Feel at home with Breadfruit.
Breadfruit (Artocarpus altilis) is a species of flowering tree in the mulberry family, Moraceae originating in the South Pacific and that was eventually spread to the rest of Oceania. British and French navigators introduced a few Polynesian seedless varieties to Caribbean islands during the late 18th century and today it is grown in some 90 countries throughout South and Southeast Asia, the Pacific Ocean, the Caribbean, Central America and Africa. Its name is derived from the texture of the cooked moderately ripe fruit, which has a potato-like flavor, similar to freshly baked bread.
Ancestors of the Polynesians found the trees growing in the northwest New Guinea area around 3,500 years ago. They gave up the rice cultivation they had brought with them from Taiwan, and raised breadfruit wherever they went in the Pacific (except Easter Island and New Zealand, which are too cold). Their ancient eastern Indonesian cousins spread the plant west and north through insular and coastal Southeast Asia. It has, in historical times, also been widely planted in tropical regions elsewhere.
Breadfruit trees grow to a height of 25 m (82 ft). The large and thick leaves are deeply cut into pinnate lobes. All parts of the tree yieldlatex, a milky juice, which is useful for boat caulking.
The trees are monoecious, with male and female flowers growing on the same tree. The male flowers emerge first, followed shortly afterward by the female flowers, which grow into capitula, which are capable of pollination just three days later. 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.
Breadfruit is one of the highest-yielding food plants, with a single tree producing up to 200 or more grapefruit-sized fruits per season, and only requires very limited care. 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 Caribbean, a conservative estimate is 25 fruits per tree. Studies in Barbados indicate a reasonable potential of 16 to 32 tons per hectare (6.7-13.4 tons/acre). The ovoid fruit has a rough surface, and each fruit is divided into manyachenes, each achene surrounded by a fleshy perianth and growing on a fleshy receptacle. Most selectively bred cultivars have seedless fruit.
The breadfruit is closely related to the breadnut, from which it might have been selected, and to the jackfruit.
Breadfruit is a staple food in many tropical regions. The trees were first propagated far outside their native range by Polynesian voyagers who transported root cuttings and air-layered plants over long ocean distances. Breadfruit are very rich in starch, and before being eaten, they are roasted, baked, fried or boiled. When cooked, the taste of moderately ripe breadfruit is described as potato-like, or similar to freshly baked bread. Very ripe breadfruit becomes sweet, as the starch converts to sugar.
The fruit of the breadfruit tree – whole, sliced lengthwise and in cross-section
Because breadfruit trees usually produce large crops at certain times of the year, preservation of the harvested fruit 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 20 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 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 for, or augmented with, mashed breadfruit. The resulting “breadfruit poi” is called poi ʻulu. In Puerto Rico, breadfruit is called panapen or pana, for short and in some in-land regions it’s also called mapén.Pana is often served boiled with a mixture of sauteed bacalao (salted cod fish), olive oil and onions. It is also served as tostones or mofongo. In the Dominican Republic, it is known by the name buen pan or “good bread”. Breadfruit is also found in Indonesia and Malaysia, where it is called sukun. In the South Indian state of Kerala and coastalKarnataka, especially on the sides of Mangalore, where it is widely grown and cooked, it is known as kada chakka or seema chakka and deegujje, respectively. In Belize, the Mayan people call it masapan.
A polished basalt breadfruit pounder used by the Tahitian people of French Polynesia. From the Honolulu Academy of Arts collection.
Breadfruit is roughly 25% carbohydrates and 70% water. It has an average amount of vitamin C (20 mg/100 g), small amounts of minerals (potassium and zinc) and thiamin(100 μg/100 g).
Breadfruit was widely and diversely used among Pacific Islanders. Its lightweight wood (specific gravity of 0.27) is resistant to termites and shipworms, so is used as timber for structures and outrigger canoes. Its wood pulp can also be used to make paper, called breadfruit tapa. It is also used in traditional medicine to treat illnesses that range from sore eyes to sciatica. Native Hawaiians used its sticky latex to trap birds, whose feathers were made into cloaks.
In a 2012 research study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, scientists at the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), a division of the USDA, and collaborators at the University of British Columbia in Okanagan, Canada, “identified three breadfruit compounds — capric, undecanoic and lauric acids — that act as insect repellents.” These saturated fatty acids were “found to be significantly more effective at repelling mosquitoes than DEET.
Text courtesy: Wikipedia
Photo by: Ramesh Menon, Abu Dhabi