginger, shallot and salt. Saute until it turns transparent and add all the seasonings, panda leaves and jack fruit cubes. Add water and allow to boil. Boil the jackfruit cubes until tender. Add tamarind pulp and curry leaves. Finish with adding coconut milk and mix gently.

Tandoori Jackfruit

By Sheeba Le Fleur


To pressure cook :

  • Raw jackfruit: 500gm

  • Water: 2 cups

  • Salt: 1/2 tsp

  • Turmeric powder: 1/4 tsp


  • Curd: 1/4 cup

  • Gram flour: 1 tbsp

  • Kashmiri chilli powder: 1 tsp

  • Turmeric powder: 1/4 tsp

  • Garam masala: 1/2tsp

  • Mustard oil: 2tbsp

  • Lemon juice: 1tbsp

  • Salt: As per taste

For tandoor:

  • Capsicum: 1 cup (diced)

  • Onion: 1 cup (diced)

Method: Cut and clean jackfruit, scrapping the outer skin. Cut it into cubes and pressure cook with turmeric powder, salt and water. Wait for 1 whistle (Do not overcook). Drain the water and spread jackfruit over a kitchen towel. Mix the tandoori masala. Marinate jackfruit pieces with the masala and let it rest for 20 minutes. Arrange the marinated jackfruit cubes, diced capsicum and diced onions in skewers. Tandoor grill each side for 2 minutes. Serve hot with pudina chutney.

Kerala Style Stir-fried Jackfruit


  • Raw jackfruit: 350 gm (shredded)

  • Red chilli: 15 gm

  • Garlic: 10 gm

  • Shallots: 15 gm

  • Salt: To taste

  • Curry leaves: 2 sprigs

  • Coriander leaves: 3 gm (chopped)

  • Turmeric powder: 2 gm

  • Black pepper: 5 gm (crushed)

  • Coconut: 20 gm (slices)

  • Mustard seed: 3 gm

  • Onions: 20 gm (sliced)

  • Coconut oil: 80 ml

Method: Crush shallots, garlic and whole red chilli together. Heat coconut oil in a pan and temper the mustard seeds. Add coconut slices, onion slices and crushed masala. Cook for a few minutes, add the seasonings and shredded jackfruit. Cook for 5 minutes in slow heat and stir fry for 2 mins. Finish with adding coriander and curry leaves. Enjoy with rice.

Jackfruit Halwa

Ingredients :

  • Jackfruit: 500 gm

  • Jaggery syrup: 250 ml

  • Coconut milk: 750 ml (medium thick)

  • Cashew nuts: 50 gm

  • Raisins: 30 gm

  • Dry ginger powder: 4 gm

  • Cardamom powder: 4 gm

  • Ghee: 150 ml

Method: Blend the jackfruit in a mixer. Heat ghee in a non-stick pan, add blended jackfruit and cook. Add jaggery syrup and mix. Cook in slow heat until the jaggery syrup and jackfruit paste combine. Add coconut milk and cook in a medium heat until thick. Add ginger and cardamom powder. Mix well and turn off the flame. Heat ghee in pan and fry nuts, raisins. Pour this over the halwa. Mix well and arrange in a tray. Cut into small cubes and enjoy.

With inputs from Mahima Anna Jacob

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