Growing jackfruit in South Florida? You bet!
If you subscribe to my YouTube channel, you probably saw the video I posted last week on my friends Chuck and Sarah who are growing jackfruit in their South Florida front yard:
The tree is almost, but not quite, as beautiful as Sarah:
(She’s totally gonna kill me for saying that… fortunately I’m a zillion miles away from South Florida right now. Ha ha! Come and get me!)
This particular jackfruit tree is a truly magnificent specimen, loaded with highly valuable fruit.
Can A Jackfruit Tree Handle Freezing?
A mature jackfruit tree, though a tropical through and through, has the ability to survive temperatures into the upper 20s for brief periods. That means you can grow them along the coast up into the Palm Beach area, with special care given to the trees when young.
“Jackfruit leaves may be damaged at 32°F (0°C), branches at 30°F (-1°C), and branches and trees may be killed at 28°(-2°C)”
I wanted to plant a jackfruit in The Great South Florida Food Forest Project, and in fact I did put a seedling in there at one point… but after seeing the size of Chuck and Sarah’s tree, Mom vetoed the idea. And the seedling DIED MYSTERIOUSLY
That little yard would be great with a massive tree canopy and gigantic fruits no one in the house would eat, don’t you think? C’mon, Mom!
It’s just like another mulberry tree! You can never have enough mulberry trees!
Let me make the case further for those of you who, unlike my beloved mother, are on the fence about this beautiful tree.
Why You Should Grow a Jackfruit
If you’re way out of the range for growing jackfruit, as many of you are, then this article is just a curiosity… but if you’re in the range where they grow, or even close enough to zone-push a bit, let me make the case for this marvelous tree.
Where I now live in the Central American rainforest, jackfruit is well-known by many as a healthy, easy-to-grow delicacy that acts as a starch crop, a fruit crop, and a nut.
In the USA, it’s more of a “eww…. that’s weird…” kind of a fruit. This attitude isn’t helped by the fruit’s strange smell when ripe.
Let’s get the couple of negatives out of the way first.
Some has described the smell of ripe jackfruit as “boiled onions”; however, not all the jackfruit I’ve encountered smell like that. Some just smell somewhat fruity. Fortunately, once opened, there’s no strange scent to the delicious flesh inside.
Another objection to growing jackfruit trees in South Florida or elsewhere in the US is that most people have never tried them and are afraid of growing something they haven’t tasted.
That’s a sissy excuse. Just go for it. Sissy.
A final reason people don’t like jackfruit is the incredibly sticky latex in the rind and around the edible portions of the fruit. I’ve shown some pictures of us butchering a jackfruit before, laid out in a horror-movie style without any explanation.
…anyhow, here are some good reasons to grow jackfruit.
Reason #1: Jackfruit Trees are Beautiful
Look at this:
Jackfruit growing into a staghorn fern. Just that picture should be enough to make any gardener say “sign me up!” Plus, the fruits look like fractal geometry up close:
Not enough? How about some cold, hard capitalism?
Reason #2: Jackfruits are Highly Valuable
In the right ethnic markets, you can get mad money for good jackfruit. I’ve heard of them selling for $10 per LB! That’s pretty awesome, considering how many pounds one of these fruit can reach. Even if you never ate a single fruit yourself, you could likely cover one bill per month just selling jackfruit. A lot of immigrants miss the jackfruit of their home countries and don’t have the space or the time to grow their own. Meet the need and PROFIT!
Reason #3: Jackfruit are Productive
Jackfruit trees can produce hundreds of pounds of fruit per yearand they will produce for about half the year… and sometimes will have ripening fruit here and there year-round. This productivity happens with very little care. Jackfruit can even start fruiting from seed under ideal conditions in just a couple of years.
My friend Chuck harvested about a dozen just when I was visiting their home to record my video:
That was probably 140lbs worth… with easily another 1,000,000,000 LBS ON THE TREE!
Reason #4: Jackfruit are Delicious
You know Juicy Fruit(TM) gum? That flavor was based on jackfruit. The story goes that the owner of Wrigley’s gum tried a jackfruit and was blown away, so he took a fruit to his lab guys and said “make gum that tastes like this!”
The flavor of jackfruit is eminently tropical with undertones of passionfruit, pineapple and guava. It’s amazing. I can’t imagine anyone not liking it.
Reason #5: Jackfruit is also a Starch and a “Nut”
The seeds of a jackfruit can be boiled and eaten like chestnuts or boiled peanuts – and, like its close cousin the breadfruit, an entire unripe jackfruit can be skinned and roasted as a starchy vegetable. It’s not just a sweet fruit – it’s also a potential staple starch crop!
Edible “nuts” in the foreground, tasty fruit in the background.
If you can grow a jackfruit tree, do it. Even if you never ate a single fruit, you’d be the wonder of your neighborhood.
Check and Sarah’s tree is quite a looker – and they had no idea what the tree was going to be like when mature. They went out on a limb (heheh) and now are harvesting huge fruits they can share with friends or sell at local markets. Growing jackfruit in South Florida (or other tropical regions) is delicious, fun and potentially profitable.
Why not go for it?