Tree That Feed – The Breadfruit Tree

By Liliana Usvat



Breadfruit has been an important staple crop and component of traditional agroforestry systems in the Pacific for more than 3,000 years. This species originated in the South Pacific and was spread throughout Oceania by intrepid islanders settling the numerous islands of Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia.


Due to the efforts of Captain Bligh and French voyagers, a few seedless varieties from Polynesia were introduced to the Caribbean in the late 1700s. These gradually spread to other tropical regions. Breadfruit is now grown in close to 90 countries.



The common name is almost universal, in English, or tanslated into Spanish as fruta de pan (fruit), or arbor de pan, arbor del pan (tree), or pan de pobre; into French, asfruit a pain (seedless), chataignier (withseeds), arbre a pain (tree); Portuguese, fruta pao, or pao de massa; Dutch, broodvrucht (fruit), broodboom (tree). InVenezuela it may be called pan de anopan de todo el anopan de palo, pan de name, topan, or tupan; in Guatemale and Honduras, mazapan (seedless), castana (with seeds); in Peru, marure; in Yucatan, castano de Malabar (with seeds); in Puerto Rico, panapen(seedless), pana de pepitas (with seeds). In Malaya and Java, it is suku or sukun (seedless); kulur, kelur, or kulor (with seeds); in Thailand, sa-ke, in the Philippines, rimas (seedless); in Hawaii, ulu. The type with seeds is sometimes called “breadnut”, a name better limited to Brosimum alicastrum Swartz, an edible-seeded tree of Yucatan, Central America and nearby areas. Its Spanish name is ramon and the seeds, leaves and twigs are prized as stock feed.

Recent History


Ms. Ragone searched around 51 Pacific islands to find different breadfruit types, she has assembled more than 120 varieties in a large grove at a National Tropical Botanical Garden site on Maui.

Ms. Ragone, the horticulturalist, hadn’t heard of breadfruit until she moved to Kauai in 1979 as a gardener.

Ms. Ragone, now director of the National Tropical Botanical Garden’s Breadfruit Institute on Kauai Island, has spent two decades gathering breadfruit specimens and planting them on the island of Maui.


Sonia R. Martinez, a Hawaii-based food writer, says that when she was growing up in Cuba, breadfruit was something she never considered eating. “Most people fed it to the pigs.

Breadfruit bears a fruit somewhat smaller than a soccer ball. One fruit can easily provide the carbohydrate portion of a meal for a family of five.

A mature tree can produce up to a half ton of fruit per year. In controlled orchard settings the trees are heavily pruned for easy reaping.


A hectare, planted at a density of 125 trees out-produces all tropical starch crops, yielding upward of 30,000 kilos of fruit annually. Breadfruit is a true tropical tree that was the basis of Polynesian expansion through the Pacific.

Although there is some tolerance to salt and drought, the best cultivars need temperatures in excess of 16 degrees C and rainfall between 1200-3000 mm annually. There are few pests and the trees require little resource once established.

Where can be found


In Jamaica, for example, there were 2.3 million breadfruit trees in the 1950’s. The number declined to 46,000 by 1986.

Environment and Society

Fruiting trees are more likely to be valued and less likely to be cut down.

Researchers at the Hawaii based Breadfruit Institute have identified varieties in the Pacific that bear at different times of the year. They have also perfected tissue culture propagation methods. The plan is to distribute these year-round cultivars as the canopy species.


The nutritious fruit and seeds of all three species are edible. The multipurpose trees are easy to grow, beneficial to the environment, and produce an abundance of nutritious, tasty fruit. They also provide, medicine, fabric, glue, insect repellent, animal feed, and more. The trees begin bearing in 3 to 5 years and are productive for many decades. This ‘tree of bread’ has the potential to play a significant role in alleviating hunger in the tropics.

When properly prepared, breadfruit is a delicious food. Think of a firm, mature breadfruit as a potato. It can be baked, steamed, boiled, microwaved, grilled, or barbecued and more.

How to Cook It

A simple step makes handling and cooking breadfruit an easy task. After harvesting the fruit, twist off the stem and turn the fruit upside down to allow any sticky latex to drain out. Do this the day before or a few hours prior to cooking the fruit.


The easiest way to steam or boil breadfruit is to cut it into in quarters, remove and dispose of the hard central core, and place the pieces skin side down in a pan with some water. The edible skin is easily removed once the fruit is cooked.

Blog 90-365


About lilianausvat

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