A Jak Tree is a 'granary' and can give you a tidy income


A Jak tree in your garden is a mini granary. With food shortages and food prices escalating worldwide, every Jak tree strengthens your sense of food security. Even in the worst of times, a mature tree will yield 300 to 700 kg per year. (350 grams of Jak in the Colombo markets is sold at Rs 50. If the produce of a tree can be sold prudently, it can bring a tidy income). This needs careful harvesting, collection, transport, processing and marketing. Home Garden Collectives and Clubs can help to achieve this.

The Jak tree adds to the economy an abundance of food. It also supplies A grade timber, fodder, compost, a trove of medicines and also acts as an air purifier at a time when the world is confronted with the hazards of climate change.

The Jak fruit has 38 nutrients and apart from being consumed as a vegetable (that is the tender Jak polos), it can be a substitute for rice or be eaten as a dessert or be made into sweet meats. Today, Jak is sold in dehydrated form.

From time immemorial, the Jak has been referred to as the Bath Gasa (the tree of rice ) in Sri Lanka. (The validity of this statement can be seen when comparing the nutritional values set out below).

The Jak fruit belongs to the Moraceae family and the common botanical names used are Artocarpus heterophyluss, Artocarpus integra and Artocarpus integrifolia. There are several varieties in Sri Lanka which exotic names like Kuru kos, Del kos, Rosa kos, Batu kos, Rajasinghe Pani Waraka. Jak comes into bearing in 3 to 4 years. Arthur V. Dias a pioneer in promoting Jak fruit cultivation in Sri Lanka brought across an 18 month variety from Johore Malaysia in the nineteen forties.

Space permitting in your garden, a Jak tree is an asset to anyone as it is a perennial source of food. Companion plants for Jak trees are Mango, Murunga and Bread fruit in the same garden. It is no exaggeration to state that whole families live on the Jak fruit whilst the season lasts. Jak grows throughout the wet zone from sea level to 2,000 feet or even 3,000 feet, although it thrives best at the lower elevations.

Seeds of the best and largest fruit available should be selected and sown either in a prepared bed or preferably in pots, or even in tins if holes are made at the bottom of the tins to afford drainage. The beds should be protected from cattle trespass and other damage and kept shaded for a time, or the pots or tins placed in positions where protection and shade is afforded. In three to four months from sowing, the seedlings will be large enough to plant out into permanent sites.

Good holes about three feet wide by two feet deep should be cut and refilled with a good proportion of well-rotted cattle manure, planting the seedlings after soil have settled down.

A strong permanent fence should be erected around each plant and a little overhead shade during mid-day hours is beneficial for a time after planting, until the seedling can stand full exposure. The jak is normally a straight-growing tree and naturally forms a good, straight free-growing stem, so that no pruning or shaping is usually required.

The tree prefers a rich, deep and moist soil, but will also grow well in poor soil. Moisture however, seems essential and it can be said with safety that once established all it needs is ample moisture. One method of maintaining moisture is to sink a clay pot into the earth with its mouth exposed to the surface. The clay pot can be constantly refilled with water so that the roots will have a permanent source of moisture for the roots in the soil. Keep the mouth covered with polythene so that no mosquitoes can breed in the pot.

Medicinal Plants used in Ceylon by D. M. A. Jayaweera (published by the National Science Council of Sri Lanka) gives the following uses of Jak:

"The fruit is eaten in various forms. The rich yellow flesh (aril) surrounding the seeds is sweet and aromatic when ripe and eaten raw. Before the arils ripen, they are boiled with the seeds and eaten with scraped coconut as a meal. The seeds are roasted and made into sweetmeats. The latex makes an excellent cement for cracked pots especially those used for carrying water. The unripe fruit is minced, boiled with scraped coconut and eaten.

The young fruits are curried or prepared into pickles. The tender leaves minced fine and roasted with scraped coconut is a specific for insomnia, while the juice of the tender fruit with coconut milk and jaggery is a miraculous antidote for narcotic poisoning. The leaves are used in skin diseases and the root for diarrhoea and fever.

The roots are also used for skin diseases and as an antiasthmatic. The milky juice mixed with vinegar is applied on swellings and abscesses. The starch from the seeds is given in bilious colic and the roasted seeds have an aphrodisiacal action. The heartwood is an excellent timber and a dye extracted from it is used for dyeing robes of Buddhist priests. An infusion of the mature leaves and bark is given for stones in the bladder and for diabetes".

For further information on Jak, please contact the Mahatma Gandhi Centre.

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