The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for February 8th, 2010

Don’t Know Jack

with 2 comments

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Social obligations carried your humble narrator to the teeming streets of New York City’s famous Chinatown over the weekend, where this enigmatic ovum was observed. Alien to my eyes, this is a Jack Fruit, which is apparently one of  asian cuisine’s most popular cultivars. Ignorant of the pacific tropics and their unique biota, my initial thought upon encountering the Jack Fruit was that it was a pod not unlike those utilized by the “Body Snatchers” during one of the many attempts to infiltrate human society by extraterrestrials during the 1950’s. Turns out that the Jack Fruit has been a part of the Asian diet since Ashoka the Great ruled India in 250 BC. The name Jack Fruit is derived from the Portuguese term for it- Jaca, after the Malaysian Chakka.

from wikipedia

The jackfruit (Artocarpus heterophyllus or A. heterophylla) is a species of tree in the mulberry family (Moraceae), which is native to parts of South and Southeast Asia. It is the national fruit of Bangladesh. It is called Kanthal (কাঁঠাল) in Bangla, Katahar (कटहर) in Nepali, Panasa (पनस) in Sanskrit, Katahal (कटहल) in Hindi, Nangka in Bahasa Indonesia,Halasu (ಹಲಸು) in Kannada, Panasa in Telugu, Pala in Tamil (is one of the three auspicious fruits of Tamil Nadu),Chakka in Malayalam language, Phanas in Marathi language and पणस in Konkani language. It is well suited to tropical lowlands. Its fruit is the largest tree borne fruit in the world, seldom less than about 25 cm (10 in) in diameter.

photo from wikipedia

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Armstrong, the Newtown Pentacle’s far eastern correspondent and expert on asian dessert items, simply states that the Jack Fruit is delicious. After a lifetime spent in New York City, with the limited compliment of American staple fruits (banana, citrus, apple, grape, peach, tomato) and their variants available, it is a real pleasure to see that the latest waves of immigration are expanding the variety of foodstuffs. I’ve seen other exotic and alien crops, Durrians and Yuca for example, on sale in Queens markets in the last couple of years. Even the local supermarket here in Astoria carries a remarkable variety.


In Malaysia and India there are named types of fruit. One that has caused a lot of interest is Singapore, or Ceylon, a remarkable yearly bearer producing fruit in 18 months to 2-1/2 years from transplanting. The fruit is of medium size with small, fibrous carpels which are very sweet. It was introduced into India from Ceylon and planted extensively in 1949. Other excellent varieties are Safeda, Khaja, Bhusila, Bhadaiyan and Handia. In Australia, some of the varieties are: Galaxy, Fitzroy, Nahen, Cheenax, Kapa, Mutton, and Varikkha. None of these appear to be available in the US at this time.

Yet, even as the ever changing ethnic waves bring new and exciting comestibles with them, other traditions fall away. Corned Beef does not sweat in bar room steam tables anymore, I haven’t seen the Krishnas making rice and beans in Thompson Square Park for a while, Jewish Deli is virtually extinct, and…

What ever happened to the Bear Claw?

do they still exist in sticky sweetness, within the City of New York?

more on this Bear Claw business to come…

Written by Mitch Waxman

February 8, 2010 at 3:23 pm

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