General info about Fruit
Artocarpus altilis is a tree and fruit native to the Malay Peninsula and western Pacific islands. It has also been widely planted in tropical regions elsewhere. It was collected and distributed by Lieutenant William Bligh as one of the botanical samples collected by HMS Bounty in the late 18th century, on a quest for a cheap high-energy food source for British slaves in the West Indies.
Breadfruit trees grow to a height of 20 m. The large and thick leaves are deeply cut into pinnate lobes. All parts of the tree yield latex, a milky juice. This latex is used for boat caulking. The trees are monoecious, with male and female flowers growing on the same tree. The male flowers emerge first, followed shortly afterwards by the female flowers, growing into a capitulum. These can be pollinated three days later. The pollinators are Old World fruit bats (Family Pteropodidae). The compound, false fruit develops from the swollen perianth and originates from 1,500-2,000 flowers. These are visible on the skin of the fruit as hexagon-like disks.
It is one of the highest-yielding food plants, a single tree producing up to 200 or more fruits per season. In the South Pacific, the trees yield 50 to 150 fruits per year. In southern India, normal production is 150 to 200 fruits annually. Productivity varies between wet and dry areas. In the West Indies, a conservative estimate is 25 fruits per tree. Studies in Barbados indicate a reasonable potential of 6.7 to 13.4 tons per acre (16-32 tons/ha). Much higher yields have been forecasted, but experts are skeptical and view these as unrealistic. The grapefruit-sized ovoid fruit have a rough surface, and each fruit is divided into many achenes, each achene surrounded by a fleshy perianth and growing on a fleshy receptacle. Some selectively-bred cultivars have seedless fruit.
How to choose a ripe and fresh Fruit
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Breadfruits are picked when maturity is indicated by the appearance of small drops of latex on the surface. Harvesters climb the trees and break the fruit stalk with a forked stick so that the fruit will fall. Even though this may cause some bruising or splitting, it is considered better than catching the fruits by hand because the broken pedicel leaks much latex. They are packed in cartons in which they are separated individually by dividers.
In the South Pacific, the trees yield 50 to 150 fruits per year. In southern India, normal production is 150 to 200 fruits annually. Productivity varies between wet and dry areas. In the West Indies, a conservative estimate is 25 fruits per tree. Studies in Barbados indicate a reasonable potential of 6.7 to 13.4 tons per acre (16-32 tons/ha). Much higher yields have been forecasted, but experts are skeptical and view these as unrealistic.
Ways to prepare and serve the Fruit
Breadfruit is a staple food in many tropical regions. They were propagated far outside their native range by Polynesian voyagers who transported root cuttings and air-layered plants over long ocean distances. They are very rich in starch, and before being eaten they are roasted, baked, fried, or boiled. When cooked the taste is described as potato-like, or similar to fresh baked bread (hence the name)
Because breadfruit trees usually produce large crops at certain times of the year, preservation is an issue. One traditional preservation technique is to bury peeled and washed fruits in a leaf-lined pit where they ferment over several weeks and produce a sour, sticky paste. So stored, the product may last a year or more, and some pits are reported to have produced edible contents more than 30 years later. Fermented breadfruit mash goes by many names such as mahr, ma, masi, furo, and bwiru, among others.
Most breadfruit varieties also produce a small number of fruits throughout the year, so fresh breadfruit is always available but somewhat rare when not in season.
Breadfruit can be eaten once cooked, or can be further processed into a variety of other foods. A common product is a mixture of cooked or fermented breadfruit mash mixed with coconut milk and baked in banana leaves. Whole fruits can be cooked in an open fire, then cored and filled with other foods such as coconut milk, sugar and butter, cooked meats, or other fruits. The filled fruit can be further cooked so that the flavor of the filling permeates the flesh of the breadfruit.
The Hawaiian staple food called poi made of mashed taro root is easily substituted or augmented with mashed breadfruit. The resulting “breadfruit poi” is called poi ‘ulu.
Breadfruit contains 25% carbohydrates (110kcal/100g). It has small amounts of minerals (potassium and zinc) and vitamins B1 (100μg) and C (20mg/100g).
Health Benefits and Warnings of eating Fruit
In Trinidad and the Bahamas, a decoction of the breadfruit leaf is believed to lower blood pressure, and is also said to relieve asthma. Crushed leaves are applied on the tongue as a treatment for thrush. The leaf juice is employed as ear-drops. Ashes of burned leaves are used on skin infections. A powder of roasted leaves is employed as a remedy for enlarged spleen. The crushed fruit is poulticed on tumors to “ripen” them. Toasted flowers are rubbed on the gums around an aching tooth. The latex is used on skin diseases and is bandaged on the spine to relieve sciatica. Diluted latex is taken internally to overcome diarrhea.
Most varieties of breadfruit are purgative if eaten raw. Some varieties are boiled twice and the water thrown away, to avoid unpleasant effects, while there are a few named cultivars that can be safely eaten without cooking.
The cyclopropane-containing sterol, cycloartenol, has been isolated from the fresh fruit. It contitutes 12% of the non-saponifiable extract.
• Árbol del pan Spanish
• Arbre à pain in French
• Artocarpo in Italian
• Arvore do pão or simply fruta-pão in Portuguese
• Brotfruchtbaum in German
• Del (from Portuguese Árbol del pan though none of these words are actually Portuguese) in Sinhala
• Kada-chakkai in Malayalam
• Kapiak in Tok Pisin
• Kolo in Tagalog
• 面包果 (mianbao guo) in Mandarin Chinese
• パンノキ (pan no ki) in Japanese
• Pana in Puerto Rican Spanish
• Sukun in Indonesian
• ‘Ulu in Hawaiian and Rotuman
• Buju in Jamaican Creole
An unpublished report of 1921 covered 200 cultivars of breadfruit in the Marquesas. The South Pacific Commission published the results of a breadfruit survey in 1966. In it, there were described 166 named sorts from Tonga, Niue, Western and American Samoa, Papua and New Guinea, New Hebrides and Rotuma. There are 70 named varieties of seeded and seedless breadfruits in Fiji. They are locally separated into 8 classes by leaf form. The following, briefly presented, are those that are recorded as “very good”. It will be noted that some varietal names are reported under more than one class.
Class I: Leaf entire, or with one or two, occasionally, three lobes.
‘Koqo’— round; 4 in (10 cm) wide; seedless; does not deteriorate quickly.
‘Tamaikora’—gourd shaped (constricted around middle); to 4 1/2 in (11.5 cm) long, 3 in (7.5 cm) wide; with many seeds. Can be eaten raw when ripe. Highly perishable. Tree to 40 or 45 ft (12-13.5 m).
Class II: Leaf dissected at apex.
‘Temaipo’—round; 3 1/2 in (9 cm) long; seedless. Can be eaten raw when ripe. There is also an oblong form with many seeds.
Class III: Leaf moderately deeply dissected at apex.
‘Uto Kuro’—round; 5 in (12.5 cm) long; does not deteriorate quickly.
Class IV: Leaf moderately deeply dissected on upper half.
‘Samoa’—(‘Kasa Balavu’) round; 4 to 6 in (10-15 cm) long; seeds sparse to many.
‘Uto Yalewa’—oblong; to 8 in (20 cm) long and 6 in (15 cm) wide; seedless.
‘Kulu Dina’—oblong; to 16 in (40 cm) long and 13 in (33 cm) wide; seedless. Need not be peeled after cooking. Tree bears all year.
‘Sogasoga’—oblong; to 9 in (23 cm) long and 6 1/2 in (16.5 cm) wide; seedless.
‘Uto Dina’—oblong; to 6 in (15 cm) long and 3 to 3 1/2 in (7.5-9 cm) wide; seedless; need not be peeled after cooking. Tree 60 to 70 ft (18-21 m) high.
‘Buco Ni Viti’—oblong; 11 to 14 in (28-35.5 cm) long, 6 to 7 in (15-18 cm) wide; seedless; one of the best cultivars.
‘Tamaikora’—oblong; 7 to 9 in (18-23 cm) long, 5 to 6 1/2 in (12.5-16.5 cm) wide; seeds sparse; pulp eaten raw when ripe. Tree to 75 or 85 ft (23-26 m) high; bears 2 crops per year.
‘Kulu Mabomabo’—oval; 6 to 8 in (15-20 cm) long, 4 to 5 1/2 in (10-14 cm) wide; seedless.
Class V: Leaf moderately deeply dissected; shape of leaf base variable.
‘Uto Dina’—round; 4 1/2 to 5 in (11.5-12.5 cm) wide; seed less. Highly recommended. Tree is 25-30 ft (7.5-9 m) tall.
‘Balekana Ni Samoa’—round; 4 to 5 in (10-12.5 cm) long; seeds sparse. Best of all Samoan varieties. There is an oval form by the same name; seedless; deteriorates very quickly.
‘Balekana Ni Vita’—round; 3 1/2 to 4 in (9-10 cm) long; seedless. Does not deteriorate quickly.
‘Balekana Dina’—oval; 6 to 8 in (15-20 cm) long, 3 to 5 in (7.5-12.5 cm) wide; seeds sparse. One of the best, especially when boiled.
‘Tabukiraro’—round; 8 in (20 cm) long; seedless; skin sometimes eaten after cooking.
‘Sici Ni Samoa’—oval; 5 to 6 in (12.5-15 cm) long, 3 to 3 1/2 in (7.5-9 cm) wide; seedless. One of the highly recommended Samoan varieties.
‘Uto Me’—oval; 5 to 6 3/4 in (12.5-17 cm) long, 4 1/2 to 5 in (11.5 cm) wide; with many seeds; does not deteriorate quickly.
‘Uto Wa’—oval; 6 to 7 1/2 in (15-19 cm) long, 5 to 5 1/2 in (12.5-14 cm) wide. The variety most recommended.
‘Kulu Vawiri’—oval; 9 to 12 in (22-30 cm) long, 8 to 9 in (20-22 cm) wide; especially good when boiled.
Class VI: Leaf deeply dissected.
‘Kulu Dina’—round; 3 to 4 in (7.5-10 cm) long; seedless. Need not be peeled after boiling. Highly recommended.
‘Balekana’—oval; 4 in (10 cm) long, 3 in (7.5 cm) wide; of the best quality. Tree 70 to 80 ft (21-24 m) high.
‘Balekana Ni Samoa’—round; 3 in (7.5 cm) long; seeds sparse. Best of all Samoan varieties.
‘Balekana Ni Viti’—oblong; 5 to 6 in (12.5-15 cm) long, 3 to 4 in (7.5-10 cm) wide; seedless. The best native-type variety.
‘Uto Dina’—(‘Kasa Leka’) round; 4 in (10 cm) long; seedless.
‘Uto Matala’—round; 3 to 4 in (7.5-10 cm) long. Especially fine when boiled. Tree bears 3 times a year.
Class VII: Leaf deeply dissected; apex pointed.
‘Balekana Ni Samoa’—round; 5 to 5 1/2 in (12.5-14 cm) long; seeds sparse. Best of all Samoan varieties.
‘Kulu Dina’—(‘Kasa Balavu’) oval; 6 to 7 in (15-18 cm) long, 4 to 5 in (10-12.5 cm) wide; seedless.
‘Uto Dina’—(Large) oval; 8 to 9 in (20-22 cm) long, 4 to 7 in (10-18 cm) wide; seedless. Also, by the same name, a form with only moderately dissected leaves.
‘Bokasi’—round; 4 in (10 cm) long, 3 in (7.5 cm) wide.
Class VIII: Leaf deeply dissected, wide spaces between lobes.
‘Savisavi Ni Samoa’—oval; 4 to 5 in (10-12.5 cm) long, 3 to 3 1/2 in (7.5-9 cm) wide. Ranks with best Samoan varieties.
‘Savisavi Ni Viti’—oblong; 6 to 8 in(16-20 cm) long, 4 to 6 in (10-15 cm) wide; seedless; especially good when boiled.
‘Savisavi’—round; 3 to 3 1/2 in (7.5-9 cm) wide; especially good when boiled.
‘Balawa Ni Viti’—oval; 6 to 7 in (15-18 cm) long, 3 1/2 to 4 in (9-10 cm) wide; seedless.
‘Uto Kasekasei’—round; 4 to 5 in (10-12.5 cm) long; seeds sparse.
‘Via Loa’—oblong; 6 to 7 in (15-18 cm) long, 4 to 5 in (10-12.5 cm) wide; seedless; does not deteriorate quickly.
Koroieveibau provides a key to the 8 classes illustrated by leaf and fruit outline sketches.
P.J. Wester, in 1928, published descriptions of 52 breadfruit cultivars of the Pacific Islands. In the book, The Breadfruit of Tahiti; by G.P. Wilder, there are detailed descriptions and close-up, black-and-white photographic illustrations of the foliage and fruit of 30 named varieties, and of the foliage only of one which did not have mature fruit at the time of writing. One ‘Aata’, an oblong fruit, is described as of poor quality and eaten by humans only when better breadfruits are scarce, but it is important as feed for pigs and horses. The tree bears heavily. Among the best are:
‘Aravei’—fruit ellipsoidal; large, 8 to 12 in (10-30 cm) long, 6 to 9 in (15-22 cm) wide; rind yellowish-green with brown spots on the sunny side; rough, with sharp points which are shed on maturity. Pulp is light-yellow, dry or flaky and of delicious flavor after cooking which takes very little time. Core long, slim, with many abortive seeds.
‘Havana’—fruit oval-round; the rind yellowish-green, spiny; pulp golden-yellow, moist, pasty, separates into loose flakes when cooked; very sweet with excellent flavor; core oval, large, with a row of abortive seeds. Very perishable; must be used within 2 days; cooks quickly over fire. Fruit borne in 2’s and 3’s. Popularly claimed to be one of the best breadfruits.
‘Maohi’—fruit round; 6 in (15 cm) wide; rind bright yellow-green with patches of red-brown; rough, with spines, and often bears much exuded latex. Pulp cream-colored and smooth when cooked; of very good flavor; slow cooking, needs even heat. Core is large. Fruit is borne in 2’s and 3’s. Tree a heavy bearer. This is the most common breadfruit of Tahiti.
‘Paea’—ellipsoidal; very large, to 11 in (28 cm) long and 9 in (22.8 cm) wide; rind yellowish-green, spiny; core oblong, thick, with a row of brown, abortive seeds; pulp bright-yellow, moist, slightly pasty, separating into flakes when cooked; agreeable but only one of its forms, ‘Paea Maaroaro’, is really sweet. Formerly, ‘Paea’ was reserved for chiefs only. Needs one hour to roast on open fire. The tree is tall, especially well formed and elegant.
‘Pei’—broad-ellipsoidal; large; rind light-green, relatively smooth; pulp light-yellow and flaky when cooked, aromatic, of sweet, delicious “fruity” flavor; cooks quickly. Ripens earlier than others. When the breadfruit crop is scant, the fruits of this cultivar are stored by burying in the ground until needed, even for a year, then taken up, wrapped in Cordyline leaves and boiled.
‘Pucro’—fruit spherical or elongated; large; rind yellow-green with small brown spots, very rough, spiny, thin; pulp light-yellow and smooth, of excellent flavor. Cooks quickly. Highly esteemed, ranked with the very best breadfruits. There are two oblong forms, one with a large, hairy core.
‘Rare’—fruit broad-ovoid; to 7 in (17.5 cm) long, rind bright-green, rough, spiny; pulp of deep-cream tone, fine-grained, smooth, flaky when cooked; of very sweet, excellent flavor. Core is small with a great many small abortive seeds. Must be cooked for about one hour. There are 3 forms that are well recognized. Fruits are borne singly on a tall, open, short branched tree.
‘Rare Aumee’—fruit round; 6 1/2 in (16.5 cm) across; rind bright-green with red-brown splotches, fairly smooth at the base but rough at the apex; pulp deep-ivory, firm, smooth when cooked; not very sweet but of excellent flavor. Cooks quickly. Highly prized; in scarce supply because the tall, few branched tree bears scantily.
‘Rare Autia’—fruit round; 6 in (15 cm) across; rind dull-green with red-brown markings. Pulp light-yellow when cooked and separates into chunks; has excellent flavor. Core is large with small abortive seeds all around. This cultivar is so superior it was restricted to royalty and high chiefs in olden times.
‘Tatara’—fruit broad-ellipsoid; verylarge, up to 10 lbs(4.5 kg) in weight; rind has prominent faces with long green spines; pulp light-yellow, smooth when cooked and of pleasant flavor. Core is oblong. This variety is greatly esteemed. The tree is found only in a small coastal valley where there is heavy rainfall. It is of large dimensions and high-branching and it is difficult to harvest the fruits.
‘Vai Paere’—fruit is obovoid; 10 to 12 in (25-30 cm) long, 7 to 8 in (17.5-20 cm) wide; rind is yellow-green with red-brown splotches and there is a short raised point at the center of each face; pulp light-yellow, firm, smooth, a little dryish when cooked, with a slightly acid, but excellent flavor. Core is oblong, large, with a few abortive seeds attached. Fruit cooks easily. Tree is very tall, bears fruit in clusters. Grows at sea level in fairly dry locations.
There are at least 50 cultivars on Ponape and about the same number on Truk. In Samoa, a variety known as ‘Maopo’, with leaves that are almost entire or sometimes very shallowly lobed, is very common and considered one of the best.
‘Puou’ is another choice and much planted variety since early times. It has deeply cut leaves and nearly round fruits 6 in (15 cm) long. ‘Ulu Ea’, with leaves even more deeply lobed, has oblong fruits to 6 1/8 in (15.5 cm) long and 5 in (12.5 cm) wide; is a longtime favorite.
In the past three decades there has been an awakening to the possibilities of increasing the food supply of tropical countries by more plantings of selected varieties of seedless breadfruit. In 1958, many appealing varieties (some early, some late in season) were collected around the South Pacific region and transferred to Western Samoa, Tahiti and Fiji for comparative trials. Two years later, plans were made to introduce Polynesian varieties into Micronesia, and propagating material of 36 Micronesian types was distributed to other areas
Recipes made mainly with this Fruit
Like the banana and plantain, the breadfruit may be eaten ripe as a fruit or underripe as a vegetable. For the latter purpose, it is picked while still starchy and is boiled or, in the traditional Pacific Island fashion, roasted in an underground oven on pre-heated rocks. Sometimes it is cored and stuffed with coconut before roasting. Malayans peel firm-ripe fruits, slice the pulp and fry it in sirup or palm sugar until it is crisp and brown. Filipinos enjoy the cooked fruit with coconut and sugar.
Fully ripe fruits, being sweeter, are baked whole with a little water in the pan. Some cooks remove the stem and core before cooking and put butter and sugar in the cavity, and serve with more of the same. Others may serve the baked fruit with butter, salt and pepper. Ripe fruits may be halved or quartered and steamed for 1 or 2 hours and seasoned in the same manner as baked fruits. The steamed fruit is sometimes sliced, rolled in flour and fried in deep fat. In Hawaii, underripe fruits are diced, boiled, and served with butter and sugar, or salt and pepper, or diced and cooked with other vegetables, bacon and milk as a chowder. In the Bahamas, breadfruit soup is made by boiling underripe chunks of breadfruit in water until the liquid begins to thicken, then adding cooked salt pork, chopped onion, white pepper and salt, stirring till thick, then adding milk and butter, straining, adding a bit of sherry and simmering until ready to serve.
The pulp scraped from soft, ripe breadfruits is combined with coconut milk (not coconut water), salt and sugar and baked to make a pudding. A more elaborate dessert is concocted of mashed ripe breadfruit, with butter, 2 beaten eggs, sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon and rosewater, a dash of sherry or brandy, blended and boiled. There are numerous other dishes peculiar to different areas. Breadfruit is also candied, or sometimes prepared as a sweet pickle.
In Micronesia, the peel is scraped off with a sharpened cowrie shell, or the fruits are peeled with a knife, cored, cut up and put into sacks or baskets, soaked in the sea for about 2 hours while being beaten or trampled; allowed to drain on shore for a few days; then packed in banana leaf-lined boxes to ferment for a month or much longer, the leaves being changed weekly.
In Polynesia and Micronesia, a large number of fruits are baked in a native oven and left there to ferment. Over a period of a few weeks, batches are taken out as needed. In the New Hebrides, peeled breadfruits are wrapped in leaves and placed to ferment in piles of stones on open beaches where they will be flooded at high tide. In Samoa, seeded breadfruits are skinned, washed, quartered and left to ferment in a pit lined and covered with layers of banana and Heliconia leaves, and topped with earth and rocks. The fruits ferment for long periods, sometimes for several years, and form a pasty mass called masi. The seeds are squeezed out, the paste is wrapped in Heliconia leaves smeared with coconut cream and the product is baked for 2 hours. There is a strong, cheese-like odor, but it is much relished by the natives.
The original method of poi making involved peeling, washing and halving the fruit, discarding the core, placing the fruits in stone pits lined with leaves of Cordylme terminalis Kunth, alternating the layers of fruit with old fermented pod, covering the upper layer with leaves, topping the pit with soil and rocks and leaving the contents to ferment, which acidifies and preserves the breadfruit for several years.
Modern poi is made from firm-ripe fruits, boiled whole until tender, cored, sliced, ground, pounded to a paste, kneaded with added water to thin it, strained through cloth, and eaten. If it is to be kept in the refrigerator for 2 days, only a little water is added in kneading; more is added and it is strained just before serving. Food value and digestibility are improved by mixing with poi made from taro which is rated highly as a non-allergenic food. In the Seychelles, the seedless breadfruit is cut into slices 1/2 in (1.25 cm) thick, dried for 4 days at 120°F (48.89°C). In some Pacific Islands, the fruits are partly roasted, then peeled, dried and formed into loaves for long-time storage. The Ceylonese dip breadfruit slices into a salt solution, then blanch them in boiling water for 5 minutes, dry them at 158°F (70°C) for 4 to 6 hours before storing. The slices will keep in good condition for 8 to 10 months. In Guam, cooked fruits may be mashed to a paste which is spread out thin, dried in the sun, and wrapped in leaves for storage. It is soaked in water to soften it for eating. This might be called “breadfruit leather”. On the small Kapingamarangi Atoll in the Caroline Islands, the cooked paste is pressed into sheets 5 ft (1.5 m) long and 20 in (50 cm) wide, dried in the sun on coconut leaf mats, then rolled into cylinders, wrapped in Pandanus leaves and stored for at least 3 years.
The dried fruit has been made into flour and improved methods have been explored in Barbados and Brazil with a view to substituting breadfruit in part for wheat flour in breadmaking. The combination has been found more nutritious than wheat flour alone. Breadfruit flour is much richer than wheat flour in lysine and other essential amino acids. In Jamaica, the flour is boiled, sweetened, and eaten as porridge for breakfast.
Soft or overripe breadfruit is best for making chips and these are being manufactured commercially in Trinidad and Barbados. Some breadfruit is canned in Dominica and Trinidad for shipment to London and New York.
In Jamaica, Puerto Rico and the South Pacific, fallen male flower spikes are boiled, peeled and eaten as vegetables or are candied by recooking, for 2-3 hours, in sirup; then rolled in powdered sugar and sun-dried.
The seeds are boiled, steamed, roasted over a fire or in hot coals and eaten with salt. In West Africa, they are sometimes made into a puree. In Costa Rica, the cooked seeds are sold by street vendors.