Jack fruit is avoided by many because of its intense aroma which does not get out of the body system for quite some time unlike most other foods. The only other competitors are Garlic and Durian fruit, again liked passionately or hated bitterly by different people for the same reason. Though Jack fruit is not cultivated intentionally, it grows widely in many parts of the country and a significant portion of the production goes waste due to many reasons. Invariably production season coincides with monsoon and further harvesting, ripening, extracting the edible portion without getting the hands sticky, attraction of flies, etc are some of the logistical problems constraining its wide scale use. Often unripe fruits are used as a vegetable to avoid the above problems though availability of market vegetables is a distinct disincentive against frequent consumption even in rural areas.
One of the out lets for gainful utilization of jack fruit is in the production of fried chips, especially in Kerala and southern Karnataka in the Mangalore-Udipi region. Also ripe fruits used to be converted into sun-dried pulp in the form of a mat called fruit bar, popular a few years ago. Osmotic dehydration technology is also available to preserve the deseeded fruit bulbs but high sugar content is not preferred by many making it a non-viable route for utilization. Canned jack fruit bulbs were also being made mainly for export, Sri Lanka being the pioneer in the line.
Deep-fried unripe jack fruit chips, if one can call it so because it is more like a finger than a circular chip unlike that from potato, plantain, tapioca etc, have not been able to establish a market as it is confined mainly to road side vending kiosks for selling in fresh format rather than as an industrial product from the organized sector. The product is not amenable to store for more than a few days, becoming rancid and soft losing its crispness probably because of unsatisfactory quality oil used for frying, non-standardized process deployed and sub-optimal packaging films used. Practically no research efforts have gone into standardizing the process, products and their packaging.
It was left to the enterprising spirit of an obscure entrepreneur from south Karnataka to take up the product for further development and to day a very high quality fried jack fruit chips product is available in some markets though most of the production is reported to be exported. Use of vacuum frying and advanced packaging material with good water and oxygen barrier properties ensure its shelf stability for a few months. Vacuum frying technology is considered the best way to get high quality products, effectively cutting out oxygen-oil reaction at high temperatures which takes place during normal frying under atmospheric pressure conditions. The temperature of frying is also significantly lower under reduced pressure preventing thermal abuse of oil.
Products like this, obscure as they are, must be brought out of their limited geographical locality for wider consumption by the organized sector. True, logistical constraints in pre-processing before frying need to be addressed if organized industry is to take up such lines of manufacture and the responsibility for this lies squarely with the public funded food R & D organizations. It does not need the prime minister of the country to remind food technologists about their responsibility!.