Marketing Jack Fruit For A Living

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Words : Lakmini Wijemanne

The “Pola” in the heart of busy Nugegoda is constantly humming with activity. Mornings are especially vibrant since that is when most of the housewives venture in to the Pola to make their purchases for the kitchen. Equivalent to the “Farmers Market” found in other western countries, you can pretty much find everything needed in the kitchen to turn out a tasty meal at the pola. It is the old-time equivalent to the modern Supermarkets. The important factor here is that the produce is mostly fresh ! Lucy Akka started selling Jack fruit at the pola in 1971. At that time, she was the sole provider of jack fruit at the pola. In any given day, she would cut close to 40 fruits per day in those early days…such was the demand ! Due to the difficulty in cutting and cleaning , most ladies found it easier to buy the cut and cleaned jack from Lucy Akka those days.

For Rs . 25/- you can have a good sized bad full of cleaned pale yellow bulbs of jack which you can simply take home, wash and cook after adding the necessary condiments. Its been 40 years this year, since Gunasiri, Lucy akka’s son has followed in his mother’s footsteps. Both mother and son would cut and clean the fleshy pods and keep them ready for sale. They would also have the finely chopped young jak fruit (polos mallung) all packed and ready for the pot. Young Gunasiri found his life partner and over time, when Lucy akka stopped cutting jak, the young couple decided to continue the work, though by now, a few other vendors have also started cutting and cleaning jak fruit for the customers. So much so, now the son and his wife are able to cut and sell only around 10 fruits a day, when back in his mother’s hay day, it was nearly 40 fruits !! Although Jak fruit is not seasonal, due to the high demand, it is sometimes rather difficult to get the produce, Gunasiri said. Scientifically known as ArtocarpusHeterophyllus, it is a species of trees in the fig, mulberry and breadfruit family. It is said that Jak trees originated from the Western Ghats of South India and it can easily be found in many of the South Asian countries. Known as the “Poor man’s Food”, a jak tree can produce upto 3 tons of food.

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