OAKLAND -- One trucker's spilled shipment of jackfruit and plantains Monday on an East Bay freeway turned into lunch for bears, elephants and giraffes at the Oakland Zoo Wednesday.
About 13,000 pounds of plantains, a banana-like fruit, and jackfruit were donated to the Oakland Zoo Wednesday afternoon, making zookeepers grateful and some animals slightly standoffish toward the unfamiliar produce.
"We just fed some jackfruit to our bull elephant Osh. It was the first time he had tried this kind of fruit, so he was a bit hesitant," zoo spokeswoman Nicky Mora said. "Jackfruit almost tastes like a banana flavor, looks like a melon with spikes, but the fruit on the inside has the texture of a green pepper. So, Osh was a little unsure of the fruit."
Only fruit in good condition without major bruising, broken skin or insects will be fed to the animals, zoological manager Darren Minier said.
"The giraffes are smelling (the jackfruit) and are interested in it but they haven't actually conjured up the courage to try it," he said. "This is obviously one (fruit) we don't get very often. Once we can confirm it won't be harmful to them, we will try it with the chimpanzees and other primates. We might try some with some of the birds. We have a lot of animals that enjoy fruit but it's very sugary so we try not to give them too much."
The Alameda County Food Bank received about 35,000 pounds of fruit as well. About 12,000 pounds of fruit was destroyed, said Brian Deering, the founder of the F.A.I.R. Foundation, which helped distributed the unsalable fruit.
The fruit donation comes two days after a chain-reaction crash where a tractor-trailer ran into a pickup and dumped as much as 60,000 pounds of tropical fruit onto the Altamont Pass early Monday. Commute traffic was snarled for hours as workers carted boxes from the toppled big rig to transport trucks.
No one was injured, a spokesman for the California Highway Patrol said.
The fruit was dumped on the median and parts of westbound Interstate 580 just west of the West Greenville Road off-ramp after the 2:45 a.m. crash, CHP spokesman Officer Steve Creel said.
The big rig ran into the back of a broken down pickup, which had lost its lights after colliding with a dump truck earlier Monday.
The pickup driver moved away from his truck and shined a flashlight on the vehicle to alert drivers to the stall. But the big rig driver never saw him or the truck in the darkness, slammed into the back of it in the far right lane, skidded and turned his rig onto its left side, Creel said.
It took nearly eight hours to get the fruit boxes off the truck and clear the accident scene. Commuters were frustrated by the clogged Altamont Pass, where vehicles were backed up onto I-205 and into Tracy.
But at the least the food bank and the zoo animals made out in the deal.
"We will keep (the fruit) as long as it stays fresh," Minier said. "We don't want to give our animals too much of a good thing, but if we freeze it we will be able to use it through winter. What fruit is left could be frozen for jackfruit Popsicles."
Follow Kristin J. Bender at Twitter.com/kjbender.