You may have seen one at your local Whole Foods and wondered what that ridiculously large and spiky object in the fresh produce section was. Well, my friend, what you have is a jackfruit– the world's largest tree-born fruit. So exactly what is a jackfruit, where does it come from, and how do you eat it? It's time to answer all of these pressing questions.

The Nature of the Jackfruit

Sources believe that the start of the jackfruit can be traced back to India, but now jackfruits are primarily grown in regions of the world like Southeast Asia, South America, Australia, and the Caribbean. Despite its tropical roots, jackfruit is now popping up in grocery stores like Whole Foods all over the United States.

The fruit grows on trees and can range from 10 to 100 pounds (yeah, you read that right). Some also believe that jackfruit could be part of the solution to ending world hunger, which begs the question: just how nutritious is jackfruit?

Nutritional Benefits of Jackfruit

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Callie Carlson

This fruit delivers when it comes to their nutritiousness. Jackfruit is low-calorie and high in fiber, in addition to having potassium, iron, and calcium. Unlike a lot of fruits, the seeds of a jackfruit are great (and healthy) for snacking on too. All you have to do is boil them, and then you've got a crunchy treat packed with protein, B vitamins, and phytochemicals.

Ways to Eat Jackfruit

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Callie Carlson

Of course, like most fruits, you can eat jackfruit in its purest form by simply eating the bulbs on the inside. If you buy a cross section, I found that you can just pull the bulbs out with your fingers, but if you buy a whole one, I'd recommend watching a YouTube video or two on how to properly cut it open.

Altogether you can eat jackfruit two ways: sweet or salty. Plenty of dessert recipes can incorporate jackfruit, like cake, ice cream, fritters, and more, and then there are countless savory ways to eat jackfruit– adding it to chili, using it as a meat substitute in tacos, helping to give an authentic texture to vegan crab cakes, and even using it in jackfruit "tuna" melts.

One of the most popular ways to prepare jackfruit, though, is to turn it into barbecue. Jackfruit makes a perfect substitute for pulled pork because, when picked before it ripens, the fruit never acquires that sweet flavor profile. It can then be turned into shredded pieces that resemble the appearance as pulled pork, as well as delivers a similar meaty texture.

If you're intimidated by the thought of buying a whole jackfruit (or simply intimidated by the thought of preparing it yourself), there are a lot of prepackaged jackfruit options in the grocery store now. Companies like Upton's Naturals and The Jackfruit Company have countless packaged jackfruit options, including barbecue, Sriracha, teriyaki, and curry varieties.

Next time you come across jackfruit, try it out– you may be inspired to try other exotic fruits too. Whether you try it in a barbecue sandwich, in an ice cream, or just plain, there's truly a way to eat it for everyone. So, exactly what is a jackfruit? Well, it may just be your new favorite fruit.