I LIKE jackfruit when it is served ripe (fresh or frozen) and even mixed with banana to make a pricey “turon” or processed semi-ripe as vacuum fried. I also love it unripe when it is made into salad or cooked with coconut milk. I particularly relish the jackfruit salad made by Minda Loreto Cagande (of Baybay City), the recipe of which we could not quite duplicate at home. There is a secret ingredient perhaps?

But jackfruit has also been a staple of vegan cooking for years. It’s a versatile, affordable and healthy food that’s also easy to cook. Besides, jackfruit has the same consistency as pulled pork and could be seasoned to taste. Because jackfruit is a whole food, it’s also lighter and wouldn’t leave people feeling like they had a “Gerber” after eating.

Following a plant-based diet isn’t the only reason to try jackfruit, even if only occasionally. Substituting in vegan options when possible is better for the environment, healthier and no animals are mistreated in harvesting the fruit. Jackfruit is also low-calorie, high in antioxidants and contains more vitamins C and B than most other fruits, making jackfruit healthier by some measures than avocados, apples or bananas.

To cook with jackfruit, you don’t need to have a 20-kg. fresh one home and figure out how to cut it open. One can use canned jackfruit (abroad), which tastes almost as good as buying it fresh. Cans of jackfruit are readily available at many natural food stores and major grocery chains .

Jackfruit can be used to make almost anything, including desserts. Since jackfruit adopts the taste of any seasonings, it can be used to take the place of meat in almost any dish. When people say they like chicken or beef they really like the way it is seasoned since using the same seasonings with jackfruit will yield a similar taste, although not identical.

The fruit can be shredded like chicken and put on top of a salad. Shredded and mixed with barbecue sauce, jackfruit makes a good meat substitute for sloppy joe. For a simple meal, seasoned jackfruit can be served on top of white rice. Jackfruit can also be put into quesadillas, burritos and tamales and in other recipes that use jackfruit.

The menu isn’t the only thing a restaurant like Las Maris in California is looking to expand: It plans to add multiple food truck locations throughout the U.S.A.

It is believed that Las Maris’ jackfruit birria tacos are the perfect introduction to jackfruit because they’re simple to make, relatively cheap and served in small portions. That makes the recipe a nearly risk-free way to dive into cooking with jackfruit. The big shots of Eastern Visayas have the right idea to make the region the jackfruit capital in the Philippines. DA-8 has already developed and popularized the Super sweet variety of jackfruit. As a matter of fact, I also have jackfruit trees already  planted and fruit-bearing in our yard. By Manny Palomar, PhD (EV Mail November 14-20, 2022 issue)