(Update: New location for The Jackfruit King. Mustang Market has closed permanently, so Norberto Moreira is now selling his wonderful jackfruits in Orlando. Check his Facebook or Instagram for location and hours.)
I have been seriously falling in love with jackfruit lately. Or maybe “falling in lust” might be a more accurate description of the state my feelings towards Artocarpus heterophyllus. The more I eat this sweet treat, the more I become enamored with its seductive array of tropical aromas and flavors.
Jackfruit in the immature, vegetable stage has become widely available recently in the US, as both canned and frozen forms. But it’s a lot harder to find jackfruit in the fully mature stage, where it develops that amazing complexity of taste and smell. Jackfruit grows and fruits well in South Florida – if you live there or other similar climates, you can grow jackfruit yourself, or get it directly from a farmer. But in the ‘frost zones’ of North and Central Florida, our winters are a little too cold for jackfruit to thrive.
So in my area, as in many parts of the globe, if we want to eat mature, fruity jackfruit, we have to find this fruit for sale, imported from warmer climate zones. Over this past summer (the prime jackfruit season in the Northern Hemisphere), I found mature jackfruit available at several locations in my area: a locally-owned grocery, at Asian food stores, and at Whole Foods Market.
Quality from these sources has been hit-or-miss. Occasionally the jackfruit they’ve sold has been great, more often it’s been in the fair-to-good range, and at least once I got a slice of jackfruit that was so bad I had to toss it in the compost. I suspect the problem is some combination of the fruits being cut from the tree too early, before the fruit is sufficiently mature to be able to ripen properly, and at the store, employees unfamiliar with jackfruit are cutting the big fruits into smaller pieces for sale before the fruit has fully ripened.
But there’s good news: I have found a source for jackfruits that have been consistently in the good-to-excellent range. Norberto Moreira does business under the name ‘The Jackfruit King’ and imports jackfruits from Mexico, selling them on weekends at his booth at Mustang Market in St Petersburg, FL.
I don’t know the details of the harvsting process for the jackfruits Moreira sells, but apparently whoever is cutting the fruits off the trees does a pretty good job of waiting until they are sufficiently mature to ripen well before harvesting and shipping them.
Still, among any batch of jackfruits, quality is going to vary a bit from fruit to fruit, so Moreira does a final quality control check at the booth: he cuts a small piece out of the jackfruits and lets you sample a bit so you can see if it’s to your liking. I think that shows Moreira really cares about making sure his customers get top quality fruits, so they keep coming back again and again.
Prices at The Jackfruit King booth have varied seasonally. When I first bought jackfruit there in February, the price was $2 a pound. Over the summer, when lots of other vendors had jackfruit for sale, Moreira’s price was $1 a pound. Most recently when I visited in November, he was charging $1.50 a pound. If you don’t want to purchase an entire jackfruit, Moreira or one of his assistants are happy to cut one up into more manageable-sized chunks for you to take home.
In addition to jackfruits, I’ve seen The Jackfruit King booth selling a short, stubby variety of banana (I’m not sure what variety), banana flowers, calamondins, and papayas.
Mustang Market in St. Petersburg is open on Saturday and Sunday from 8am to 2pm. In addition to The Jackfruit King, there are many, many other booths selling produce, including lots of tropical fruits and vegetables that are difficult to find anywhere else.
As I understand, Moreira has jackfruits for sale year round. Before you venture there, you can always contact him to make sure he will be there with jackfruits for sale. His Facebook page has contact information.
Note: This post has not been compensated. It can be hard to find good fruits for sale, so when I find a business doing a good job of providing high quality fruits, I like to give them a shout-out.