Biryani, masala dosas and galouti kababs made from jackfruit ? Their creator is an ex-Microsoft director who is showing the world that jackfruit is truly the jack-of-all-fruits !
James Joseph did something few are brave enough to do. He quit his high-paying job as a Microsoft director to start a venture based solely on a fruit. Taking his love for jackfruit to a whole new level, he started Jackfruit 365, a company that sells the fruit in a packaged, freeze-dried form, and aims to promote all things jackfruit.
Talking to CrowdStudio about the eureka moment when he came up with the idea of Jackfruit 365, Joseph said:
“At the Taj Mahal Palace in Mumbai, where I was hosting a dinner for my clients, Chef Hemant Oberoi had made a spectacular dish called the Varqui Crab along with its veg version, the Varqui Mushroom. It was delicious, but I couldn’t help thinking why the chef didn’t use jackfruit, which is more nutritious than meat and mushrooms.
Perplexed by the utter absence of jackfruit at the five-star soirees I attended, I asked around and all the chefs said the same thing: Too sticky, too smelly and too seasonal.
When jackfruit season finally came, I took some to a chef I knew. He used it to create a jackfruit burger coated in jackfruit seed crumbs that was delicious and much crispier than the aloo burger at McDonald’s. The actual eureka moment happened when we created a jackfruit pie, spectacular and more delicious than the apple pie and pecan pie I had in the US. That was when Jackfruit 365 truly took off.”
So Joseph began to investigate and found that despite being acknowledged as a super food, huge amounts of jackfruit are being wasted every season. According to an article on the state government’s website, Kerala alone wastes an estimated 35 crore jackfruit annually, which is about 75% of the harvest.
There are several reasons for this. The weight of a jackfruit, which is typically in the range of 3-5 kg, makes transportation in bulk difficult, while storing this highly perishable fruit is difficult. Cleaning jackfruit is also a tedious process, with the large ungainly fruit throwing prickly wedges, sticky sap, and a strong odour one’s way before offering its rich, bulbous flesh.
Concerned about the collective disregard for jackfruit, Joseph left his cushy job with Microsoft to return to his native town Aluva in Kerala and set up Jackfruit 365 in 2013. He wanted to make this undervalued and underrated seasonal fruit available for consumption 365 days a year.
Plunging headlong into the pursuit of his passion, this graduate of the Thiruvanathpuram College of Engineering decided to first address the challenge of making the jackfruit available 365 days a year. On learning that 80% of the fruit is made up of water, he hit upon the idea of freeze-drying jackfruit.
Freeze-drying reduced the weight of the fruit by 82%, cutting down the huge costs of transportation and storage. A 180-gm pack of freeze dried jackfruit can be stored at room temperature for 365 days and, when soaked in lukewarm water, yield one kg of jackfruit.
Joseph soon hired Amalgam, pioneers in setting up food processing factories in Kerala and Bangalore, to procure jackfruit and process and sell the freeze-dried fruit in packets of his brand, Jackfruit 365.
A stickler for perfection and quality, Joseph insists on farmers supplying unopened jackfruit, as opposed to the traditional practice of storing opened jackfruit in plastic packets, to ensure food safety.
His company also sponsors five midday meals for school children under the Akshaya Patra Foundation, for every pack of Jackfruit 365 sold.
The Microsoft Circle of Excellence award winner wants to create an organised market for jackfruit because its health benefits are numerous. Since the glycemic load (glucose level) in unripe jackfruit is almost half that of rice or wheat, the fruit makes a potent carbohydrate substitute for diabetics. Jackfruit’s high potassium content helps lower elevated blood pressure and its high anti-oxidant and flavonoid content protect against cancer. Jackfruit also increases the human body’s capacity to absorb iron, making it extremely effective in preventing and curing anaemia. Since jackfruit blends beautifully into most recipes, it can also change the way we look at health foods and gluten-free foods in particular.
Determined to demonstrate that dishes made from jackfruit can be mouth-watering irrespective of cuisine type, Joseph has also designed signature dining experiences for his clients with several internationally renowned chefs. His interesting and unique jackfruit-infused recipes include galouti kabab, biryani, masala dosa, kathi roll, panna cotta, and payasam, all made from dehydrated jackfruit!
In his tryst with the jackfruit, Joseph also realised that the indigenous tree is as good for farmers as it is for consumers. Drought-resistant, evergreen and environment-friendly, he believes this tree can act as climate shock absorber for farmers:
“I don’t even consider it a crop. It just grows. When other crops fail, you can always count on the jackfruit tree.”
The techie turned entrepreneur is also the founder of Professional Bharati, an online platform that is a one-stop shop for NRI professionals wanting to relocate to their hometowns and still earn handsomely. Through his own experience, he knows that the opportunities in India’s non-metros, small towns and villages are endless and this venture is his attempt to persuade others to return home too.