Breadfruit Institute
Breadfruit Institute » Breadfruit

Breadfruit
Artocarpus altilis | Artocarpus camansi | Artocarpus mariannensis

Ready To Cook
   

Breadfruit (Artocarpus altilis) is a member of the Moraceae (fig) family. The scientific or Latin name is derived from Greek (artos = bread, karpos = fruit), and altilis means ‘fat’. Baked or roasted in a fire, the fruit has a starchy texture and fragrance that is reminiscent of fresh baked bread.

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 wild ancestor of breadfruit, Artocarpus camansi (breadnut) naturally occurs in New Guinea, the Moluccas (Indonesia), and possibly the Philippines. Breadnut accompanied seedless breadfruit varieties on their trek beyond the Pacific and is now widely grown in other tropical regions. A third related species, Artocarpus mariannensis (dugdug or chebiei), grows wild in Palau and the Mariana Islands and has long been cultivated throughout Micronesia, especially on the atoll islands. It naturally hybridized with Artocarpus altilis and the numerous hybrids are only found in Micronesia.

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 construction materials, 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.


Artocarpus altilis
Breadfruit tree
 
Breadfruit tree
   

Origin and Distribution

Breadfruit has long been an important staple crop and a primary component of traditional agroforestry systems in Oceania. Hundreds of varieties have been cultivated and more than 2,000 names have been documented. Breadfruit was first domesticated in the western Pacific and spread by humans throughout the region. The tree is grown on most Pacific Islands, with the exception of New Zealand and Easter Island. It is now cultivated throughout the tropics. In the late 1700s several seedless varieties were introduced to Jamaica and St. Vincent from Tahiti and a Tongan variety was introduced to Martinique and Cayenne via Mauritius. These Polynesian varieties were then spread throughout the Caribbean and to Central and South America, Africa, India, Southeast Asia, Madagascar, the Maldives, the Seychelles, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, northern Australia, and south Florida.

Description

An evergreen tree (12-15 m up to 21 m), breadfruit tends to have a denser, more spreading canopy than Artocarpus camansi. Leaves (15-60 cm or longer) are almost entire to deeply dissected with 1-6 pairs of lobes. Fruit (10-30 cm long × 9-20 cm wide) vary in shape, size, and skin texture. They are usually round, oval or oblong weighing 0.25-6 kg. Skin texture ranges from smooth to rough to spiny. The color is light green, yellowish-green or yellow when mature, although one unusual variety ('Afara' from French Polynesia) has pinkish or orange-brown skin. The flesh is creamy white to pale yellow. Fruit are typically mature and ready to cook and eat as a starchy staple in 15-19 weeks. Ripe fruit have yellow or yellow-brown skin and soft, sweet, creamy flesh that can be eaten raw or cooked. Fruit contain zero to many seeds depending upon the variety. Seeds are rounded or obovoid, irregularly compressed, 1-3 cm long and with a pale to dark brown seed coat. Seeds germinate immediately and cannot be dried or stored. They are rarely used for propagation. Breadfruit is usually vegetatively propagated using root shoots or root cuttings.

Production and Use

Breadfruit is a versatile crop and the fruit can be cooked and eaten at all stages of maturity. It is an important staple food in the Pacific region, parts of the Caribbean and other tropical regions where it is mainly grown as a subsistence crop in home gardens or small farms. It is an excellent dietary staple and compares favorably with other starchy staple crops commonly eaten in the tropics, such as taro, plantain, cassava, sweet potato and white rice. Carbohydrates are the main source of energy with low levels of protein and fat and a moderate glycemic index. It is a good source of dietary fiber, potassium, calcium, and magnesium with small amounts of thiamin, riboflavin, niacin and iron. Some varieties contain small amounts of folic acid. Yellow-fleshed varieties can be a good source of provitamin A carotenoids. The seeds are edible and can be boiled, roasted, or ground into meal. They resemble chestnuts in flavor and texture. They are a good source of protein and minerals.

The trees begin bearing fruit in 3 to 5 years and are productive for many decades. They require little attention or care, and can be grown under a wide range of ecological conditions. Throughout its range, breadfruit is grown in home gardens and small farms interplanted with a mix of subsistence crops, cash crops, and other useful plants. The trees are an important component of traditional agroforestry systems in the Pacific, especially on the high islands of Micronesia. The trees form a protective overstory providing shade, mulch, and a beneficial microclimate. Cultivating breadfruit trees protects watersheds; replacing slash-and-burn agriculture and field cropping with a permanent tree cover.

Common names

  • árbol de pan, fruta de pan, pan, panapen, (Spanish)
  • arbre à pain, fruit à pain (French)
  • beta (Vanuatu)
  • bia, bulo, nimbalu (Solomon Islands)
  • blèfoutou, yovotévi (Bénin)
  • breadfruit (English)
  • brotfruchtbaum (German)
  • broodvrucht, broodboom (Dutch)
  • cow, panbwa, pain bois, frutapan, and fruta de pan (Caribbean)
  • fruta pao, pao de massa (Portuguese)
  • kapiak (Papua New Guinea)
  • kuru (Cook Islands)
  • lemai, lemae (Guam, Mariana Islands)
  • mazapan (Guatemala, Honduras)
  • meduu (Palau)
  • mei, mai (Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Marquesas, Tonga, Tuvalu)
  • mos (Kosrae)
  • rata del (Sri Lanka)
  • rimas (Philippines)
  • shelisheli (Tanzania)
  • sukun (Indonesia, Malaysia)
  • ‘ulu (Hawai‘i, Samoa, Rotuma, Tuvalu)
  • ‘uru (Society Islands)
  • uto, buco (Fiji)

Top of page


Artocarpus camansi


Breadfruit leave with brown splotches


Camansi Cross Section

   

Origin and Distribution

Breadnut is native to New Guinea, and possibly the Moluccas (Indonesia) and the Philippines. In New Guinea, breadnut is found widely scattered in alluvial forests in lowland areas. The trees are dispersed by birds and flying foxes that feed on the flesh and drop the large seeds. It is also cultivated in home gardens. It only occurs in cultivation in the Philippines where it is typically grown as a backyard tree. Breadnut has often been considered to be a form of seeded breadfruit. However, it is a separate species and the ancestor of breadfruit. Thousands of years of vegetative propagation and human selection have made Artocarpus altilis morphologically distinct from breadnut. Breadnut is infrequently grown in the Pacific outside of its native range. A few trees are now found in New Caledonia, Pohnpei, the Marquesas, Tahiti, Palau, and Hawaii, introduced by immigrants from the Philippines in recent years. While breadnut is uncommon in Oceania, it has long been grown and used in other tropical regions. Beginning in the late 1700s, the British and French spread breadnut throughout the tropics and it is now widespread in the Caribbean, Central and South America, Southeast Asia, and parts of Africa, especially West Africa.

Description

The tree grows up to 20 m tall. It typically forms buttresses at the base of the trunk and has a more open branching structure than Artocarpus altilis or Artocarpus mariannensis. Leaves are large (40-60 cm long) and moderately dissected with 4-6 pairs of lobes. fruit are oval (10-15 cm long x 7-12 cm wide), weighing approximately 800 g. The spiky skin, with pointed, flexible 5-12 mm elongated sections, is dull green to greenish-brown when ripe. The fruit contains numerous seeds comprising 30-50% or more of the total fruit weight. The seeds are typically obovoid or flattened by compression, 2.5 cm long with a thin, light-brown seed coat patterned with darker veins. This species is seed propagated. Seedless varieties of breadfruit are often grafted onto breadnut seedlings.

Production and Use

The oblong, spiny fruit have little pulp and are mostly grown for their large, nutritious seeds. There is much variation in seed number, size, and nutritional composition. The seeds are a valued food in New Guinea and are collected from wild forest trees or cultivated trees. Gathered seeds are sold in village markets, providing an important source of income for women in some areas. The immature fruit and seeds are often consumed as a vegetable in soups or stews. The fruit is thinly sliced, then boiled and used as a vegetable. The seeds are boiled or roasted and resemble chestnuts in texture and flavor. They are a good source of protein (13-20%) and low in fat (6-29%) compared to nuts such as almond, Brazil nut, and macadamia nut. The main amino acids are methionine, leucine, isoleucine, and serine. The fat extracted from the seed is a light yellow, viscous liquid at room temperature with a characteristic odor similar to that of peanuts. It has a chemical number and physical properties similar to those of olive oil. Seeds are a good source of minerals and contain more niacin than most other nuts.

Common names

  • breadnut (English)
  • castaña (Spanish)
  • chataigne (Caribbean)
  • chataignier (French)
  • dulugian, kamansi, kolo, pakau, ugod (Philippines)
  • kapiak (New Guinea)
  • kos del (Sri Lanka)
  • mei kakano (Marquesas)
  • pana de pepitas (Puerto Rico)
  • kelur, kulor, kulur, kuror, timbul (Indonesia, Malaysia)

Top of page



Artocarpus mariannensis


Breadfruit leaves



Breadfruit leaves
   

Origin and Distribution

This wild seeded relative of breadfruit (Artocarpus altilis) is native to Palau and the Mariana Islands. It naturally grows in limestone and ravine forests from coastal to lower mountain slopes. It prefers calcareous soils and is often found growing on boulders in volcanic areas of the islands. It is distributed through its natural range by fruit bats. Wild populations are seriously declining due to typhoon damage, predation by feral deer, and the disappearance of fruit bats. Artocarpus mariannensis is widely cultivated for its edible fruit and seeds throughout Micronesia (Palau, Mariana Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Tokelau, Tuvalu, Nauru, and Banaba Island). It grows primarily in coastal areas and on atolls. It has naturally hybridized with Artocarpus altilis and the numerous interspecific hybrid varieties are considered to be ‘breadfruit’, whether they are seeded or seedless. Artocarpus mariannensis and other hybrid varieties are found only in Micronesia and are not grown elsewhere in the Pacific or other tropical regions. The exceptions are a few trees in Hawaii and Rabi Island in Fiji, the latter introduced in the 1940s from Banaba (Ocean Island).

Description

Trees of Artocarpus mariannensis and other hybrid varieties can reach heights of 20 m or more. They tend to be more massive than breadfruit and breadnut, with large trunks 2 m wide at the base, extensive buttresses, and full, rounded canopies. They also tolerate salinity better. Leaves are typically entire or shallowly 1-3 lobed on the upper third of blade. The fruit is small (8-15 cm long), weighing 0.25-0.5 kg. The skin is dark green, even when ripe, with a pebbly texture. The flesh is deep yellow when ripe, with a sweet aroma and taste. The fruit is not as solid or dense as breadfruit and contains up to 15 rounded or obovoid dark brown, shiny seeds (1.5 cm long). This species is seed propagated.

The numerous hybrid varieties in Micronesia exhibit great variability in fruit and leaf form and can be seeded or seedless. The fruit are typically rough-skinned or pebbly, with light to dark green skin, and creamy white to yellow flesh. The flesh is not as solid or dense as seedless Polynesian breadfruit varieties. Seeded cultivars typically have lumpy, asymmetrical fruit 12-30 cm long. Some unusual forms have narrow, elongated fruit up to 45 cm long. Most seeded hybrid varieties are unique to a particular area since they are local seedling selections. Some seedless hybrid varieties, such as 'Meinpadahk' are widely distributed and grow on both high islands and coral atolls.

Production and Use

This species and the many hybrid varieties are a major staple food tree in the Micronesian region. The fruit is high in carbohydrates and is a good source of minerals and vitamins, especially provitamin A carotenoids. The seeds from boiled or roasted fruit are eaten and in some islands, cooked sprouted seeds are a delicacy. The straight trunks are very desirable for canoes, although the wood needs to be protected from direct sunlight. The sticky white latex is used as caulking and glue. The trees tolerate salinity better than seedless breadfruit. Hybrid varieties may be well suited for other atoll countries and coastal areas in the tropics because they are better adapted to saline conditions.

Common names

  • chebiei, ebiei, meduuliou, mai (Palau)
  • dugdug, dokdok (Mariana Islands)
  • maiyah (Puluwat, Yap)
  • Marianas breadfruit, seeded breadfruit (English)
  • mei chocho (Chuuk)
  • mei kole (Pohnpei)
  • mejwaan (Marshall Islands)
  • mos en Kosrae (Kosrae)
  • te mai (Kiribati)

Top of page

Breadfruit Institute » Breadfruit