by Kevin Farrell for USA TODAY 10Best

Jackfruit 101: What you want to know about this versatile fruit

Jackfruit, also called fenne or nangka, is the world’s largest tree-borne fruit. The individual fruit looks something like an oblong, spiky cantaloupe, and can weigh a massive 80 pounds.

The edible part of the fruit that humans consume is actually the petals. A single piece of fruit can contain anywhere from hundreds to more than a thousand individual petals inside.

Since each tree can produce up to 200 enormous fruits a year – that’s two to three tons of edible fruit – jackfruit trees are increasingly being cultivated in nations facing food insecurity.

A ripe, unopened fruit is said to smell like pineapple and bananas, and freshly plucked petals can taste like a hybrid mango-apple. The seeds taste comparable to a macadamia nut when eaten salted and dried, but can taste downright chocolatey when roasted.

The edible petals inside of the fruit are hardly delicate and flower-like. Instead, each piece is hardy, fibrous and starchy, allowing the fruit to endure a robust array of cooking preparations.

In parts of Southeast Asia and India, the fruit is often transformed into noodles, chips and even ice creams. Jackfruit is cooked into curries, dried and ground down into flour for baking, or served atop shaved ice.

But the preparation that has broken through into American markets is mock barbeque pulled pork. It mimics the taste, texture and mouthfeel of pulled pork at a time when interest in plant-based vegan alternatives to meat and dairy is spiking.

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