If you've never heard of jackfruit, keep your eyes open: you'll start to notice everywhere.
The jackfruit is a very large tropical fruit often used as a substitute for meat. It contains some nutritional ingredients, and the fact that you can cook it, grind it or shred it like chicken or pork makes it the main ingredient in many vegetarian and vegan dishes.
Its flavor is neutral and leads to all kinds of spices.
The jackfruit is native to India and also grows in Southeast Asia, Mexico, the Caribbean and South America. It ranges from 15 pounds to a whopping 70.
Freshly harvested unripe jackfruit is usually used for cooking. Once ripe, jackfruit can be used in sweeter dessert preparations.
It is available whole or sliced into more manageable pieces. Green, it is green and unyielding; as it ripens, it softens, turns yellow, gets brown spots and begins to smell the fruit.
It is also sold in cans, sometimes in brine or syrup, and you can find several types in specialized and Asian stores and, increasingly, in traditional supermarkets.
Now, with many people looking for alternatives to plant-based meat, the jackfruit trajectory is high, high, high.
Robert Schueller, director of marketing for Melissa & # 39; s Produce, a specialty products company, has observed this upward trend for several years.
"It was about five years ago that the fruit started to take off," he says. "Vegetarians and vegans have figured out how this fruit could be used as a" meat substitute "for pulled pork sandwiches and as an attack meat."
As word spread in the United States about jackfruit versatility, says Schueller, Melissa sold a few cases a week to thousands of cases a week. Melissa also offers plastic jackfruit containers containing only one or two servings.
Jackfruit is also appearing on menus across the country, in vegan and vegetarian restaurants, yes, but also in dishes from more popular establishments. Tomatillo, a Mexican restaurant on Dobbs Ferry, New York, has a jackfruit quesadilla and taco nestled alongside other vegetarian and meat options. In Chicago, Alulu Brewpub serves Vegan Sicilian Jackfruit Flatbread on a menu next to the house's cured pork belly.
Angela Means, owner of the vegan Jackfruit Cafe in Los Angeles, says people are adopting a vegan diet for many reasons, including environmental, health and animal rights issues.
"We eat meat because of the texture and the spices. The jackfruit is a great substitute," says Means. "It is one of the best options for us, because we can imitate meat, the jackfruit grows in abundance and has potassium, fiber, magnesium, many nutrients. We put them in tacos and make sandwiches, like a pork barbecue."
Jackfruit Cafe also serves a "fish patty" made from jackfruit combined with seaweed.
"You wouldn't miss anything – we could give you our taco and you wouldn't even know you're a vegan," says Means.
Jackfruit Cafe tries to educate people in its community about jackfruit and alternatives to a meat-eating diet, she says, predicting that "in seven to 10 years, jackfruit will be as popular as beef".