Breadfruit at Tortuguero, Costa Rica
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Rosids
Order: Rosales
Family: Moraceae
Tribe: Artocarpeae[1]
Genus: Artocarpus
Species: A. altilis
Binomial name
Artocarpus altilis
(Parkinson) Fosberg
  • Artocarpus altilis var. non-seminiferus (Duss) Fournet)
  • Artocarpus altilis var. seminiferus (Duss) Fournet
  • Artocarpus communis J.R.Forst. & G.Forst.
  • Artocarpus incisifolius Stokes [Illegitimate]
  • Artocarpus incisus (Thunb.) L.f.
  • Artocarpus incisus var. non-seminiferus Duss
  • Artocarpus incisus var. seminiferus Duss
  • Artocarpus laevis Hassk.
  • Artocarpus papuanus Diels [Illegitimate]
  • Artocarpus rima Blanco
  • Radermachia incisa Thunb. [Unplaced]
  • Saccus laevis Kuntze
  • Sitodium altile Parkinson ex F.A.Zorn [2]

Breadfruit (Artocarpus altilis) is a species of flowering tree in the mulberry and Jackfruit family (Moraceae) originating in the South Pacific and that was eventually spread to the rest of Oceania. British and French navigators introduced a few Polynesian seedless varieties to Caribbean islands during the late 18th century, and today it is grown in some 90 countries throughout South and Southeast Asia, the Pacific Ocean, the Caribbean, Central America and Africa.[3][4] Its name is derived from the texture of the moderately ripe fruit when cooked, similar to freshly baked bread; it has a potato-like flavor.

Ancestors of the Polynesians found the trees growing in northwest New Guinea around 3,500 years ago. They gave up the rice cultivation they had brought with them from Taiwan, and raised breadfruit wherever they went in the Pacific. (Easter Island and New Zealand are too cold to support its cultivation.) Their ancient eastern Indonesian cousins spread the plant west and north through insular and coastal Southeast Asia. In historical times, the trees have been widely planted in tropical regions elsewhere, including the Caribbean. In addition to the fruit serving as a staple food in many cultures, the trees' light, sturdy timber has been used for outriggers, ships and houses in the tropics.


Breadfruit tree planted in Honolulu, Hawaii

Breadfruit trees grow to a height of 25 m (82 ft). The large and thick leaves are deeply cut into pinnate lobes. All parts of the tree yield latex, a milky juice, which is useful for boat caulking.

The trees are monoecious, with male and female flowers growing on the same tree. The male flowers emerge first, followed shortly afterward by the female flowers. The latter grow into capitula, which are capable of pollination just three days later. The compound, false fruit develops from the swollen perianth, and originates from 1,500-2,000 flowers. These are visible on the skin of the fruit as hexagon-like disks.

Breadfruit is one of the highest-yielding food plants, with a single tree producing up to 200 or more grapefruit-sized fruits per season. It requires very limited care. In the South Pacific, the trees yield 50 to 150 fruits per year. In southern India, normal production is 150 to 200 fruits annually. Productivity varies between wet and dry areas. In the Caribbean, a conservative annual estimate is 25 fruits per tree. Studies in Barbados indicate a reasonable potential of 16 to 32 tons per hectare (6.7-13.4 tons/acre). The ovoid fruit has a rough surface, and each fruit is divided into many achenes, each achene surrounded by a fleshy perianth and growing on a fleshy receptacle. Most selectively bred cultivars have seedless fruit.

The breadfruit is very closely related to the breadnut, from which it might have been selected. It is noticeably similar in appearance to the also related jackfruit.


Breadfruit, an equatorial lowland species, grows best below elevations of 650 metres (2,130 ft), but is found at elevations of 1,550 metres (5,090 ft). Its preferred rainfall is 1,500–3,000 millimetres (59–118 in) per year. Preferred soils are neutral to alkaline (pH of 6.1-7.4) and either sand, sandy loam, loam or sandy clay loam. Breadfruit is able to grow in coral sands and saline soils.[5]


Breadfruit, raw
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy 431 kJ (103 kcal)
27.12 g
Sugars 11
Dietary fiber 4.9 g
0.23 g
1.07 g
Vitamin A equiv.
22 μg
Thiamine (B1)

0.11 mg

Riboflavin (B2)

0.03 mg

Niacin (B3)

0.9 mg

Pantothenic acid (B5)

0.457 mg

Vitamin B6

0.1 mg

Folate (B9)

14 μg


9.8 mg

Vitamin C

29 mg

Vitamin E

0.1 mg

Vitamin K

0.5 μg


17 mg


0.54 mg


25 mg


0.06 mg


30 mg


490 mg


2 mg


0.12 mg

Other constituents
Water 70.65 g

Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA Nutrient Database

Breadfruit is 71% water, 27% carbohydrates, 1% protein and negligible in fat (table). Raw breadfruit is a rich source (20% or more of the Daily Value, DV) of vitamin C, a good source (10-19% DV) of thiamin and potassium, with no other nutrients in significant content (table).


Breadfruit is a staple food in many tropical regions. The trees were first propagated far outside their native range by Polynesian voyagers who transported root cuttings and air-layered plants over long ocean distances. Breadfruit are very rich in starch, which transforms to sugars when very ripe. Before being eaten, the fruits are roasted, baked, fried or boiled. When cooked, the taste of moderately ripe breadfruit is described as potato-like, or similar to freshly baked bread.

The fruit of the breadfruit tree - whole, sliced lengthwise and in cross-section

Because breadfruit trees usually produce large crops at certain times of the year, preservation of the harvested fruit is an issue. One traditional preservation technique is to bury peeled and washed fruits in a leaf-lined pit where they ferment over several weeks and produce a sour, sticky paste. So stored, the product may last a year or more, and some pits are reported to have produced edible contents more than 20 years later.[6] Fermented breadfruit mash goes by many names such as mahr, ma, masi, furo, and bwiru, among others.

Drawing of breadfruit by John Frederick Miller

Most breadfruit varieties also produce a small number of fruits throughout the year. Fresh breadfruit is always available, but somewhat rare when not in season.

Breadfruit can be eaten once cooked, or can be further processed into a variety of other foods. A common product is a mixture of cooked or fermented breadfruit mash mixed with coconut milk and baked in banana leaves. Whole fruits can be cooked in an open fire, then cored and filled with other foods, such as coconut milk, sugar and butter, cooked meats, or other fruits. The filled fruit can be cooked further so the flavor of the filling permeates the flesh of the breadfruit.

The Hawaiian staple food called poi, made of mashed taro root, is easily substituted for, or augmented with, mashed breadfruit. The resulting "breadfruit poi" is called poi ʻulu. Breadfruit is also found in Indonesia and Malaysia, where it is called sukun. In Indonesia, fried breadfruit is easily found being sold by street food vendors, and is known as gorengan. In the South Indian state of Kerala and coastal Karnataka, especially on the sides of Mangalore, where it is widely grown and cooked, it is known as kada chakka or seema chakka or jee kujje and deegujje, respectively.

Breadfruit was brought to the Caribbean area and successfully cultivated. In Belize, the Mayan people call it masapan. In Puerto Rico, breadfruit is called panapen or pana, for short. In some in-land regions it is also called mapén. Pana is often served boiled with a mixture of sauteed bacalao (salted cod fish), olive oil and onions. It is also served as tostones or mofongo. In the Dominican Republic, it is known by the name buen pan or "good bread".

A polished basalt breadfruit pounder used by the Tahitian people of French Polynesia. From the Honolulu Academy of Arts collection

Breadfruit was widely used in a variety of ways among Pacific Islanders. Its lightweight wood (specific gravity of 0.27)[7] is resistant to termites and shipworms, so it is used as timber for structures and outrigger canoes.[8] Its wood pulp can also be used to make paper, called breadfruit tapa.[8] It is also used in traditional medicine to treat illnesses that range from sore eyes to sciatica.[8] Native Hawaiians used its sticky latex to trap birds, whose feathers were made into cloaks.[9] The wood of the breadfruit tree was one of the most valuable timbers in the construction of traditional houses in Samoan architecture.

Breadfruit contains phytochemicals having potential as an insect repellent.[10][11]

In history

Sir Joseph Banks and others saw the value of breadfruit as a highly productive food in 1769, when stationed in Tahiti as part of the Endeavour expedition commanded by Captain James Cook. The late-18th-century quest for cheap, high-energy food sources for slaves in British colonies prompted colonial administrators and plantation owners to call for the plant to be brought to the Caribbean. As President of The Royal Society, Banks provided a cash bounty and gold medal for success in this endeavor, and successfully lobbied his friends in government and the Admiralty for a British Naval expedition. In 1787, William Bligh was appointed Captain of the HMS Bounty, and ordered to proceed to the South Pacific to collect the plants. Banks appointed a gardener for the expedition and gave detailed instructions on how the plants were to be maintained. The Bounty remained in Tahiti for five months, during which over 1000 plants were collected, potted and transferred to the ship. However, within a month of leaving, many of the crew mutinied, expelling Captain Bligh and supporters in a long-boat, and returned to Tahiti. Bligh survived the ordeal, sailing with 18 loyal crew the 3,618 nautical miles (6,701 km; 4,164 mi) to Timor, reaching there in late 1789. In 1791, Bligh commanded a second expedition with the Providence and the Assistant, which collected live breadfruit plants in Tahiti and transported these to St Helena, in the Atlantic, and St. Vincent and Jamaica in the West Indies. Although Bligh won the Royal Society medal for his efforts, the introduction was not entirely successful, as most slaves refused to eat the new food.[12] However, breadfruit was accepted into the cuisine of Puerto Rico.

According to Sri Lankan folklore, Dutch colonial rulers introduced a variety of breadfruit from the Java Islands to Sri Lanka in the 17th century. The new variety bore larger fruits than the endemic variety, which was known as Sinhala del (සිංහල දෙල්). The foreign variety was referred to as rata del (රට දෙල්) which means foreign breadfruit.

In culture

A young breadfruit

On Puluwat in the Caroline Islands, in the context of sacred yitang lore, breadfruit (poi) is a figure of speech for knowledge. This lore is organized into five categories: war, magic, meetings, navigation, and breadfruit.[13]

According to an etiological Hawaiian myth, the breadfruit originated from the sacrifice of the war god . After deciding to live secretly among mortals as a farmer, Kū married and had children. He and his family lived happily until a famine seized their island. When he could no longer bear to watch his children suffer, Kū told his wife that he could deliver them from starvation, but to do so he would have to leave them. Reluctantly she agreed, and at her word, Kū descended into the ground right where he had stood until only the top of his head was visible. His family waited around the spot he had last been, day and night, watering it with their tears until suddenly, a small green shoot appeared where Kū had stood. Quickly, the shoot grew into a tall and leafy tree that was laden with heavy breadfruits that Kū's family and neighbors gratefully ate, joyfully saved from starvation.[14]

Though they are widely distributed throughout the Pacific, many breadfruit hybrids and cultivars are seedless or otherwise biologically incapable of naturally dispersing long distances. Therefore, it is clear that humans aided distribution of the plant in the Pacific, specifically prehistoric groups who colonized the Pacific Islands. To investigate the patterns of human migration throughout the Pacific, scientists have used molecular dating of breadfruit hybrids and cultivars in concert with anthropological data. Results support the west-to-east migration hypothesis, in which the Lapita people are thought to have traveled from Melanesia to numerous Polynesian islands.[15]

The world's largest collection of breadfruit varieties has been established by botanist Diane Ragone, from over 20 years' travel to 50 Pacific islands, on a 10-acre (4.0-hectare) plot outside of Hana, Hawaii, on the isolated east coast of Maui.[16]


Sliced and fried breadfruit in a bag

There are many ways to cook breadfruit. In Sri Lanka, it is either cooked as a curry using coconut milk and spices (which becomes a side dish) or consumed after boiling. Boiled breadfruit is a famous main meal. It is often consumed with scraped coconut or coconut sambol, made of scraped coconut, red chilli powder and salt mixed with a dash of lime juice. A traditional sweet snack made of finely sliced, sun-dried breadfruit chips deep-fried in coconut oil and dipped in heated treacle or sugar syrup is known as rata del petti.[17]

In India, fritters of breadfruit, called jeev kadge phodi in Konkani or "kadachakka varuthath" in Malayalam are a local delicacy in coastal Karnataka and Kerala.

In Seychelles, it was traditionally eaten as a substitute for rice, as an accompaniment to the mains. It would either be consumed boiled (friyapen bwi) or grilled (friyapen griye), where it would be put whole in the wood fire used for cooking the main meal and then taken out when ready. It is also eaten as a dessert, called ladob friyapen, where it is boiled in coconut milk, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and a pinch of salt.

In Puerto Rico, it is traditionally eaten boiled with bacalao (salted codfish). It is also used to make rellenos de pana (mashed breadfruit filled with seasoned meat), mofongo, tostones de pana (double fried breadfruit), and even lasaña de pana (cooked mashed breadfruit layered with meat and topped with cheese). A popular dessert is also made with sweet ripe breadfruit: flan de pana (breadfruit custard).

In Barbados, breadfruit is boiled with salted meat and mashed with butter to make breadfruit coucou. It is usually eaten with saucy meat dishes.

Both ripe and unripe fruits have culinary uses, but unripe breadfruit is cooked before consumption.[18]

See also


  1. "Artocarpus altilis". Germplasm Resources Information Network. United States Department of Agriculture. 2007-07-03. Retrieved 2009-02-21.
  2. "Artocarpus altilis (Parkinson ex F.A.Zorn) Fosberg – The Plant List". Retrieved 2016-01-12.
  3. "National Tropical Botanical Garden - Tropical Plant Research, Education, and Conservation". Retrieved 2016-01-12.
  4. "Breadfruit". National Tropical Botanical Garden. Retrieved 21 January 2015.
  5. Ragone, Diane (April 2006). "Artocarpus altilis (breadfruit)" (PDF). The Traditional Tree Initiative. Archived from the original (PDF) on 28 December 2013.
  6. Balick, M. & Cox, P. (1996). Plants, People and Culture: The Science of Ethnobotany. New York: Scientific American Library HPHLP, p.85
  7. Little Jr., Elbert L.; Roger G. Skolmen (1989). "ʻUlu, breadfruit" (PDF). United States Forest Service. Archived from the original (PDF) on 30 October 2014.
  8. 1 2 3 The Breadfruit Institute
  9. Morton, Julia F. (1987). "Breadfruit". Fruits of Warm Climates. Miami, Florida: 50–58. Archived from the original on 5 January 2015.
  10. A. Maxwell P. Jones; Jerome A. Klun; Charles L. Cantrell; Diane Ragone; Kamlesh R. Chauhan; Paula N. Brown & Susan J. Murch (2012). "Isolation and Identification of Mosquito (Aedes aegypti) Biting Deterrent Fatty Acids from Male Inflorescences of Breadfruit (Artocarpus altilis (Parkinson) Fosberg)". 60 (15): 38673873. doi:10.1021/jf300101w.
  11. Avant, Susan (15 November 2013). "Studies Confirm Breadfruit's Ability to Repel Insects". US Department of Agriculture. Retrieved 14 June 2016.
  12. O'Brian, Patrick (1988) Joseph Banks. A Life: Explorer, Plant Hunter, Scientist. Collins Harvill, London
  13. Riesenberg, Saul H.; Elbert, Samuel H. (1971). "The Poi of the Meeting". Journal of the Polynesian Society, Auckland University. Kkónen, although literally meaning pounded breadfruit, refers in these bowls of knowledge to work, skills, and stores of information of any kind having to do with secret words and meanings—that is to say, yitang lore. Breadfruit is used here as a figure of speech for knowledge. And the breadfruit of knowledge is contained in all five bowls, even though the names of only three of them include the word for pounded breadfruit, and even though only the last contains knowledge about breadfruit in that word's literal meaning. Thus, the Puluwat people classify yitang information into five categories: war, magic, meetings, navigation, and breadfruit.
  14. Loebel-Fried, C. (2002)
  15. Zerega, N. J. C.; Ragone, D. & Motley, T.J. (2004). "The complex origins of breadfruit (Artocarpus altilis, Moraceae): Implications for human migrations in Oceania". American Journal of Botany. 91 (5): 760766. doi:10.3732/ajb.91.5.760.
  16. Julia Steele; photos by Jack Wolford (August–September 2009). "Tree of Plenty". Hana Hou!.
  17. Apé Lamā Lōkaya:1950, Chapter 31 (Vijitha Yapa Publications) ISBN 978-955-665-250-5
  18. The encyclopedia of fruit & nuts, By Jules Janick, Robert E. Paull, p. 476 In Barbados it is pickled, which is made from cucumbers, lime, salt and scotch bonnet pepper and served with local dish of pudding and souse
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