You Don't Know Jack About Jackfruit (Or Maybe You Do)
The improvised vegetable and fruit stands on the streets of Chinatown are always revamping their selection according to what is currently available locally, nationally, and internationally, with an eye toward the exotic. They are generally located in high traffic areas, and, contrary to what you might expect, often purvey higher-quality -- and hence more expensive -- produce. Yet the rule remains that, when you buy it on the street, you should assume it's ripe right now, and that it ought to be used immediately.
My favorite of these vegetal encampments is the one around the corner of Canal and Mulberry, usually consisting of five or six stalls on either side of Mulberry. Just yesterday they were highlighting fresh red lychees, in the usual $7 or $8 per pound on-the-stem format. But they were also selling some outsize lychees at $12 per pound, not on the stem, and bigger than I'd ever seen before. But the thing the keeper of one of the stalls seemed proudest of, and the thing that attracted the most admiring glances from passersby, was the fresh jackfruit.
Normally, jackfruit comes in a can or in frozen form. It can be used in all sorts of savory applications, making it more a cousin of the potato than the pineapple, though some say it tastes similar to unripe bananas or green mangoes. The plant is native to the rain forests of India, but has been widely distributed around the world. It is considered a staple in Sri Lankan and Bangladeshi cooking, and is also often eaten in Thailand and Jamaica.