Jackfruit: The Largest Edible Fruit
Last year, India categorized the jack fruit as a “super fruit”. The largest edible fruit has for years been native to Asian countries, especially west India.
In Kenya, it is commonly known as ‘Fenesi’ in Swahili. The fruit crop is more commonly grown in the Western and Coastal regions of the country and provides a favourite dessert option amongst the locals.
The Jackfruit is a gigantic (can weigh up to 50kgs), green on the outside and whitish inside when premature. When mature and ripe, the fruit is usually yellowish green on the outside with a deep yellow colour on the inside, and bears the sweet smell of a ripe banana.
Benefits of jackfruit
The Jack fruit is highly nutritious and medicinal. Some of its health benefits include; boosting immunity and energy levels, aiding in digestion, offering protection against cancer, controlling blood pressure, maintaining a healthy thyroid, strengthening bones and preventing anaemia.
The entire Jack fruit plant is one of the most versatile and can be utilized for various purposes. Aside from the fruit which can be grown for local consumption as well as commercial purposes, the tree as a whole can be explored for various diverse uses. It is believed that the leaves of a jackfruit tree can cure skin diseases, the bark can be utilized to make ropes and the wood can be used to make guitars and ukuleles. The trunk can be used as lumber and is considered a good input for construction. The leaves can also be used as fodder for animals and are good for making compost manure. The latex can be used as paste or glue, the seeds roasted and eaten as snacks and the roots used as handles for farm implements.
Suitable conditions for farming:
Jack fruit grows well in a wide range of soils. It however grows best in deep, sandy loam to clay loam soils of medium fertility with good drainage. Fertility of the soil should be considered because of the rapid exhaustion of soil nutrients taken by the plants. The ideal pH of the soil for jackfruit ranges from 5 to 6.5.
In Africa, the fruit has not been fully commercialized, thus most trees are left to grow wildly. They are a resilient species and despite being given less attention, the trees grow and still bear fruits.
The crop can be propagated using seeds or by asexual propagation. For production by seeds one should select clean, fresh, healthy, vigorous, and disease-resistant seeds from productive mother trees. The seeds will take 3-8 weeks to germinate. Dried seeds stored more than one month will not germinate.
A sexual propagation can be done by enriching or grafting. Among the grafting methods, cleft grafting appears to be the most effective as it is able to counter the devastating effects of a tropical storm which usually destroys tall trees.
The place chosen for planting the jack fruit should first be cleared of old tree stumps and roots to avoid termites and root disease. If necessary, the soil should be ploughed first, then rows are made to mark the planting intervals. On an acre of land, 48 trees can be planted. In a new area the planting, the interval can be reduced to 25 ft. x 25 ft., and 69 trees would fit on an acre.
Usually the planting holes are left open for 14 days before they are filled up again, and only then the jackfruit tree should be planted. It is important to remember that during planting, the bud patch is not to be covered with soil. It would otherwise cause the bud patch to rot and die. The amount of sunlight can be reduced by using shade from palm tree leaves. the shading from the leaves can be removed after two weeks if the weather is fine. Otherwise, it should be left for another week or more.
Fertilization and Irrigation:
Growing seedlings need ample nitrogen fertilizer while bearing trees need regular applications of phosphorous and potash.
A consistent, well-balanced manorial programme is important so as to stimulate rapid growth in young trees and to ensure maximum yield when the plants come into bearing. As nitrogen, phosphate and potash play a vital role in the plant metabolism, and markedly affect fruit production, a balanced supply of these nutrients in the fertilizer mixture must be applied to the plant.
Just like any other fruit trees, the trees should be pruned two years after field transplanting for maximum production. Prune the trees by cutting the top of the main stem leaving 2-3 meters above the ground to regulate the height. Pruning also consists of removing small unproductive branches as well as diseased and insect-damaged ones.
Although jack fruit is rarely affected by pests or diseases, in case of attack by pests such as the fruit flies, the fruits are sprayed using organic pesticides.
Periodic ring weeding of the basin (the width of the canopy) should be conducted every three (3) months.
Harvesting can be done 8-10 months after planting if the trees were raised from seeds. Only about 10 fruits can be harvested the first time the tree begins to bear. Optimal yield is approximately 150-250 fruits per tree annually. The average fruit weighs about 5.72 kg. With a plantation of 50 jackfruit trees in an acre of land, you are likely to get 800 fruits in the fifth year. And with an average market price of KES 300, you will earn about KES 240,000.
Harvesting should be done mid-morning to late afternoon to reduced latex flow because, at this time of the day, latex cells are less turgid. This would minimize latex stains which give the fruit an unsightly appearance. Remove the retained peduncle and unwanted water sprouts from the trunk after picking the fruit.
When handling the fruit, lay it against a railing with its stalk down to let the latex flow and coagulate. It is best to transport the fruits in single layers. Always put dried banana leaves between fruits and spread some on the container to prevent the fruits from getting bruises or scars. Never insert a pointer stick into the fruit’s stem. Many people in the rural areas believe this technique hastens ripening but this has no basis.
The fruit usually weighs from 3-5kgs up to 50kgs.
- Remove immature, over-ripe, damaged and misshapen fruits
- Grade the remaining fruits according to size as follows;
- According to size: Large weighs at least 20kg; Medium weighs at least 15kg and Small weighs at least 8kg.
- According to the condition of fruit: Grade No. 1- fruit is fairly well-formed, free from damage by discoloration or scars, cuts, skin breaks, diseases, and insects and Grade No. 2 – fruit has no specific shape, though free from cuts, skin breaks, insects, and diseases.
- Wash fruits using chlorinated water (100ppm) to remove dirt, latex stains and any field contamination
- Drain fruits properly to remove excess moisture from the surface of the fruit for further processing or storing.
Packaging and storage of fresh fruits:
- Graded and washed fruits are packed into plastic containers or bamboo baskets for storage.
- Fruits can be kept for 2 to 6 weeks at 11- 13ºC and relative humidity of 85-95%, depending on cultivar and maturity stage.
- Freshly harvested ripe fruits can be stored for 4 to 5 days at 25-35ºC.