The breadfruit tree (Artocarpus altilis) belongs to the Moraceae family and its large fruits are a staple food in the South Pacific and other tropical areas. This species is also known by the name of breadfruit and is native to the Indo-Pacific region, specifically the Malay archipelago.
The common name is derived from the texture of the moderately ripe fruit when cooked, which is similar to freshly baked bread . Ripe breadfruit fruit can be baked, boiled, roasted, steamed, fried, or made into soup. It contains considerable amounts of starch and is rarely eaten raw.
Another interesting fact about bread is that it is closely related to the “ Yaca ” belonging to the same family. Breadfruit is being considered the food of the century, due to its lack of gluten and that it can be turned into flour to prepare other foods.
Characteristics and description of the breadfruit tree
Breadfruit grows 12 to 18 meters tall and has large, oval, bright green leaves with three to nine lobes towards the apex. This species is monoecious, that is, the plant has two sexes, the male and female flowers are born in separate groups on the same tree.
The mature fruits, or mature ovaries, of these pistillate flowers are round, 10 to 20 centimeters in diameter, have thin, greenish to brownish-green skin, and have a white, somewhat stringy flesh.
The entire tree produces a milky juice called latex when cut, and the inner bark is tough. In addition, the outer bark is light and resistant, it withstands strong winds very well, but it is not very tolerant to frost and fire.
One of the oldest methods used to propagate breadfruit is to grow them from seed. However, the best way is vegetative propagation , using root shoots or cuttings. Other methods also used are: grafting, air layers and in vitro propagation. Breadfruit grown from seed will fruit in 5 to 10 years.
Young plants will do best in the shade and will need some care until they are established. Mature trees prefer full sun. The heat, the abundant rain and the humidity make the tree grow in optimal conditions. The most favorable temperature for this plant is between 21 and 32 °C .
Breadfruit prefer deep, fertile, well-drained soils, although some varieties thrive on atolls with saline and coral soils, where the soil is shallow and sandy. The tree prefers: Free-draining sandy, sandy-loam, loam, sandy-clay-loam soils with neutral to alkaline acidity (pH 7.4-6.1).
Plagues and diseases
This tree is relatively free of pests and diseases and most problems occur regionally. The most common widespread problems include whitefly, scale, mealybugs, Cercospora leaf spot, and fruit rots caused by Phytophthora, Colletotrichum (anthracnose), and Rhizopus.
Breadfruit is also a host for fruit flies, which currently limits the export potential of fresh fruit. Root rot can be a serious problem, especially when trees are planted in recently logged forest areas.
The tree of bread, what is it for?
The latex of the tree is used to caulk boats and to trap birds, the pulp of the wood is used to make paper and for medicinal purposes. The resistance of the wood to termites makes it ideal for the manufacture of houses and canoes.
Compounds such as capric, undecanoic and lauric acid that the plant contains are effective in repelling mosquitoes. Breadfruit is used primarily as a vegetable and when cooked has a fruity and musky flavor.
Robert Asprin, APD is a non-dieting Accredited Practicing Dietitian passionate about inspiring positive changes in eating and lifestyle behaviors to help improve health while nurturing relationships with food and body.