THE JACKFRUIT IS KING OF KONKAN!

ALL SET TO CELEBRATE THE MIGHTY JACKFRUIT:(L TO R) Dr Gwendolyn de Ornelas, Marius Fernandes, Prakash Kamat and Miguel Braganza share details about the community ponsachem fest at a press conference held on June 17, 2024.

By Tara Narayan

HERE comes another jackfruit festival in capital city Panjim. The Ponsachem Fest is all set to take place at the Goa Pharmacy College premises where 18 June road begins, on Saturday, June 22 from 3pm onwards. It will happen come rain or sunshine! I think jackfruit festivals are more fun than mango festivals and especially this one is a community-driven festival organized by seasoned veteran festakar Marius Fernandes.
He says this is his 84th festival. He is supported by some sterling Goans namely Prakash Kamat, Nicole Suares and Dr Gwendolyn de Ornelas and others who will share the secrets of their love or passion for the mighty spiky jackfruit which can grow up to 35 kg plus, plus up and down the stately jackfruit tree, a most fascinating tree, the future food tree of India if not the world!
At a press conference held on the eve of the festival the jackfruit group announced that since this is a people driven festival – the 84h festival – there will be many activities to do with the jackfruit and the jackfruit tree. There will be Chef Maria Dias conducting a workshop on dessert of jackfruit like the humble pudde, and percussionist Bryan Fernandes will have his Goan drum beat, musician Dr Mendonca will sing along with other budding singers…all these festivals to empower women and local communities and folk with disabilities.


Marius has got more festivals up his sleeves, probably in consultation with mama Antonette, his 90 years old mother on Chorao island or so I like to think. This ponsachem fest combines with a lot of other special days reminded Marius Fernandes, Saturday, June 22 is also Sao Joao and 24th World Goa Day. So expect a bonanza festival for Goans in Goa and abroad are community-driven and they will turn up to enjoy the joys of togetherness which the festivals offer. Where locals and visitors turn from near and far to for a melee of fun in the rain presumably for June is the wettest month of the monsoon, no? Hopefully July too despite the weather pattern changing courtesy the cutting down of huge hectares of forested land in Goa’s hilly terrain.
SAY what you like. Most of us may mango romantics but if you’re asking me I think it’s the mighty jackfruit which is the king of the Konkan states and elsewhere in India too like the north-east where grow some special jackfruit varieties. Jackfruit trees grow so generously and without asking for too much in return – except that you harvest it and love it from the bottom of your heart in gratitude! Something along those lines.
Some of us may think the jack is an obscenely ungainly and difficult fruit to deal with, say in comparison to the lovely seductive mangoes, but as my friend Miguel Braganza (of agriculture fame and a encyclopedia fund of all kinds of intriguing information) describes the jackfruit is not just one fruit, but an “umbrella fruit with a lot of fruit encased in it.” At one time in Goa one could buy a hefty jackfruit for Rs2 in Goa but those days are gone, now you’re lucky if you get one jackfruit for Rs500 and plus, plus, market price of course. A kind farmer might just give it to you free!’
It’s an art to unravel the tough spiky skinned jackfruit (not as thorny as the Southeast Asian distinctively and heavily odorous durian though), one has to do it with coconut-oiled hands to split the fruit open and then remove tenderly the ivory or golden pods large or small (some can be quite miniature with practically little seeds, utterly, butterly, naturally delicious – my friend Wallace of Fusion Café at Caranzalem opposite Our Lady of Rosary church at old Caranzalem street has such a tree).
There’re several varieties of jackfruit now but basically they break up into the firm crunchy variety called kappam, and there are the rasal varieties somewhat stringy and oozing with sweet sticky juice…you drain the juice onto platters and put to dry in the sunshine to arrive at jackfruit leather.
OH! There’s so much and too much to the fruit of the jackfruit and the jackfruit tree, a most grand tree which is a sight to see when festooned with jackfruits up and down its trunk. In fact, many folks in high and not-so-high places have been promoting jackfruit festivals down south India for quite some time, saying it’s a revival of the miracle tree of the jackfruit. People are beginning to realize anew perhaps that jackfruit trees and jackfruits offer so many goodies of the agreeable and desirable kind – food which is not from the industrial revolution but food which is naturally life-giving.
Jackfruit leaves may be converted with little twigs into these “dhona” containers to steam idli batter for breakfast (gundu idli, I love them), very eco-friendly, just like banana leaves used in serving food down south India and elsewhere in India in non-urban societies). In Karnataka, there is a large turnover of “steamed in jackfruit leaves idli” which may also come in the form of a savoury cake. Cut into chunks and pour over chutney or drumstick redolent sambar and enjoy!
Raw jackfruit flesh turns into the most dulcet of monsoon time specialities as sabzi, a Goud Saraswat Brahmin vegetarian favorite at homes. The ripe pods are eaten neat, and the strands in which they come ensconced may be turned into fryum crisps. Honestly, why should our children freak out on potato chips and Lays wafers when we have jackfruit chips and aromatically fresh jackfruit pods to savor… jackfruit seeds offer such nutrient-rich powder that can compete with any whey protein-rich supplement like say “Ensure” (often prescribed for seniors and invalids and especially vegetarian seniors who suffer from protein malnutrition for all kinds of silly reasons).
IN fact, the jackfruit tree is being promoted now (as much as millets) as the food tree of the future. In fact, if you have some land invest in growing a couple of jackfruit trees for every part of the jackfruit tree is practically useful as good food or fodder or as jackfruit tree wood which is said to be termite resistant and whatever else you can dream or think up if you have imagination and determination enough!


Some trees are kalpavriksha trees as is the coconut tree — Hinduism’s wish-fulfilling tree…if you’re asking me all trees, of course, some more than others, are wish-fulfilling trees, if you only look at them with love and affection. Not surprisingly so many people are now beginning to think actively of the jackfruit tree as the miracle tree of our times. It is, it can be. Depending on you and me and our desire to put our crazy industrial food industry in its place!
SO next time don’t knock the ugly, ungainly, untidy jackfruit tree – try and harvest all the zaadpik fruit…some folk wait for the jacks to fall to the ground before picking them up for harvesting in myriad ways. Jackfruit unripe or ripe – most Konkan coast-rooted including niz Goenkar homes welcome jackfruit and make the most of them. That’s why Goa is heaven on earth for those who cherish their motherland.
If I had to choose between jackfruit or mango trees….of course, comparisons are odious! I just wish jackfruit never becomes as expensive as mangoes and beyond the reach of the Aam Aadmi. Interestingly, the raw flesh of the jackfruit makes for a superlative meat substitute and many recipes feature raw jackfruit in the making of appetizers like kappam and much more to be created yet.

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