The jackfruit must be the ugliest of all fruits, with its warty mis-shapen skin. It's certainly the heaviest - jack trees can bear several hundred fruit which each can weigh up to fifty kilos. And the pongiest. An uncut, over-ripe jackfruit gives out a pungent and unpleasant aroma. It stinks - it really stinks!
Happily, the just-ripe-enough-to-eat fruit, once cut, bears a much milder and sweeter smell. Distinct, but enticing.
And if you want to get a sense of where jackfruits are grown, well, it's the national fruit of Sri Lanka and of Bangladesh and the state fruit of both Kerala and Tamil Nadu, India's southernmost states.
The unripe jackfruit is quite stringy and absorbs taste and it's widely used as a meat substitute in vegetarian dishes. But it's the sweet, ripe fruit which is most popular.
Cutting a jackfruit takes some skill. Inside the skin, pods of flesh surround dozens of stones or seeds. Nobody takes home a complete jackfruit; they are sold by weight as little pouches of fruit-plus-stone.
Because jackfruits are so big and messy, the stalls selling them - and these are the sort of barrow boys and costermongers which have just about disappeared from British streets - only offer this one fruit.
It's popular. There's a steady stream of scooter drivers and passers-by stopping to buy.
Selvaraj, the guy in the blue shirt, offered me a sliver - which, in the spirit of adventure, I duly ate -
Jackfruit is much firmer than mango, not at all sticky - and although not as succulent, it has a mild, sweet taste. I can see why it's sought after.
And at the heart of each fleshy segment is a sizable stone, which can also be fried or roasted and eaten.
Quite by chance, I came across a seedling jack tree. This is two years old and while it looks slender, the roots are well developed. Once planted out, it should start bearing fruit within another three years.
Andrew Whitehead's blog
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