Every year in summer, millions of jackfruit trees festoon themselves with the largest fruits on Earth – delicious, mouthwatering jackfruit! The produce is so generous in nature that hardly a fraction is consumed by humans and by monkeys, cattle, squirrels, birds, and elephants. The rest ripen and drop to the ground to enrich the earth again. When ripe, the pulp is sweet as honey, and comes in shades of white, yellow, orange and red. Within each fleshy pulp pack is the precious jackfruit seed.
Though the jackfruit tree evidently meant it for reproduction, for us humans, the protein-packed seed is a treasured ingredient in the kitchen. Containing plenty of dietary fiber, iron, vitamins and minerals, nowadays, it is dried and pulverized to obtain jackfruit seed powder – a fine organic food supplement which can be used throughout the year. However, to enjoy the original taste and texture of the seed, it is best to use it fresh, preferably within a week of cutting open the ripe jackfruit, or within a couple of days of cutting a mature, raw one. The seeds are quite hard and the outer skin is smooth and stiff like tough nylon. The seeds can be dried in the shade for a day or two as it helps to loosen up the white outer skin for removal.
Traditionally, the jackfruit seeds are used in a great many curries and stir-fries. They are also roasted or deep-fried. Deep-fried seeds are called bikkande talaley in Konkani. For the diabetics, raw jackfruit pulp and seeds are a boon as the lower carbohydrate value helps control the blood sugar. From olden times, jackfruit is consumed not just for its taste, but also for its inherent ability to fight cancer, to increase fertility, to boost immunity, and to have an excellent bowel movement.
There is a story behind how jackfruit seeds became beetles. My daughter loves to take goodies for lunch to school. Though she shares them with her friends, some of the bullies in her class often grab everything, leaving her with an empty lunchbox.
This remarkable incident happened when she was just 6 years old. That day, I had deep-fried some lovely jackfruit seeds to my daughter’s delight. As usual, she took some to school. As soon as she opened her lunchbox, the bullies ran to her and demanded to know what the unfamiliar things were. She replied spontaneously in Malayalam. “They are ‘vandu pori’” which translates to ‘deep-fried beetles’.
With horrified looks on their faces, the bullies ran back faster than they had come, leaving my daughter and her friends to enjoy the ‘beetles’ in peace. Ever since, we have been calling deep-fried jackfruit seeds ‘vandu pori’ or ‘fried beetles’.
I am sure you too will enjoy these delicious ‘beetles’. Kids just love them.
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