By Laurie Sweig

I recently had the opportunity to try jackfruit. It is the chicken alternative in a butter chicken dish. I haven’t eaten chicken (or any other meat) for years. It sure tasted good to me. Like tofu jackfruit tends to take on the taste of what it’s seasoned with or the sauce it is covered with as was the case with the dish I tried. Before today I knew nothing about jackfruit. The Internet is an amazing place! Now I’m almost an expert!

The cool thing about jackfruit is that one tree can produce up to three tons of food a year. For people living in tropical countries it is a wonderful food source. Now it is gaining popularity in North America.

Jackfruit is a species of tree in the fig mulberry and breadfruit family. The plant originated in southwest India but then spread to other parts of India southeast Asia the East Indies the Philippines Malaysia Indonesia and Thailand. The trees typically grow in tropical conditions but they will and do grown in Florida and Hawaii.

Ripe jackfruit is sweet and tastes similar to pineapple mango and bananas. It’s the unripe fruit that is more like a potato so it works well in savoury recipes. Two cups of jackfruit have 310 calories and are packed with nutrients that benefit our health:

• Good for the immune system: contains vitamin C.

• Improves digestion: packed with fibre.

• Boosts energy levels: contains B vitamins.

• Helps maintain blood pressure and heart health: contains some potassium.

• Contributes to eye health: contains vitamin A.

• Good for bone health: contains high levels of calcium and some magnesium that help with the absorption of the calcium.

There are two downsides to jackfruit. The first is that it doesn’t have as much protein as the meat it is replacing would contain. To compensate for that it’s best used in a dish that contains beans or lentils.

The other downside is while jackfruit is becoming popular it is still hard to find. Most regular grocery stores do not carry it. In our neck of the woods it may be next to impossible to find it fresh but may be available in a canned version. If you do decide to add it to your shopping list to use as a plant-based meat alternative be sure to look for the version that is labelled “young” or “green.” Something that tasted like pineapples would not have been very good in that butter chicken dish I had.

Something to think about.

Laurie Sweig is a certified personal fitness trainer and spinning instructor. She owns and operates The Point for Fitness. She can be reached at laurie@thepointforfitness.com.