The cempedak fruit, also known as champada, bangkong, sonekadat, mit to, or Artocarpus Integer is an exotic tropical fruit that closely resembles jackfruit. It’s a fruit with a weird appearance, horrible smell, and flavor that greatly surpasses its sharp odor. In this guide, we’ll show you everything you need to know about the cempedak fruit, including its origins, cultivation, interesting facts, nutrition, varieties, and health benefits.
The cempedak fruit is native to Southeast Asia. It’s cultivated mostly in the lowlands and mountain forests of Indonesia and Malaysia, but it can also be found in parts of Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia, Vietnam, Australia, Zanzibar, Kenya, South India, Hawaii, and Jamaica. This fruit is closely related to jackfruit and breadfruit but these are just three of nearly 70 species of Artocarpus that produce edible fruit.
About The Fruit
Cempedaks usually have a cylindrical or spherical shape with a length of 20-30 cm and a width of 10-15 cm. The skin is thin and feels like leather and normally has greenish-yellow color dotted with pentagons. Its seeds are large and surrounded by fleshy, edible arils that can be eaten raw or prepared in several different ways. The arils have a sweet taste and a slimy, fibrous texture. Most people who tried it describe the flavor as a mix of jackfruit, breadfruit, and durian. Cempedak fruits also have a very strong smell that resembles the one of durian.
The seeds are spherical with a length of around 3 cm and are edible. As you probably notice, the seeds are smaller than the jackfruit seeds but similarly to them, can be consumed after being boiled.
The leaves (just like the tree) are evergreen and are up to 25 cm long and up to 12 cm wide. They have a round base and a glossy green color in the upper parts and pale green color in the lower parts.
On average, the diameter of the cempedak fruit is 15-20 cm. Since the plant is a part of the Moraceae family, it consists of thick sap and has a smooth surface with bumps on the trunk where twigs that bear the fruits are produced. The plant is incredibly resistant to termites and that makes it a great raw material for making household utensils.
This plant has a monoecious flower head that bears both male and female flowers on the same tree. After blooming, the male heads fall off while the female remains and enlarges into the fruit heads. Pollination is most often facilitated by wind and flowering usually happens between February and April and between August and October.
Cempedak trees thrive in non-eroded, well-drained soils but they can tolerate certain levels of temporary flooding (similarly like the fruit salad plant). This tree can grow at heights of up to 1,200 meters (3,900 feet) above sea level and at temperatures ranging between 14 and 46 °C (56–115 °F). However, the best climate for planting cempedak trees is tropical.
It can be cultivated with other fruit trees in mixed orchard systems using bud-grafting propagation or seed propagation. Also, keep in mind that the tree grows between 3 and 5 meters which means that there doesn’t have to be a lot of spacing between trees. The plants start bearing fruit at 3-5 years and 2-4 years for clonal trees. After flowering, it takes another 2-4 months for the fruit to ripen.
Pruning should be done during the warmest and most wet period of the year when the trees are growing faster. Always aim for a small multi-trunked tree and low branching or, if you want to lower down the tree’s height, remove the vertical leaders.
Finally, getting the right timing for harvest is crucial. As a rule of thumb, a good way to determine if a cempedak fruit is ripe is to tap the surface of the fruit and get a dull hollow sound in return. Additionally, you can also track the color and the smell; as the fruit ripens, the color turns yellow and the fruit develops a distinguishing odor. The fruits should be harvested before falling down to avoid damage.
How To Use The Cempedak Fruit?
The cempedak fruit can be eaten raw and in Southeast Asia, you’ll notice street vendors cutting the fruit open and selling pieces of it. However, there are also a lot of other ways you can use this exotic fruit. The fruit can be deep-fried, grilled, or boiled.
The young fruit can also be used as a vegetable; you can boil it and eat it in a mixed salad or combine it with other vegetables when preparing curries or other local dishes. The skin can also be processed into a food named mandai that’s prepared by peeling the fruit and soaking it in brine to soften the texture before deep-frying it. Another part of the fruit that’s also usable are its seeds that have a flavor that resembles water chestnuts. The seeds can also be milled into bread flour, or roasted as a snack.
In addition to this, similarly to the santol fruit, cempedak has wide usage in Southeast Asian cuisines. It’s used for making cempedak truffles (with condensed coconut milk), syrups, an array of different local curries, and canned preserves. Finally, its strong and durable timber is used to make furniture, boats (in the areas around the Mekong), ropes, and even houses.
Are you a fan of unusual exotic fruits? Then you may also want to check out our Naranjilla guide.
Nutrition & Interesting Facts
The cempedak fruit is a great choice for people looking to establish a well-balanced diet. It’s rich in vitamins B and C, carotene oxidants, and fiber which is crucial for healthy digestion. This fruit also has a low glycemic index, Ascorbic acid, bioflavonoid, and enzymes, and is safe to eat even by people with diabetes. Here’s a structure of cempedak’s nutrients per 100 grams.
Water- 68 grams
Carbohydrates- 14 grams
Protein- 7 grams
Fiber- 6 grams
Ash- 3 grams
Fat- 1.5 grams
Cempedak trees can grow up to 60 feet tall.
Surprisingly, the plant belongs to the Moraceae (mulberry) plant family.
This fruit has many names including baroh (Indonesian), champada (Thai), kathal (Hindi), pilaul (Tamil) sonekadat (Burmese), Mit To Nu (Vietnamese), and bangkong (when it grows in the wild).
Some people also jokingly refer to the cempedak fruit as “jackfruit’s ugly cousin”.
Its tree bark is used in the production of yellow dye.
The tree grows naturally only in regions that have no dry season.
There’s a big variation among different cempedak trees, resulting in several different sub-variants of the fruit, especially in Malaysia and Indonesia.
There are many health benefits from consuming the cempedak fruit with the biggest one being heart health. The fruit is rich in dietary fiber, Vitamin C, potassium, and antioxidants that help to maintain the health of the heart and lower cholesterol levels and blood pressure. Consuming this fruit is also great for eye health because of the high amount of Vitamin A. In fact, the cempedak fruit is one of the sweetest fruits that’s a supplier of Vitamin A. The fruit is also great for digestion; the high amount of Vitamin C helps avoid constipation or difficulties to defecate.
Some studies also show that the cempedak fruit because of its rich presence of bioflavonoid is able to alleviate tumor symptoms and help in the treatment of tumor diseases. It’s also great for people looking to lose weight because the fruit is rich in protein and can make you full while giving your body all the necessary nutrients to function. Last but not least, with its compounds like heteriflavon C and artioindonesianidin, this fruit can help prevent and treat malaria and completely eliminate malarial parasites.
Did you ever hear of the cempedak fruit? Did you like our guide? Would you want to try it someday? Let us know in the comments!
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