Plant a Breadfruit Tree

SUBHEAD: Breadfruit may once again need to become a sustainable food for the masses.

By Roger Harris & Diane Koerner on 31 March 2010 in Big Island Weekly - (  

Image above:A root-cutting starter Breadfruit tree planted in Hanapepe Valley on State DLNR agland. Photo by Juan Wilson.

Literally a fabric of Pacific Islanders' lives for 3,000 years, the beautiful 'ulu or breadfruit tree and its wide-spreading green canopy may be an appropriate symbol for the sustainability efforts of modern Hawaiians. Staple starches like yams, taro and breadfruit may once again need to become food for the masses, when, not if, a natural disaster, lack of petroleum or martial conflict cuts off Hawaii from its imported food sources. 

On April 10, you can enjoy a Hawaiian dinner featuring breadfruit ($15 fee) and a talk by Diane Ragone, PhD, director of the Breadfruit Institute at the National Tropical Botanical Garden on Kauai, at the Kona Outdoor Circle Education Center. "I'll be speaking about breadfruit, its rich history and importance on the Big Island, and the work of the Breadfruit Institute," said Dr. Ragone. Space is limited; for reservations, call Chris McCullough, president of Hawaii Island Landscape Association at 938-3695.
The Breadfruit Institute is working with Global Breadfruit ( to make selected varieties of breadfruit from their collection available for sale. They will be working with nurseries on the Big Island to make two varieties of the breadfruit tree, Ma'afala and Ulu fiti, available later in 2010. 

More varieties will become available as the necessary propagation protocols are developed. Dr. Ragone also encourages propagating your own by starting with a root shoot of one of our island's large, mature breadfruit trees. Once established, breadfruit trees require little care other than ample sunlight and water and even furnish their own fertilizer and a cushion for falling fruit when they drop their hand-shaped leaves. Breadfruit propagation could potentially help the Big Island's economic sustainability as an export as well. 

Since May 2008, irradiated breadfruit is allowed by USDA regulations to be exported to the continental U.S., in response to Hawaii growers' complaints that fruit from Thailand was being imported while Hawaii produce was denied passage. Long valued in the tropics for its attractiveness, ability to protect mountainous slopes from erosion and extensive uses from food to chewing gum to lumber, the breadfruit tree not only tolerates but thrives in many of the micro climates found on the Big Island. In fact, the breadfruit tree matures in five years or less, bearing green, yellow or orange fruit for several months of the year and for up to 50 years. 

Nutritionally, breadfruit is recommended because it is high in energy-boosting carbohydrates, fiber, calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, potassium, thiamine, and niacin. Breadfruit may be enjoyed raw (ripe once a brown-colored latex sap oozes from the fruit), steamed in a pressure cooker on a cook top or roasted in a modern or solar oven as well as in the traditional manner over an open fire. 

Once cooked (whole with the skin on and peeled after cooking), the fruit can be further prepared in an almost limitless range of recipes. Used most often as a starch substitute for corn, rice or pasta, breadfruit can be sliced and fried in coconut oil, ground finely and mixed with water to make poi, or combined into sweet temptations like 'ulu mochi, custard pie or fritters. When dehydrated, breadfruit can be ground into flour or used as animal feed. 

Medicinally, its latex-like sap is used to treat broken bones and sprains, its leaves brewed into a tea to lower high blood pressure and stabilize blood sugar, while extracts of the roots are said to have a purgative affect. In addition, the latex can be chewed, used as a glue or a caulk for canoes made from the termite-resistant breadfruit lumber, while the dried male flowers can be burned to repel mosquitoes. 

To download a Marketing Profile on Farming and Production of Breadfruit by Dr. Ragone, go to

See also:, 
Ea O Ka Aina: Breadfruit Recipe Experiments 7/19/09 
Ea O Ka Aina: Get out your ulu! 7/19/09
Island Breath: Ulu - The Breadfruit Tree 12/31/06
Ea O Ka Aina: Peak Macadamia Nut 9/22/09
Ea O Ka Aina: Green Turtle Mango 10/13/09
Ea O Ka Aina: Green Papaya Sauerkraut 10/14/09


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