The Jackfruit tree was born in the Indian subcontinent and has taken strong root in the fertile soil of the country for centuries. It is a large tree, which can grow to heights of over 50 feet and its strong sturdy trunk and long branches sprout the largest tree fruit in the world. And the variety of ways in which the fruit is used has made the fruit of the jack, the jack of all fruits.
The Jackfruit grows out large, generally tipping the scales at over 10 pounds. It has a thick spiky green hide which turns a dark brownish yellow when ripe and about to fall. It has hundreds of seeds which are tightly packed together and the flesh encasing the seed is what is generally consumed, though even the seeds are used and eaten roasted or boiled. At every stage of its development, when it is young, mature and fully ripened, Sri Lankans have found ingenious ways to make the best of it.
In the old days there used to be a wooden mesh hung over the kitchen fireplace or hearth called an atuwa. Its purpose was to preserve food. When Jackfruit was in plenty, the pericarp together with the seed was stored there. The smoke from the hearth acted as a drying agent and preserved it for later use. When prepared as a curry, the drying process gives the Jackfruit a touch of a smoky flavour.
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