One of the most important plants said to have been brought to the Virgin Islands by the ancient voyaging Indians is the breadfruit. This beautiful plant played a major role in colonizing the West Indies and was a key staple food. This plant is also an important source of wood, craft materials, and medicines.
Today few of these trees remain compared to the olden times and Hurricane Irma played a most recent role in the reduction of this food plant. Since the hurricanes in 2017, most owners of breadfruit trees only started harvesting the starchy, carbohydrate fruit this year and most trees have not reached its full yielding potential.
Breadfruit trees are one of the highest yielding food plants known. A single tree can produce between 50 and 100 fruits per year (yield varies between wet and dry areas) and their round, oval or oblong fruits can weigh as much as 12 pounds.
Breadfruit trees can grow to a height of 85 ft. and all parts of the tree produce a latex sap which is useful as a sealant such as for wooden boat caulking. Its light sturdy bark has been was used woodworks and house construction.
Despite all the starch, breadfruit definitely doesn’t lack in nutrients. A single cup of breadfruit has more potassium than three bananas and is claimed to have high levels of fiber and beta-carotene; the latter of which prevents vitamin A deficiency and thus night blindness.
With a world population rapidly approaching 9 billion, new avenues of providing nutritious and sustainable food must be considered. Untapped resources, like breadfruit, may just hold the key to alleviating hunger and feeding our growing world, According to the Food and Agriculture Organization.
The Many Uses of Breadfruit
As a Food Source
This extremely versatile fruit can be prepared and eaten in all stages of development and maturity, ripe as a fruit or mature as a vegetable. Today mature fruits are used for most dishes due to the breadfruits’ potato-like texture.
Breadfruit is gluten-free and packed with nutrients. It was one of several “superfoods” in ancient times, along with arrowroot & coconut.
Breadfruit is high in carbohydrates and a good source of antioxidants, calcium, carotenoids, copper, dietary fibre, energy, iron, magnesium, niacin, omega 3, omega 6, phosphorus, potassium, protein, thiamine, vitamin A and vitamin C. Breadfruit also contains some carotenoids and lutein which is not present in white rice or white potato. A ½ cup of breadfruit provides 25% of the RDA for fibre and 5 to 10% of the RDA for protein, magnesium and potassium. As the fruit ripens starches convert to sugars and the fruit softens to a custard-like consistency. This sweet custard can be eaten raw.
Think of breadfruit as a tropical potato. It tastes fantastic mashed, in salads, made into French fries and chips and in countless other dishes where you can use potato – except it’s more nutritious than potatoes!
There are many ways to prepare mature breadfruit: steamed, boiled, fried, baked, or cooked in traditional ways in a fire-roasted. It can then be used in a variety of dishes such as casseroles, fritters, pancakes, breads, curries, stews, chowders, salads and many other dishes. It can also be mashed and made into dips, like hummus, or vegetarian burgers or pâté.
Popular breadfruit dishes: salad (like potato salad), curry, cooked in coconut cream, chips, chowder, nachos, and with corned beef. When breadfruit ripens it becomes soft and creamy and sweet. At this stage, it can be eaten raw or used to make beverages, baked goods, desserts like flan, and other sweet dishes.
Immature green fruit, from golf ball size to almost full size, can be cooked entire, or cut into thin slices or chunks and boiled until tender. Once cooked, they can be eaten with dips, used in salads, and marinated, or pickled. The flavour and texture resemble artichoke heart. Traditional methods of cooking breadfruit are roasting directly on a fire until the skin blackened and the flesh was tender and baking in an oven.
A modern twist involves putting cooked breadfruit through a food processor and adding a little bit of coconut oil to give it a smooth texture. This type of preparation can be used like dough, rolled out for pasta, pizza, or tamales. Another way to use breadfruit is to peel and core the raw fruit, shred or slice it into thin pieces, then dry and grind it into a meal or flour. The coarse meal can substitute for panko or breadcrumbs. Since the flour is gluten-free, it will not rise or have the elasticity of wheat flour, but can be used like other gluten-free flours.
Other Uses of Breadfruit
Not Just a Food Source
Not just a substantial food source, the breadfruit tree also provides a multitude of other advantageous uses.
Gluten-Free Flour: Breadfruit can be processed into gluten-free flour, far superior in taste, nutrition and structure to any other GF flour alternative.
Insect Repellent: In addition to being a safer alternative to DEET, the male breadfruit flower is highly effective at repelling mosquitoes and other insects.
Latex: The sap excreted from the breadfruit can be used as a waterproof caulking for watercrafts and homes, as well as chewing gum.
Fabric: Fibres from the bark of the breadfruit tree can be harvested without killing the crop and used to make mosquito nets, clothing, accessories, artwork and even paper
Animal Feed: Fallen fruits, as well as the leaves of the tree, can be used as nutritious animal feed.
This recipe combines two favorite dishes into one glorious pot of comfort. Stewed saltfish (salted cod) is as classic as it gets when it comes to Caribbean culinary culture and in the event you cannot source breadfruit, you can use cassava, yam, sweet potato, green cooking bananas or even something as everyday as regular potatoes.
– 1 roasted breadfruit
– 3 tablespoon coconut oil
– 1 1/2 cups prepared salted cod
– 2 cloves garlic (diced)
– 2 small onions (sliced)
– 1 teaspoon thyme
– 1 tablespoon parsley (chopped)
– 1/4 teaspoon black pepper (chopped)
– 1/2 scotch bonnet pepper (optional)
– 1 small bell pepper (sliced thin)
– 2 scallions (chopped)
– 1 large tomato (diced)
Prep the salted fish by soaking in water and/or by boiling in water for 15-20 mins. Discard that water, rinse and squeeze dry before flaking/shred. Roast the breadfruit, allow to cool then remove the skin, cut into wedges and remove the core. Be mindful of the heat of the scotch bonnet pepper, so kindly use as much as you can handle. Don’t use any of the seeds as that’s where you’ll get the raw heat and remember to wash your hands with soap and water after handling such hot peppers.
Prep the ingredients and set aside. Then heat the coconut oil on a medium flame and go in with the pieces of prepared salted cod. Reduce the heat to low and let this cook for about 3 minutes.
Afterward add the thyme, garlic, onion and parsley. Heat still on low – cook another 3 minutes.
Now go in with the bell pepper, scallions, scotch bonnet and black pepper. Cook for another 2-3 minutes.. keep stirring to allow all the flavor ingredients to come together.
You can now add the diced tomato (take the heat up to medium), stir well – then go in with the pieces of roasted breadfruit. Try your best to coat the breadfruit with the stewed salted cod base and heat through.
After about 3-4 minutes everything would have come together nicely.. turn off the heat and get ready to enjoy a very tasty and comforting dish.