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    Chips, pickles, papads and a buffet — this three-day festival dedicated to the jackfruit, has it all

    Unni Tharakan is reading from his list of products that will be available at the Chennai Jackfruit Festival next weekend and we’re finding it hard to follow. Did he say jackfruit cake mix? “Yes. Dry jackfruit petal or seed powder can be used to make pastries,” clarifies Tharakan, one of the 12 organising committee members behind the event. Tharakan’s list, that started with humble jackfruit chips, now boasts jellies, jams, squash, halwa, candies and even papads. And these are only the ‘value added’ products that will be sold at the three-day festival scheduled to begin at the Chennai Trade Centre on May 1.
    The back story
    “Tender or raw jackfruit has the texture of meat and can be used as a substitute in biryanis and several curries. We will also have live counters where visitors can try dishes like bajjis, cutlets, tacos and fritters, all made with jackfruit,” shares Tharakan, whose co-organisers are all from various backgrounds that have nothing to do with the jackfruit. “We just wanted to organise a food festival and give the proceeds to the Mother Teresa Charitable Trust,” he says, adding that one thing led to another and after much research and discussion, they ended up creating Chennai’s first jackfruit festival. And we say Chennai’s first, because organisations like the Jackfruit Promotion Council of Kerala have organised similar festivals in Thiruvananthapuram and Bengaluru. As a matter of fact, it was the council that helped Tharakan’s team identify vendors from across the country, who made unique jackfruit products.
    Biryani & buffet
    At the festival, expect pickles from Shillong, papads from Chickmagalur, juices from Mumbai, jackfruit bars from Ratnagiri and a host of masalas and cake mixes from Kannur. And James Joseph, the man behind JackFruit 365, that freeze dries the seasonal fruit to make it available all year round, says, “I am looking forward to the 3,000-year-old raw jackfruit dish, chakka puzhukku. This ancient carbohydrate replacement of Kerala and Sri Lanka is the most tasty, low sugar, high fibre, gluten-free dish you can have, to fight off diabetes.” Popular city-based caterer, Reena Paul has created nearly 20 such dishes for a jackfruit buffet that will begin at 6 pm on all three days. Other than the rice and rotis, every other delicacy (think chakkakurru masala, chakka sambar and chakka pradaman) on the menu is made with jackfruit.
    Buffet passes ( Rs 450) must be booked in advance. Details: chennaijackfruitfest.com

    Take your pick
    On the varieties of the fruit grown in the country, Shree Padre, a jackfruit expert and editor of Adike Patrike, a Kannada magazine, says there are a few named by universities, but several unnamed varieties identified by natives. “For example, Gururaj Balthillaya, a grafting expert, grows nearly 40 varieties in Athrady, near Manipal,” he points out, adding that popular varieties are Kachahally and Janagere, both found near Bengaluru. Also look out for the chembarathi or the red-fleshed jackfruit found in the Tumkur district of Karnataka. Though it is in no way superior to the rest, it sells at a premium of Rs 5 per bulb.

    Fruit fact file

    ■  Jackfruit is rich in dietary fibres and vitamins
    ■  Owing to its low glycemic index, jackfruit is good for diabetics
    ■  The fruit has great amounts of potassium and helps regulate blood pressure
    ■  Nearly 85 per cent of North Indians have never tasted the fruit as they consider it a vegetable
    ■  More than 95 per cent of the jackfruits available here are grown organically, because jackfruit farming is almost non existent in the country
    ■  Panruti, near Cuddalore, is known as the jackfruit paradise of the country with more than 1,000 hectares of the tree. It is the only place where it is available around the year

    Ryan Peppin

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