Jak Fruit as a Tree of Rice

jak as animal fodder
sun-drying jak fruit

Jak (English), kos or herali (Sinhala), pelaka (Tamil) Artocarpus heterophyllus (botanical name).

The jak tree grows in most parts of Sri Lanka. The average height is 25 feet. Fruit bearing is in about the third year. Most trees bear fruits during the Yala season, which is from May to September. There are a few trees that bear fruit from October to April. Some trees bear fruits throughout the year. There is also a hybrid variety of a lower height, which starts bearing fruit at eighteen months. Though it is a year round crop, the tree and the fruit is small and the total yield is also less than the traditional variety.

Plucking of fruit is done by men who climb the trees. Fruit available at a lower height is plucked by women using long poles. The mature fruit is used as an alternative for rice. When curried, it becomes an accompaniment for rice. As ripe jak is very sweet it is used as a dessert. Jak is given to breast feeding mothers to increase their milk content.

During the Second World War jak was promoted by the philanthropist Arthur V. Diyes as a 'Tree of Rice'. He became known as Kos Mama ('Jak Uncle'). Jak timber is expensive and its raw leaves are used for cattle and goat fodder and the dry leaves are taken for manure.

Jak bulbs are sun dried, either boiled or raw. It is important to note that no washing is done at any stage in processing. If washed it will increase the moisture content resulting negative effect on sun drying. Tearing the bulb lengthwise with fingers is said to be better than cutting by knife because it minimize shriveling in drying. Seeds of the mature or ripe fruit are used for processing. Tender jak can be pickled. Ripe jak can be kept for a long time by the air tightening method of covering it with a mud coating. As we did not receive any information about lengthening the storage life span of ripe jak it seems to be a dying art

From Jak: The Heavenly Food
Edited by Sunethra Rajakarunanayake
Illustrations by Darshana Karunathilake
Published by:
Intermediate Technology Development Group
No 5, Lionel Edirisinghe Mawatha
Kirulapone, Colombo-5 Sri Lanka
Tel: 94 1 852149 Fax: 94 1 856188
E-mail: itsrilan@sri.lanka.net