Flavor Memories and Jakfruit
Three and a half years ago, my friend, Patricia , and I decided to go to Uganda to visit our friend Erin who was in the Peace Corps working in Eastern Uganda. In a ten day whirlwind trip, we traveled from the Eastern border to the Western border, we saw the source of the Nile River, and we even stood on the Equator. I was so happy to see Erin, one of my dearest friends from high school, who was in the middle of a three year stay in East Africa. She introduced Patricia and I to members of her community, to foods and customs unique to her region. Traveling to a place that is new and different from where you call home is visceral - smells, sounds, touch, tastes all become more vivid and heightened while you experience them. Some smells and tastes we wanted to forget - like diesel fumes (most vehicles there run on it). But one taste that for the past three and half years I could not forget and didn’t want to forget was that of the jakfruit. Erin suggested we buy some pre-cut jakfruit from a grocers in the capital of Kampala. I had never tasted a fruit that basically tasted like every delicious candy I had ever eaten. A combination of peach, banana, watermelon Starburstingly delicious. Patricia and I returned to NYC where we lived and any time someone asked me about my trip to Uganda I talked about jakfruit. Other than my friends who are Jamaican, who ate jakfruit growing up in Jamaica where it grows, no one I knew had ever even heard of the fruit, which is actually the world largest tree growing fruit and grows in parts of the Caribbean, Asia, South America, and Africa. I found it available in cans at a Vietnamese store, but I was hesitant to delve into a canned version of it. I didn’t want to ruin my flavor memory.
Now living in Miami, which has a climate that combines all the regions in which jakfruit grows, I was beyond excited to find out that jakfruit was not only available but that we could get enough to make sorbet. We were able to get over 80lbs of jakfruit from Three Sisters Farm http://www.homegrowngreens.com/ in Homestead, FL. I was slightly intimidated - the first of the four jakfruits I needed to break down weighed about 35lbs. I had been warned of sticky sap that will only come off with oil. The exterior of the fruit was sharp and spiny like a reptile. And the fruit was gigantic! Convincing myself I was a master fruit butcher, I finally cut into it. Once I was able to figure out how the jakfruit is structured - a large spine-like core surrounded by pockets of fruit, I started systematically pulling out the yellow pods of fruit and extracting the brown edible seeds (they can be boiled or baked). I made my way through the breaking down process of the four jakfruit, and save for some annoying stinging sap that I been warned about, the delicious fruit taste filled me with fond memories of my travels, conversations, and laughs, and with excitement about making a jakfruit sorbet!