The North Bank Plain Zone (NBPZ) of Assam comprising of Darrang, Dhemaji, Lakhimpur and Sonitpur districts is renowned for its high-quality tea, native rice varieties, pulses, maize, oilseeds and rich and diverse horticultural crops. The indigenous pineapple, jackfruit, banana, papaya, cabbage, Assam lemon, black pepper and others grown here are much sought-after in domestic and international markets.
India is the world’s largest producer of jackfruit with an annual average of 1.4 million tonnes. With more and more people opting for tender or raw jackfruit as a substitute for meat, Indian jackfruit looks poised to take over a sizeable portion of value-added products in the global market.
Assam is the third-largest producer of jackfruit in the country. It is a wild tree crop grown in abundance across all districts. Only about 20 percent is used for state-wide consumption while the remaining 80 percent is now being channelled to food processing industries.
Sonitpur has the ideal subtropical climate and deep alluvial soil suited for the cultivation of jackfruit. Also known as kothal in Assamese, this fruit is grown as an intercrop with sesamum in the kharif and vegetables, spices, pineapple, mango, areca nut and niger or toria in the rabi season.
Jackfruit is now hailed as a superfood for its nutritional and medicinal properties. Fresh jackfruit is a good source of potassium, magnesium, manganese, iron, Vitamin A, B6 and C and Folic acid.
The ripe fruit and seeds are used to prepare value-added products like juice, jelly, chutney, custard, jams, sweets, chips, noodles, papad and others. Ready to cook tender jackfruit, dehydrated unripe jackfruit chips, jackfruit seed flour, pickles, chunks canned in brine, preserved candy, dried seeds, chocolate made out of its seeds and others are now making their way into the market as part of the “Jackfruit Initiative” launched by the North Eastern states. Besides these, jackfruit is also used as a flavouring agent in ice cream and beverages and its seeds are often added to local delicacies and curries to give it an extra crunch.
Every part of the jackfruit tree is used by farmers, for example, leaves for animal fodder, bark for leather, timber for furniture, musical instruments, masts, oars and construction, roots for water conservation and latex for preparing chewing gum, glue and caulk. A yellow dye known as morin produced from the wood is used to dye wool, cotton and silk.
Various parts of the jackfruit tree is used by traditional doctors in almost all their preparations to cure any and every known disease in the world. Indian jackfruit has tremendous potential to capture the global health food sector, for its healing properties are immense.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
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