Jackfruit of all Trades

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Story by Becky Speere | Photography by Tori Speere

jackfruit maui hawaii
Thriving trees can produce twenty- to forty-pound jackfruits—enough for an entire neighborhood.

I bought “Jacklyn,” my jackfruit tree, at the Upcountry Farmer’s Market when she was a one-year-old keiki (child) a mere two feet tall. Who would’ve guessed that Jackie had the elevated aspirations to grow fifty feet in four years! A species of Moraceae, it’s in the same family as mulberry and fig—all relatively short, gangly trees. It’s also kin to ‘ulu, a.k.a. breadfruit. A single jackfruit may top a hundred and twenty pounds, but the fruit on my tree average about forty.

What I’ve learned: Don’t try to catch a falling jackfruit. I’ll never forget the horrified screams that dissolved into sidesplitting laughter when Chef Takuya “Tak” Toride followed a technique that I’d found on the Internet for harvesting the prickly fruit. The Scene: MiJin Kang-Toride (our stealthy chef-videographer) stands at the ready to document our harvest. Chef Tak perches on a fifteen-foot ladder with a saw blade sickle in hand to sever the stem of the thirty-five-pound jackfruit. Chef Rob Ramshur and I wait below with a sheet stretched between us to catch the fruit (or Tak, whichever comes first). “Okay, here it comes!” yells Tak. But on its way down, the fruit hits a branch, and in a split second disappears from our view. That’s when we all scream and run for our lives.

Although I didn’t have a splat calculator (yes, they exist) to gauge mass (of jackfruit) X distance (twenty feet), it did make an indentation in the ground, confirming my thought: It is super heavy.

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