Inspired by what I learned while working with Dr. Dean and Dr. Ayesha Sherzai on the Bottom Line edition of their book The Alzheimer’s Solution, I’ve made a concerted effort to cut back on the amount of animal proteins I consume. Their well-researched program to maximize brain health and minimize the risk of developing dementia encourages a 100% plant-based diet.

I’ve also been eager to go beyond tofu and beans in the meat-replacement department. An article in the July issue of our Bottom Line Health newsletter about exotic fruits and veggies gave me the opportunity. One of the foods recommended by nutritionist Sharon Palmer, RD, is jackfruit , touted as a good source of fiber, vitamins A and C, riboflavin and minerals. I’d never heard of jackfruit before, and was surprised to discover that they do sell it seasoned in cans at Whole Foods (I didn’t see it at other local markets). But I wanted a more complete understanding of this strange new food, and so I bought a big package (4.4 pounds!) of organic jackfruit online to see what I could figure out on my own.

If you look at photos of fresh jackfruit, the outside looks like a prickly melon…the inside looks like a lot of yellow garlic cloves fitted tightly together. Given its naturally vibrant colors, I was surprised when the packaged jackfruit arrived. It looks like raw liver, reddish-brown and slimy! Not at all appetizing to look at, but I was surprised to find the flavor mild and kind of sweet.

I stir-fried two sets of vegetables with jackfruit and dressed them with two different sauces, curry and tomato. And, I’m pleased to say, it came out good. Cooked up, jackfruit is like tofu—it takes on the flavor of the sauce, and pretty much blends into the dish Votes at work were evenly split between the options.

If you’re a tomato fan, the easiest thing is simply to sauté a variety of vegetables (I used what I had in the fridge—kale, zucchini, garlic, fresh tomato), add in the jackfruit to warm and pour over your favorite jarred sauce. I made my own sauce from scratch, spicing a can of tomato sauce with fenugreek, allspice and fennel, but you really don’t have to go to all that trouble.

Here’s how I made the curried version (which was my personal favorite)…and, below that, I share a couple of recipes from some adventurous coworkers who were willing to take me up on my “Jackfruit Challenge” with some of the excess from my gigantic package of jackfruit.

Curried Vegetables with Jackfruit

Ingredients:

2 Tablespoons coconut oil
1 onion, halved and sliced
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 cups chopped kale
1 stick celery, sliced
1 zucchini, sliced and quartered
1 carrot, sliced
1 Tablespoon curry powder
1 cup coconut milk
1 pound jackfruit pieces
2 teaspoons honey
1 ripe mango, cut into small cubes (optional)
½ cup chopped cilantro (optional—people either love or hate this herb)

Directions:

  1. Warm a sauté pan on medium heat. Add coconut oil and swirl to melt and coat the pan.
  2. Add onions and cook until translucent, two to three minutes
  3. Add kale, carrots, celery and garlic and cook another three minutes or so.
  4. Add zucchini, jackfruit, curry powder, coconut milk and honey and cook until jackfruit is heated through, about two minutes (or longer if you like your vegetables on the softer side). Break up larger jackfruit pieces with your spatula as you mix. Cooked, it looks like shredded meat.
  5. If you like, stir in the mango and/or cilantro when cooking is done and you are ready to serve. Each of these ingredients adds a bright, fresh surge of flavor.
  6. Serve over your favorite whole grain. Add salt and pepper to taste at the table


Jackfruit with Farro, Feta and Veggies, by Rebecca Shannonhouse, editor in chief, Bottom Line Health

I used farro (a type of whole wheat) as the base and added lightly steamed broccoli and carrots, along with feta cheese and pumpkin seeds. For flavor, I used blood orange-flavored olive oil, a little sea salt and nutritional yeast (aka “nooch”).

Jackfruit Chili, by Anna Jernstedt, associate health editor

Sautée with olive oil:

1 pound Jackfruit
One red bell pepper, chopped
One very large zucchini, chopped
Onions, one cup chopped
Mushrooms, one cup chopped
4 large Roma tomatoes, diced

Stir in three ounces (half of a small can) of tomato paste. Add enough water to keep it from burning, about 1/2 cup.

Add in spices: At least a teaspoon each of cumin, paprika, coriander…about two tablespoons of chili powder and ½ teaspoon of chipotle chili powder. And quite a bit of salt and pepper

Mix in: A can of drained and rinsed black beans.

Simmer. This was seat-of-the-pants cooking, so I simmered while I had a shower and a cup of tea and threw in some laundry.

Serve. It tastes best with a lot of cheese melted on top—shredded Monterey Jack cheese or cheddar.