Product Spotlight: Breadfruit Superfood
Breadfruit, or Fruta del Pan in Spanish, also known as the fruit of life, is just that. Breadfruit, a newly recognized superfood, is a fruit that is dense and full of life and vitality. It is from the same family as mulberry and jackfruit trees and grows widely in tropical regions, with trees that grow up to 70 feet high and produce fruit within three or five years.
The fruit is characterized by its lumpy appearance and potato-like flesh. Tantalizing, right? Well, let’s not judge a book by its cover here. The breadfruit superfood packed with nutrition and usefulness.
The breadfruit is an incredible source of complex carbohydrates and fiber, and though it is super starchy, like rice and maize, it is still packed with nutrition. Breadfruit is full of minerals like calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, manganese, and zinc. One cup of breadfruit has more potassium than three bananas, and it contains B vitamins, niacin, thiamine, and Vitamin C.
Impressed yet? Don’t worry, there’s more!
Breadfruit offers the full spectrum of essential amino acids, with significantly higher amino acid content than other staples such as corn, wheat, soybean, potatoes, and peas.
In alignment with its English and Spanish name, breadfruit, it is often reported to taste like freshly baked bread.
What? A fruit loaded with nutrition that tastes like freshly-baked bread? Have we died and gone to freshly-baked bread heaven?
Actually, the breadfruit is incredibly versatile. Not to be a buzzkill of the fresh bread fantasy, but this starch-rich super food can taste any number of ways. Since breadfruit can be eaten at all stages of growth, the flavor and texture changes depending on when it is harvested and how it is prepared. For example, young immature fruits can be boiled and are comparable in flavor to artichoke hearts. A cooked, relatively mature breadfruit can taste similar to potatoes, and as breadfruit matures and ripens, the taste becomes sweeter as the starch converts to sugar.
If breadfruit is so perfect, why aren’t we all eating it every day?
History of the Breadfruit Tree
Breadfruit is a staple food in many tropical countries. Pacific Islanders avoided hunger for eons by managing diverse agroforests centered on breadfruit and many researchers believe this model can be a support and benefit for poor farmers around the tropics today.
The tree originated in Papua New Guinea, Indonesia and the Philippines where people domesticated it around 3000 years ago. Cultures in Central and South America, Africa, Madagascar, the Maldives, the Seychelles, India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, South-East Asia, and Australia also cultivate this breadfruit superfood. French and English slave owners introduced into the Caribbean during the late 1700s who were seeking cheap food for slaves. Because of this, the relationship with the fruit has been tainted throughout the Caribbean, where people often understandably view it negatively, as a product of slavery. Nonetheless, it seems to be a rising star in the superfood realm.
How To Eat It
With this list of countries who incorporate breadfruit into their diet, there should be loads of inspiring breadfruit meals and dishes. Guess what? There are!
In the Philippines, they cook it with shrimp paste and pork belly in coconut milk. Sounds delicious! In Hawaii, they like to bake it with cinnamon, butter, and lemon juice. And in Puerto Rico, it’s traditionally eaten with salted codfish and in Sri Lanka, they make it into a creamy and spicy coconut milk curry.
This versatile fruit is good candied, pickled, or fermented. You can fry it, boil it, roast it, or steam it. Make it spicy or make it into a sweet dessert. And because of it’s texture and protein content, it can be a hearty vegan alternative to meat. It also makes a good a gluten-free flour with significantly more calcium, cobalt, iron, potassium, and magnesium than refined wheat, rice and corn flours.
When selecting a breadfruit, you want it to be firm and with a greenish-yellow skin, that has only a little brown cracking. However, if you are not in a tropical location, you may have trouble finding it fresh. Not to worry! In the United States, Europe, and Canada, you can probably find it canned.
When preparing your breadfruit, you may want to listen to Jamaican artist Chi Ching Ching who composed an entire song devoted to the fruit. The song is called, “Roast or Fry (Breadfruit).” It should give just the inspiration you need to cook up a delicious breadfruit dish.
Breadfruit Superfood to Change the World
The breadfruit has been the subject of quite a bit of research over the past few years. Many researchers see it as a potential solution to hunger in impoverished areas. The perennial trees grow quickly, require little attention, and are highly productive. A single tree can produce up to 250 fruits in a year.
Breadfruit is a staple in many countries. However, in others, the tree thrives but the fruit is not part of the diet. Nutrition researchers are focusing on how to bring this tree and fruit into these areas to support impoverished communities. They see it as a way to fight food insecurity. In Costa Rica, an organization called Jungle Project is doing work in this exact way. They first introduce the food products into the market. Then they work together with farmers to expand cultivation of the trees and fruit.
Other Amazing Characteristics (Wait…there’s more?)
Yes, that’s right. There is more. In addition to the fruit, the trees have a lot to offer. They are valuable as fuelwood and flexible timber with wood that is resistant to termites and fibers for clothing, rope and fishnets. The tree also has a latex that is adhesive which makes a good caulking for canoes. Livestock animals may also enjoy and benefit from the fruits and other discarded parts. Some people even use breadfruit pulp to make paper.
Still not convinced? If you burn the dried male flowers you can even repel mosquitoes and other insects and the fruit has a number of other ethnomedicinal benefits too.
Basically, breadfruit for president!
Learn more about the inspiring work from some great producers like Jungle Project from our stories platform.