Singapore Infopedia


Said to be the largest fruit in the world, the jackfruit (Artocarpus heterophyllus) is an indigenous fruit tree of South India which is popular in the Southeast Asian region.1 The jackfruit’s appearance is similar to that of the cempedak, a fruit that also belongs to the Moraceae family. The jackfruit tree has a variety of uses.

The jackfruit tree produces the world’s largest fruit often ranging from 10 to 20 kg, with the biggest specimens weighing almost 50 kg. It belongs to the Moraceae family and has a firmer flesh and larger fruit than the cempedak. The jackfruit tree can grow to a height of 20 m.3 Its shiny, deep green leaves have a slight leathery texture and measure almost 9 inches. Juvenile leaves can be distinguished by their lobes. The male and female flowers drop soon after flowering.4 The tree usually bears fruit by the age of three, and can yield up to 250 fruit annually upon maturity. Protected by a thick, pale green rind, the compound fruit has an inner layer of white pith that surrounds its large brown seeds. The seeds are contained within an envelope of golden yellow pulp that is sweet, firm and chewy,5 with a flavour that is said to be a cross between pineapple and melon.Having been cultivated for many years, it is also present in the African and American tropics.7

Usage and potential
Food source
The fruit can be eaten fresh or pickled. A popular way to serve the ripe fruit is to remove its seed, chill the fruit pulp and fill the cavity with ice-cream. The flesh may also be used in soups, as part of a fruit salad or as an ice-cream flavour.8 The jackfruit tree has a vast number of uses, besides producing fruit. The seeds of the jackfruit can also be eaten and are said to taste like chestnuts. They are a rich source of carbohydrates and are served either roasted or boiled in water. Care must be taken to ensure that the seeds are properly prepared, for they may be poisonous. A starchy flour may be made from the seeds.9 The rind is used as animal fodder, while consumption of its boiled leaves is said to increase the amount of milk that a breastfeeding mother produces.10 The unripe fruit is astringent and indigestible. Nursing mothers are cautioned from eating unripe jackfruit, regardless whether it is cooked or not.11

Jackfruit leaves also play a significant role in traditional herbal medicine. In Malaysia, a concoction of jackfruit leaf ash and coconut oil is applied to cuts and wounds in order to hasten the healing process. In addition, the root is prescribed as a curative for fever, stomach upsets and even skin afflictions. Furthermore, the sap of the tree is used to remedy snakebites.12

The latex extracted from the plant is extremely sticky and therefore also used as an adhesive. In Thailand, jackfruit seeds are also regarded as potent talismans. The reason for this superstition lies in the copper colour of the seeds. According to traditional Thai folklore, copper is a metal with mystical qualities.13 The tree’s durable timber is a valuable commodity in certain parts of Southeast Asia, where teak is limited in supply. Its yellowish tinge makes jackfruit timber very appealing,14 notably in Bali where it is used extensively by wood craftsmen. It is also favoured as a raw material for building houses, furniture and musical instruments in other parts of the region.15

Variant names
Common name: The name ‘Jack’ is believed to be a Portuguese modification of the Malayalam word chaka, which means “round”.16
Scientific name: Artocarpus heterophyllus.17
Malay name: Nangka.18


Annalisa Dass

1. Wendy Hutton, Tropical Fruits of Malaysia & Singapore (Hong Kong: Periplus Editions, 2000), 24. (Call no. RSING 634.6 HUT)
2. I. H. Burkill, A Dictionary of the Economic Products of the Malay Peninsula (Malaysia: Ministry of Agriculture and Co-Operatives, 1966), 255. (Call no. RCLOS 634.909595 BUR)
3. Burkill, Dictionary of the Economic Products of the Malay Peninsula, 255–56; Hutton, Tropical Fruits of Malaysia & Singapore, 23; “Giant Jackfruit for Display at WTC,” Straits Times, 17 September 1980, 10. (From NewspaperSG)
4. Betty Molesworth Allen, Malayan Fruits (Singapore: Donald Moore Press, 1967), 202, 204. (Call no. RCLOS 634.09595 ALL)
5. Jacqueline M. Piper, Fruits of South-East Asia (Singapore: Oxford University Press, 1989), 23–24. (Call no. RSING 634.60959 PIP)
6. Hutton, Tropical Fruits of Malaysia & Singapore, 23–24.
7. Burkill, Dictionary of the Economic Products of the Malay Peninsula, 256.
8. Allen, Malayan Fruits, 205; Desmond Tate, Tropical Fruit (Singapore: Archipelago Press, 2007), 28. (Call no. RSING 634.6 TAT)
9. Allen, Malayan Fruits, 205.
10. Burkill, Dictionary of the Economic Products of the Malay Peninsula, 258; Piper, Fruits of South-East Asia, 24.
11. Burkill, Dictionary of the Economic Products of the Malay Peninsula, 256.
12. Piper, Fruits of South-East Asia, 22.
13. Piper, Fruits of South-East Asia, 26.
14. Piper, Fruits of South-East Asia, 22–26..
15. Burkill, Dictionary of the Economic Products of the Malay Peninsula, 256–57.
16. “Fruit Trees Planted,” New Paper, 6 November 1989, 5. (From NewspaperSG)
16. Piper, Fruits of South-East Asia, 26; Allen, Malayan Fruits, 202–05.
17. Hutton, Tropical Fruits of Malaysia & Singapore, 24.
18. Allen, Malayan Fruits, 202–05.

The information in this article is valid as at 11 August 2017 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history on the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

Rights Statement

The information on this page and any images that appear here may be used for private research and study purposes only. They may not be copied, altered or amended in any way without first gaining the permission of the copyright holder.

More to Explore

Critically endangered bats


Bats belong to an order of mammals known as Chiroptera, a term that comes from the Greek words cheiro (“hand”) and ptera (“wing”), aptly describing their most distinctive feature. There are about 1,100 species of bats in the world and 30 have been documented in Singapore. The Singapore Red Data...

Joss carving


Joss carving is the fashioning of joss paste or joss sticks into figurines and idols from Chinese mythology, opera and history. These joss sticks can be 1.2 to 1.5 m high, and elaborately carved with dragon and phoenix motifs, or embossed with colourful divinities. They are used by Buddhists and...

Roti prata


A soft and yet crisp flatbread, roti prata (or paratha) is often eaten together with mutton or dhal curry. It is sold mostly by Indian Muslim stallholders at coffeeshops and hawker centres. There are two common types of roti prata sold in Singapore – plain prata and prata with egg....



Belacan is a condiment made of geragau (krill) that has been salted, dried and fermented, and is an essential ingredient in Peranakan and Malay cuisine. It is usually mixed with chili, lime, salt and sugar to create sambal belacan, a must-have chili condiment accompanying meals eaten in many Peranakan, Malay...

Red-whiskered Bulbul


The red-whiskered bulbul (Pycnonotus jocosus) is recognisable by its black upright crest and red patches on its cheeks and undertail. It is an uncommon resident in Singapore....

Endangered squirrels


Squirrels belong to an order of mammals known as Rodentia, or rodents. They are characterised by enlarged incisors which are used for gnawing and long bushy tails. Flying squirrels have membranes attached to their limbs that are used for gliding through the air. Tree and ground squirrels do not have...

Red junglefowl


The red junglefowl (Gallus gallus) is one of four species in the genus Gallus. It is the wild ancestor of the domestic chicken. Previously, this species was reported to be found only on the island of Pulau Ubin. Now, there are sightings reported across Singapore in areas such as Tanjong...

Wayang kulit


Wayang kulit is a form of traditional theatre in Southeast Asia. It involves a puppet shadow play performance with origins that are possibly linked to the Indian shadow play. There are many forms and types of wayang kulit in Asia. Those performed in Peninsular Malaysia have either Javanese or Patani...



Gasing is a term that refers to both the Malay spinning top and the game of top spinning. Gasing was a popular game played in the kampongs (“villages” in Malay) of Singapore and Malaysia, especially among members of the Malay community. Competitive gasing is still played in Malaysia today....

Olive-backed Sunbird


The olive-backed Sunbird (Cinnyris jugularis) is one of Singapore’s resident birds. It is very common and is encountered with at least 90 percent probability in its preferred habitats. The bird is featured in the Bird Series S$20 currency notes released by the Monetary Authority of Singapore between 1976 and 1984...