Jackfruit leaves are edible too | Sunday Observer

Jackfruit leaves are edible too

21 November, 2021

Jackfruit, which is popularly known in the western world as a poor man’s food, is regarded as a staple tree in Sri Lanka. It is popularly known as ‘Bath Gasa’ which means the tree that provides the staple food for Sri Lankans. Jackfruit which is scientifically known as Artocarpusheterophyllus belongs to Moraceae family and grows up to 20 meters. Hence, plucking jackfruit is no easy task and an expert climber can reach to the top of the tree to pluck the fruit. Village women make use of a long and strong wooden stick to which a knife is fastened at the end to pluck jackfruit.

All parts of the jackfruit tree are used for various purposes such as human and animal food, timber and medicine. Jackfruit contains many nutrients. The fruit contains a high amount of starch responsible for providing energy to function. In Ayurveda stream of medicine, all the edible parts of jackfruit tree is used for making medicines for topical application as well as oral administration.

Jackfruit plays a vital role in Sri Lankan cuisine and many dishes are prepared using the fruit. It is difficult to find a Sri Lankan who doesn’t fall in love with the curried jackfruit which is an iconic dish in Sri Lanka. The seeds can be curried too. Some prefer boiled jackfruit with a curry and ‘Pol Sambol’ as a whole meal. A savory dish named ‘Kos Ata Aggala’ is prepared by roasting and pounding the jackfruit seeds. Some people add treacle to this mix to make it sweet.

The tender jackfruit is known as ‘Polos’ and Sri Lankans prepare another mouth-watering black curry using the tender jackfruit which is known as ‘Polos Ambula’. Like, curried jackfruit, there is hardly any Sri Lankan who dislikes ‘Polos Ambula’.

The poor man’s food or the ‘Bath Gasa’ can assure food security and fight malnutrition. The tree also can be used in reforesting as it has an economic value. Hence, the planting of jackfruit trees can assure food security in future.

Esculent jackfruit leaves

Although the fruit is widely used for human consumption in Sri Lanka, people are ignorant of the other esculent parts of the tree such as leaves. The edible leaves are used in Ayurveda for treating many diseases. The leaves are commonly used for controlling diabetes.

Ayurveda texts state that jackfruit leaves are rich in anti-microbial properties. Hence, the decocted leaves are used for cleaning wounds and the same is orally administered if the condition is snowballed into fever. Due to the ability of the leaf to detoxify the body, it is given as an oral administration.

Local medical practitioner Dr. Palitha Sri Geegana Arachchi says that apart from using jackfruit leaves for controlling and preventing diabetes, the decocted leaves are orally administered for urinary tract diseases such as stones in the bladder.

“Leaves of jackfruit can be dried and ground to prepare a powder which can be consumed instead of regular tea or coffee to control diabetes and to stay healthy. The tenderest small fruit, during its initial stage of growth known as Pana Mala is decocted and consumed for prevention of diabetes. The tiny tender jackfruits are included in many ethno medicinal recipes prepared for treating cancer patients,” says Dr. GeeganaArachchi.

In ethno-medicine, leaves are used for treating insomnia. Mainly, the juice extracted from the leaves can be consumed before going to bed for an improved and restful sleep.

Medical researchers have found that jackfruit and its leaves contain phytonutrients which fight cancer.

Dishes prepared using jackfruit leaves

The tender leaf is used for preparing many dishes such as jackfruit leaf tea, salad, Melluma, herb gruel (‘Kola Kenda’/ ‘Ilaik Kanji’), cool drink and poppadom. Nevertheless, as per Dr. Geegana Arachchi, the ripened leaves of jackfruit are also edible as they can be dried, grounded and used for preparing ripened jackfruit leaf tea for preventing and controlling non-communicable diseases such as diabetes.

Jackfruit leaf herb gruel

For preparing jackfruit herb gruel tender, small and light green jackfruit leaves are used. To prepare jackfruit leaf herb gruel, wash and grind tender jackfruit leaves well. Then extract the juice by squeezing with the hand and straining.

Add one cup rice, crushed garlic, curry leaves and coconut milk in a clay pot. When the rice is cooked and mushy. Then add tender jackfruit leaf juice and salt. Then cook for another couple of minutes. Add a few drops of lime juice once the pot is removed from heat. Discard curry leaves when serving the jackfruit leaf herb gruel. Serve warm with kithul jaggery.

Jackfruit leaf tea

Wash the jackfruit tender leaves. In a clay pot, add water and jackfruit leaves. Boil the leaves. When the jackfruit leaves are boiled in a clay pot, it gives an enhanced flavour for the tea. Once the leaves are boiled, strain the decoction and serve warm with kitul jaggery. This tea can be consumed instead of regular tea or coffee.

Jackfruit leaf mellum and salad

For salad and mellum, tender leaves of jackfruit are used. To prepare jackfruit leaf salad, wash the leaves well. Then blanch it in boiling water with added salt for a minute. Remove from water and place in a dry and clean cloth. Once the water is removed from jackfruit leaves, chop them. In a bowl mix olive oil, lemon juice, salt, chopped onion, tomato and green chili. Add a pinch of ground white pepper too. Then add the chopped jackfruit leaves and combine until all the ingredients become incorporated.

Jackfruit leaf mellum - Wash and chop jackfruit leaf. In a bowl combine scraped coconut, chopped spring onion and green chili and chopped jackfruit leaf. Add salt and mix well. Heat a pan under low heat. Add the leaf mix into the warm pan and cook for a couple of minutes. Remove the pan from heat and add some juiced lime.

Jackfruit leaf papadam

In the past, village women used to deep fry tender leaves of jackfruit and eat along with rice and curry for enhanced meal experience. This was known as jackfruit leaf poppadom (Papadam). The same can be prepared by modifying the villagers’ way of preparing it.

The jackfruit tender leaves can be dipped in a healthy green batter and deep fried for enhanced taste.

To make jackfruit leaf poppadom, as the first step the batter has to be prepared. For this special jackfruit leaf green papadam, moringa leaves, ‘Wel Penela’ (balloon vine / ‘Cardiospermum Halicacabum’) tender leaves and curry leaves are used. Wash the leaves well and grind along with scraped coconut. Extract the juice by squeezing by hand. Add the juiced leaves, salt, crushed garlic, rice flour and corn flour into a bowl. Mix well. Dip jackfruit tender leaves in this batter and deep fry.

Apart from green poppadom, pink and blue poppadom can be prepared by adding butterfly pea flower and hibiscus flower extracts to prepare the batter instead of leafy greens.