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Breadfruit is a large football-sized fruit, weighing as much as 12 pounds and averaging 10 to 30 centimeters in diameter. It has prickly, yellow-green skin and a round to oblong shape, although their appearance can vary depending on the variety and growing conditions. Some varieties are seedless, while others can be extremely seedy. When immature, the fruit is hard, the skin is green, and the white flesh is starchy and slightly fibrous. As the fruit ripens, it becomes softer, the skin turns yellow to yellow-brown, and the flesh becomes pale yellow in color and creamy in texture with a sweet aroma. Cooked Breadfruit has a mild potato-like flavor, and as its name implies, the scent is reminiscent of freshly baked bread. Breadfruit trees can grow more than 80 feet tall, and they are one of the highest yielding food plants, as a single tree can produce up to 450 pounds of fruit every year.
Breadfruit is available year-round with short seasonal gaps.
Breadfruit is botanically classified as Artocarpus altilis and is a member of the fig family, with hundreds of cultivated varieties. It is also commonly known by its Hawaiian name, Ulu. Breadfruit has been widely touted as a “wonder food” with the ability to feed the world, as the fruit is highly nutritious and the trees are quick to grow, producing fruit in just 3 to 5 years with low maintenance. The trees will continue to bear an abundance of fruit for decades, and they also thrive in the tropics and subtropics, areas that account for about 80% of world hunger. The National Tropical Botanical Garden in Hawaii has established the Breadfruit Institute, which manages the largest breadfruit collection in the world, and is working to address world hunger by exporting thousands of trees around the globe as a sustainable food source.
Breadfruit is an energy-rich food, as it is a good source of complex carbohydrates and antioxidants. It’s gluten free, low in fat, and is a complete protein, providing all nine of the essential amino acids. In fact, the protein in the fruit has a higher proportion of amino acids than soy. Breadfruit also contains vitamin C, B vitamins, fiber, and minerals such as calcium, iron and potassium.
Breadfruit can be cooked and eaten at all stages of maturity, although it is most often used when ripe, and both the pulp and the seeds of the fruit are edible. Breadfruit can be boiled, fried, baked, steamed, pureed, or even processed into a gluten-free meal or flour. It is used in a wide array of recipes, including pancakes, breads, tamales, pizza, potato salad, curries, dips like hummus, and even baby food. The taste varies with each stage of ripeness; immature green fruit can be cooked in its entirety, or cut into slices and boiled until tender, with the flavor and texture of an artichoke heart. These cooked pieces can then be marinated or pickled, or simply eaten with dips or used in salads. When ripe Breadfruit is cooked, it will have a flavor and texture similar to a baked potato. When overripe, starches convert to sugars and the flesh softens to a custard-like consistency. At this stage, it can be eaten raw or cooked, and is often used for baked goods, desserts, or even sweet beverages. A traditional method of cooking breadfruit in Hawaii is to roast it directly on a fire until blackened and tender, when the pulp turns into a dough-like consistency and can be used just like bread dough.
Breadfruit was introduced to the Western world by British explorers as a solution to a period of food scarcity in the 1790s. At that time, during the American Revolution, fewer ships from the American colonies were supplying the British West Indies, and Breadfruit was recognized for its potential as a cheap, high-energy, nutritious food crop for slaves on the islands’ sugar plantations. In 1787, William Bligh was appointed Captain of the HMS Bounty and instructed to transport over 1,000 breadfruit trees from Tahiti to the Caribbean. However, on April 28th 1787, the crew mutinied, Bligh was banished from the ship, and the breadfruit trees were tossed overboard. It is one of the most famous mutinies in history, and its events were even recreated in the 1962 movie starring Marlon Brando. In 1791, Bligh commissioned a second journey aboard the HMS Providence, which successfully introduced breadfruit to the islands of St. Vincent and Jamaica. Some of the original trees planted over 200 years ago in Jamaica are still producing fruit on the island to this day, and breadfruit remains a staple of Jamaican cuisine.
Breadfruit is native to the South Pacific, from New Guinea through the Malay Archipelago. It spread through the rest of the Pacific in the hands of seafaring islanders who settled the numerous islands of Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia, where Breadfruit has been cultivated for over 3,000 years. Breadfruit was introduced to the Western world by British explorers in the late 1700s. Today, breadfruit is grown across the globe, from the South Pacific islands through Southeast Asia, the Caribbean, Central America, and Africa.
Recipes that include Breadfruit. One is easiest, three is harder.
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