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Is the Jackfruit Indigenous to Southeast Asia?

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Is the Jackfruit Indigenous to Southeast Asia?

Post by frugivore on Wed Jul 28, 2010 8:31 pm

I believe that although Borneo,Peninsular Malaysia and Sumatra is the Center of Diversity for the Artocarpus species, a few of these species are not indigenous to the region. The Sukun (breadfruit) and Kulur (breadnut) are probably from Eastern Indonesia and Papua New Guinea and the Nangka (jackfruit) is from the Indian Subcontinent. These three fruits have no trace in the aboriginal languages of the Peninsula or Sarawak.
The Malay name nangka is interestingly not Malay. In my opinion there is an interesting possibility that it comes from the Thai name for the male fruits "nang ka-noon" because jackfruit was first introduced into Southeast Asia from the Indian Subcontinent through the northern land route via Bengal,Burma and Thailand.
I had a plantation in South India in Kerala for some years and often wandered in the jungles there. There you can see giant wild jackfruit trees growing in the forest the way you see wild cempedak everywhere in the Malaysian jungles. I have spent lots of time in the jungles of Kelantan,Pahang,Terengganu, Sarawak and Sabah but I have never encountered a wild jackfruit tree.
I have good orang asli friends from the oldest tribe, the Menriq-Semang in Kelantan and these ancient people living on the Malay Peninsula for at least 50.000 years have no traditional knowledge of such a nourishing fruit. They used to starve half a year in-between fruit seasons so a fruit like nangka for sure would have been remembered.
I have also lived in Sumatra for four years and I'm familiar with the Achenese and the Bataks. The Bataks are important because they have been in Southeast Asia as long as the Dayaks of Borneo, a couple of thousands years before the Malays and Indonesians had arrived. They used to be vicious cannibals (and to the present days there are some cases still) . The orang asli of the Malay Peninsula used to be afraid of them because they occasionally came over and eat them.
So the Bataks should know nangka if it was around. Yes they do but by a Sanskrit name from India. In the Batak languages (there are 6) the nangka is called "pinasa" in Sanskrit it is "panasa".
The Kelabits and Ibans of Sarawak have no name of their own for nangka, they use the Malay name which means it is an introduced fruit for them.
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