An exotic fruit that tastes like pork and gives off a putrid smell could save millions from starvation.
The ‘miracle crop’, known as a jackfruit, is the biggest tree-borne fruit in the world and grows in south and southeast Asia.
A single fruit, which can weigh between 4.5 and 45 kilograms (10-100lbs), houses hundreds of seeds that are rich in nutritious calcium, protein, iron and potassium.
One fruit can be enough to feed a family for an entire meal.
Researchers suggest the crop could replace wheat and corn which are threatened by climate change.
Now, a pair of graduates based in Birmingham are attempting to break the food market with the jackfruit – by selling it as a healthy pork alternative.
‘Project Jackfruit’ was started by 23-year-old entrepreneurs Jordan Grayson and Abi Robertson, who were looking for a substitute for meat in their meals.
The pair sell pre-prepared portions of jackfruit sourced from India, with flavours including barbecue, satay and Caribbean jerk.
The crop is exceptionally popular in Bangladesh and other south and southeast Asian nations, but Mr Grayson and Ms Robertson admit it may take the public some getting used to.
‘Some people seem very nervous about it but once they’ve been tempted and tried it they can’t believe it,’ Ms Robertson told MailOnline.
‘It’s way better for you than meat – plus it’s one of your five a day. I think we’d consider it the “forgotten fruit”.’
A crowdfunding campaign made over £7,000 ($9,230) for the project in October 2017, allowing the pair to begin manufacturing their product in India.
Project Jackfruit sells 300-gram (0.6-lb) pouches of their Jackfruit mixes for £5 ($6.90), which it says divide into four portions.
They plan to begin distributing the meat-alternative to UK retailers soon.
Currently, few UK retailers stock the fruit thanks to shipping costs and its poor shelf life, with those that do selling tinned jackfruit for around £8.30 per kilo ($6 per lb).
In the US, the fruit is significantly cheaper, selling at Asian markets across the country for around £3.50 per kilo ($2.50 per lb).
The jackfruit has been pitched as a potential big player in the solution to world hunger.
Each Vitamin C-rich fruit yields hundreds of small, yellow lobes that contain a nutritious seed.
These seeds house an abundance of protein, potassium, calcium and iron, and experts suggest just one kilo (0.2 lb) of the fruit has approximately 95 calories.
‘It’s a miracle. It can provide so many nutrients and calories – everything,’ Dr Shyamala Reddy, a biotechnology researcher at the University of Agriculture Sciences in Bangalore, India, told the Guardian.
But while used extensively in Vietnam, Bangladesh, and other countries where it grows, 75 per cent of the fruit grown in India goes to waste.
The jackfruit has a reputation as a ‘poor man’s fruit’ in India, meaning many leave the crop to rot as it ripens instead of preserving it for food and other resources.
Several Indian organisations are now working to change the country’s perception of the crop, which some experts argue could make farmers £110 ($150) per tree because of the many products you can make with its bark and fruit.
These include natural oils, latex, food for livestock, and more.
‘Jackfruit is considered a “miracle crop” as it grows naturally in such a huge abundance, has high yield and even survives in droughts,’ Mr Grayson and Ms Robertson write on their website.
‘We couldn’t understand why jackfruit wasn’t readily available considering how much of it is wasted.
‘It is a paradox Asia wastes so much of the fruit, as so many suffer from lack of proper nutrition and income.’
When ripe the crop tastes like mango and has a unique texture, but Project Jackfruit sells the food before it’s ripe, giving it a texture ‘like pulled pork’.
‘It’s literally texture and then it’s all about how you cook it, the spice mix and the sauce make it taste great,’ Ms Robertson told MailOnline.
They may have a while to go before it replaces pork on British plates: Project Jackfruit’s pouches come in at over £15 per kilo ($7 per lb), while pork is sold at around £3.50 per kilo ($1.60 per lb) in most UK supermarkets.
Despite this hurdle, the pair hope to break the British market with the exotic product to help ease the strain of climate change and overpopulation.
‘The meat and dairy industries are just too much of a toll on the planet,’ Ms Robertson told MailOnline.
‘This is the time to look for alternatives and this is a great way of utilising what is one of the most wasted fruits in the world.
‘We’re ambitious about making jackfruit mainstream in the UK and beyond.’