Sunda Shelf (Borneo, Sumatra, Malay Peninsula, Java), Sulawesi, West Papua
Chempedak is a wild and also widely cultivated fruit tree of Malaysia and Indonesia. The tree grows to 20 metres (m) in height, in wet tropical lowland and montane forests to 1200 m a.s.l. (4000 ft.). Although symmetrical and conical in shape in nature, in cultivation it is often irregular. All parts of the tree contain latex. In appearance chempedak fruit is similar to jakfruit (Artocarpus heterophyllus), to which it is closely related, in a sub-group of the breadfruit genus. The green, yellow or orangish brown skin is divided into small hexagons and either smooth or covered with small protrusions. It is cylindrical in shape, 25 to 45 cm long by 10 to 15 cm across, 1-6 kg in weight. Like the jackfruit, it is a syncarp, composed of fleshy arils or segments, 30-45 mm across, colored pale yellow, yellow, orange or green. Each aril surrounds a seed. Texture is firm, somewhat fibrous, sweet and rich. Compared with jackfruit, chempedak is sweeter and has less acidity. It has a strong aroma. Consumers like its light and delicate texture. The seeds, 15-25 mm across, are also edible, and an outstanding resource. Unlike jackfruit seeds, they have a thin, edible seedcoat.
The chempedak tree is rapid growing, and does not require a lot of care except in the early establishment phase, where microclimate control (shade, irrigation and staking) is recommended. When a few metres tall, however, full sun is recommended, since trees overshaded will grow too tall for easy harvest. Gliricidia works well as a companion, being gradually cut out as the chempedak nears maturity. The smaller version fully-grown tree is 9-12 m tall, and bears most of its fruit on the lower branches and trunk. Chempedaks vary in yield, however very heavy crops are common. Selected cultivars can be grafted onto chempedak or jackfruit, but seedling propagation is usual. Trees fruit in 3-5 years from planting out.
Young trees have thin stems, and may be damaged by wind. The bark is subject to disease attack, and tree surgery may be required in later years. Insects are not usually a problem because the leaves are protected by wiry hairs, and the immature fruit has latex in it. However fallen or hanging fruits are attractive to wildlife, especially Brush turkeys in Queensland, and perhaps similar megapodial birds or omnivorous mammals elsewhere. Since some fruit are borne close to the ground, ungulates may consume them directly.
If there is an over-supply, the fruit may be picked early and consumed as a vegetable like jackfruit. For ripe consumption, size of protuberances or smoothness of skin in some cultivars, change of skin colour, and yellowing of the peduncle (fruit stem) are all guides to maturity. The fruit peduncle will easily break at the dehiscing point and the harvest fruits, with their long thin peduncles can be ripened at home or stored for later market sale. Cool room storage will extend life. The season lasts about 6 weeks, but different districts may come into season earlier or later depending on latitude and altitude. Close to the Equator two seasons may occur.
Chempedak has great promise as a "new" tropical fruit outside its current area of distribution. It has heretofore been eclipsed by its better-known "big brother," jackfruit. However many of those who know jak will immediately be attracted to chempedak. As a backyard or orchard tree it can provide valuable carbohydrates, protein and vitamins. The fact that it has two separate, different-tasting components makes it even more appealing. As a tree crop it can replace a portion of the starch and protein in one’s diet otherwise requiring annual cropland.
On the agronomic side, N.B.Mendiolo, A.J.H.Corner and Roberto Coronel have all reported on the interchangeability of jack and chempedak characteristics. In Queensland the Malaysian cv "China" (pron. "cheena") is sold as a hybrid between the two species. Coronel (1983) considers this apparent natural hybridization "a hindrance to rapid propagation of chempedak and popularization of its culture," and suggests future clonal propagation.
How to Use Chempedak
Apart from raw consumption of the arils and cooking quite immature as a vegetable, there are delicious ways to prepare chempedak.
This is a delicious and complete food.
Ingredients: Batter for deep frying; whole arils with seeds still inside; flavourings to taste.
Method: Dip arils in batter and deep fry until seed is cooked--about 10 minutes. Serve plain as snack, at market or roadside stall or with rice and vegetables on the side.
The uses of these are only limited by the consumer’s imagination.
Preparation: Remove from arils. Boil until a fork can break a seed, or a little less if using following recipe.
Fried Chempedak Seeds
Method: Fry boiled seeds in a pan with shallow oil. Don't remove seed coats. With care, they will come off seeds and become nicely crisped. Time of frying can be varied to taste. Light frying gives a starchier taste. Breaking of seeds with implement and longer frying results in a dish like hash-brown potatoes.
Approximate Nutritional Composition (Dry weight):
Protein Fat Carbohydrate
Flesh 3.5-7.0% 0.5-2.0% 80%
Seeds 10-13% 1.0% 80%
Coronel, R., 1983, Promising Fruits of the Philippines, Laguna: College of Agriculture, University of the Philippines at Los Baños
Chandlee, D.K., 1988, Artocarpus, Newsletter of the Rare Fruit Council of Australia, No.53, June
Allen, Betty Molesworth, 1975, Common Malaysian Fruits, Kuala Lumpur: Longman (pp.iii,25)