Years ago when Rajasree used to visit her hometown in Kerala during vacations, her mother always kept a packet of dried jackfruit and seeds for her to take back to Qatar where it wasn’t available. But she never liked the smell of the fruit that persisted even after sun-drying it.
“Unlike me, most of my friends in Qatar used to love it. So, I started looking for ways in which the unpleasant smell could be eliminated,” says Rajasree R, who stayed in Qatar with her family for almost 15 years before moving back to Kerala six years ago.
When she moved back home in 2016 for her children’s education, Rajashree was clear about starting a business on her own. “Jackfruit is very versatile and if dried and processed well, it could be a good alternative for flours like maida. But the smell had to be eliminated. So, I was looking out for a technique or technology to make it possible,” says the 50-year-old.
“After getting an FSSAI license, I came across the technology to dehydrate jackfruit bulbs and their seeds at the Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK), Kayamkulam. The technology helps in drying and making high-quality powder out of jackfruit by eliminating the smell thereby letting you make a wide range of value-added products out of it,” she says, adding that she now makes over 400 varieties of products out of jackfruit under her brand name — Fruit N’ Root.
A healthy twist to pasta
Rajasree makes use of the tender, ripe jackfruit to make value-added products ranging from all-purpose flour to jackfruit pasta. “At KVK, they were already making different products using jackfruit. So, I learnt the technology and decided to make something different. My sons are fond of pasta and burgers, therefore I thought of finding an alternative for the maida used in all these types of foods,” she says. “After some research, I discovered that jackfruit pasta was never attempted by anyone else, so I decided to try it. By experimenting a bit, I figured out how to make it out of jackfruit,” claims Rajasree.
To make pasta, required a machine and Rajasree was then on a quest to find a tapioca pasta maker at the Central Tuber Crops Research Institute (CTCRI) in Thiruvananthapuram. “I tried making jackfruit pasta using that machine and it worked out. Later I got the technology transfer and launched the product,” she adds.
Other than jackfruit pasta, there is a long list of products like jackfruit burger patties, jackfruit vermicelli, payasam mix, jackfruit and jackfruit seed flour, and even chocolates. “Every part of the jackfruit can be used in some way or the other. I use the dried rind as an ingredient in dahashamani (a mix of ayurvedic herbs boiled with drinking water which yields numerous health benefits) and also make a tooth powder out of it,” explains Rajasree who even uses the latex from the jackfruit to make kajal but only for personal use.
Home Chef Turns Entrepreneur
Since 2016, Rajasree has been taking part in different fests and events across the state showcasing her products. “Certain variety products like the jackfruit soap, flavoured tea, chocolate, etc. are mostly made for food fests,” says Rajasree, who recently won the ‘Best Jackfruit Processor/Other Value Addition 2021’ award from the Kerala Government.
There is also a long list of delicacies that can be made using jackfruit she says, “Jackfruit wine, ice cream, pudding, cakes, payasam are a few among them. Also, I make jackfruit flavoured curd and buttermilk using its puree,” she adds.
For making her products, Rajasree sources jackfruits from her native place — Nooranad, in Alappuzha district. “Almost all houses there have around 5-10 jackfruit trees which bear a lot of fruits every season but without any takers, most of them go to waste. So, I set up a small unit there to source and process the fruits,” she says, adding that around 10 women are working at her unit in Nooranad.
“They separate the jackfruit bulbs, blanch them, dry them and store them there. Later, we powder it, according to the requirement. Only the processing is done at the unit,” she elaborates.
Apart from making value-added products from jackfruit, Rajasree also makes products out of tapioca, banana, moringa and organic rice grown at her farm.
“All of my products are purely organic as I don’t use any kind of chemical ingredients,” and hence the shelf-life of most of her products is short.
The business demands Rajasree to be an entrepreneur as well as a home chef very often, as she takes orders for curries, payasam, etc. and also a special item named Chakkapothi — rice served with several jackfruit-based side dishes wrapped in a banana leaf. “I also take orders for traditional Kerala sadya in which all the side dishes like avial, sambar, thoran, erissery, etc. are made with jackfruit,” she adds.
Among the wide range of products that Fruit N’ Root offers, she says that the jackfruit powder, priced at Rs 700/kg, is one of the fastest-selling products. “The jackfruit powder can be mixed with rice powder, atta or maida and can be used to make puttu, idiyappam, upma, chapati and even cakes and other snacks.”
“Before the pandemic, we used to sell around 5 to 10 kg of jackfruit powder every month but there was a lull during the lockdown period. Also, after a break we restarted the pasta sales this month,” says Rajasree, who currently sells her products through Facebook and Whatsapp and plans to sell her products on platforms like Amazon very soon.
If you want to place orders, you can contact Rajasree at 9400234877.
(Edited by Yoshita Rao)