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Plantation of jackfruit in Karachi
By By M. Shafique Ahmed

THE jackfruit (Artocarpus heterophyllus Lamk) popularly called ‘Kathal’ in Urdu, belongs to the family Moraceae and is indigenous to China, Malaysia and Sri Lanka. It is cultivated for the edible flesh. When green, it is a prized vegetable in many Asian and other countries in the West and is cultivated throughout India, Bangladesh, the East Indies, the Philippines, Thailand, to a limited extent in Queensland, Mauritius, Kenya and Uganda.

It was planted in Hawaii prior to 1888 and was introduced in the Northern Brazil in the mid 19th century. Besides Florida, it is cultivated in many other parts of the US.

The jackfruit tree is an astray which is grown in the residential backyards, parks and fruit orchards in Karachi and its suburbs. It is a sought after dish in India and Bangladesh for being a cheap option. A jackfruit tree may live for a hundred years, if looked after well.

Climate and soils: The tree is well adapted to humid tropical to tropical climates. Frosts and droughts are impediments to growth and fruiting. If roots touch water, it affects the bearing of fruit and the tree can also die. In the Himalayan foothills, it can grow at an altitude of 500ft from the sea-level. Rich, deep soils of medium or open texture with good drainage are considered the most suitable.

Propagation: Propagation by seed is trying as these are soaked in water for 24 hours to soften the coat for germination. Germination takes 3-8 weeks. Inarching (approach grafting), vegetative cuttings and the ‘tissue culture’ give good results.

Fruit bearing: The tree takes long to fruit. Indigenous varieties take 10-14 years to bear fruit, while the improved ones 4-5 years. The tree grows to a height of some 17 meters and the trunk to 70cm in girth. The leaves are ovate and the fruit globe or cylindrical covered with spiky growth and is 20-29cm long, 15-50cm wide, each fruit weighing 4-20kg. A single fruit may contain 100-500 edible seeds and a seed is 2-4cm long, 1-2cm thick and the inner endosperms become very crispy on roasting or boiling. jackfruit is often called as the meat of the vegetarians because the flesh of the green fruit is made up of elongated fibre tissues like meat.

Season: Depending on the local climate the fruit ripens from March-June, April-September or June-August. The off-season fruiting takes place from September to December.

Yielding capacity: A tree may yield as many as 150 large fruits annually attached to the trunk and its lateral branches. While some exotic varieties bear 250 to 500 fruits per year. The fruiting capacity of a tree depends upon the input supply, weather conditions, and protection from the insect pests and diseases which are many.

Nutritional value: The pulp constitutes 25-40 per cent of the fruit weight. Fresh seeds are high in starch but low in calcium and iron but rich in vitamins B1 and B2.

Uses: The fruit on ripening turns yellow and extremely sweet. It is eaten by the natives of Malaysia to satisfy their hunger. Tender leaves and seeds are cooked in India and Pakistan in more than one ways. The canned pulp retains its quality for several months, while it can be kept for about two years. The seeds are preserved in oil, syrup and brine.

The rind of the fruit yields a fair jelly with citric acid. Peels yield pectin. The fruit, rind and the tree leaves are fed to cattle and goats. The white milky excretion is an important part of birds’ lime and cement that can join the broken pieces of crockery. The bark of tree is a source of tannin.

Medicinal value: The unripe fruit is astringent in action and on ripening it becomes somewhat laxative. In China, jackfruit pulp and seeds are considered as tonic, cool and nutritious. The seed stretch relieves biliousness and the fruit is aphrodisiacal. The residue of the leaf if mixed with coconut oil heals ulcers. Mixed with vinegar, the milky juice promotes healing of abscesses, snake bites and glandular swellings. The wood of the tree is used for shipbuilding, furniture items, handles of agricultural tools and implements.

Availability: The local production of jackfruit is almost negligible. The tree is grown out of curiosity in and around Karachi. The fruit is either brought by the people who visit this part of the country from across the border or from Bangladesh as a gift. The fruit is also sold in the Empress Market or the new Subzi Mandi.

It is desirable that when the “tree plantation campaign” is started few saplings of jackfruit are also planted in public parks and in residential backyards. The saplings are available at local nurseries.

Courtesy: The Dawn

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