Binomially, the fruit belongs to the family of Moraceae, of the genus: Artocarpus. Scientific name: Artocarpus altilis.
|Breadfruit. Note for white latex stain.
(Photo courtesy: Peter Long)
Breadfruit is a very large evergreen tree found commonly in the tropical rain forests of Indonesia, Philippines, Sri Lanka and southern India. It actually used as subsistence food in line with other tropical staples such as rice, sweet potatoes, taro, banana, and coconut in many of the East Asian, Micronesia, Polynesian, and Caribbean countries.
Breadfruit tree has many similarities to jackfruit except that their fruits appear on twigs and the terminal end of small branches. In the case of jackfruit, they arise (erupt) directly from the trunk and large branches.
An adult breadfruit tree bears hundreds of fruits during each season. They, however, can come in a variety of color, size, and shape. Each fruit generally features round or globular shape and weigh about 1 to 5 kg. Its outer surface covered with spikes similar to that in breadnut, jackfruit, and durian. Cut-section shows thick rind covering smooth, off-white to cream color flesh. Some of the breadfruit varieties feature smooth, brown color seeds interspersed in between soft tissue. The seeds are edible, have nutty texture and flavor.
Mature fruits ripe rather quickly and feature soft, sweet, creamy flesh that can be eaten raw.
Almost all parts of the breadfruit plant exude thin, milky-white latex upon inflicting damage similar to jackfruit.
As in line with other tropical fruits, breadfruit too holds more calories. 100 g fresh fruit provides 102 calories. Carbohydrates make up the significant fraction of this energy. As the fruit ripens, much of this starch converted into sucrose and simple sugars like fructose and glucose. Hence, the ripe fruits are sweeter and have pleasant custard aroma.
Its pulp has more fiber than that in jackfruit which makes it a good bulk laxative. Dietary fiber helps reduce blood cholesterol by preventing its absorption in the gut, reduce obesity, blood pressure and help protect the colon mucosa by warding off cancer-causing chemicals from the colon.
It has small amounts of flavonoid anti-oxidants in the form of xanthin
and lutein. Yellow-orange varieties have more of these compounds.
Breadfruit carries more vitamin-C than jackfruit and banana; provide about 29 mg or 48% of RDA. Vitamin-C (ascorbic acid) is a strong water-soluble antioxidant. Consumption of fruits rich in the vitamin-C help the human body develops resistance against infectious agents and scavenge harmful free radicals.
The fruit has moderate levels of essential vitamins and minerals. Like other tropical delicacies, it is rich in many vital B-complex groups of vitamins. The fruit is a moderate source of vitamins, especially thiamin, pyridoxine, and niacin.
Fresh fruit is an excellent source of potassium. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that help regulate heart rate and blood pressure. Its pulp is good in copper, iron, magnesium, and phosphorus.
Breadfruit seeds contain average levels of protein; 100 g seeds provide 7.4 g or 13% of daily recommended values. However, they are excellent sources of minerals like potassium, iron, calcium, zinc, selenium, manganese, etc.
Breadfruit season coincides with other tropical abundances like durian, mango, jackfruit, etc., from May until September. Some of its varieties can be available year-round. In general, fruits that feature maturity but just short of ripe are gathered by hand-picking from the tree.
In the local markets, breadfruit is available in different sizes, shapes, and colors. You may come across seedless or seed varieties in the markets.
Mature but unripe fruit is rather preferred as vegetable and used in curry/stews/dumpling recipes. The fruit continues to ripen even after its harvesting. Its color gradually turns from bright green to light brown as it ripens. Ripe fruits impart fragrant-rich freshly baked sourdough bread flavor and have sour-sweet custard apple taste. The ripening process indeed converts its starch to sugar giving pleasant and intensified fruity smell.
At home, place the fruit in a cool well-ventilated place. If not used immediately, it will ripe in the next 2-3 days as in jackfruit. The fruit is said to ripen when it yields to a gentle thumb pressure. Ripe fruit should be eaten soon; or else, it deteriorates rather quickly. People in the Pacific Islands have mastered some unique ancient techniques to preserve for off-season use. The fruit is sun dried, and powdered or fermented in underground ovens. The fruit cannot be stored in the refrigerator as it sustains chilling injury when stored below 12 degrees F.
Breadfruit is used along with other tropical staples like plantain, banana, yam, potato, and rice in the Pacific region as a major starch source. The fruit can be used at different stages of maturity; at its bud stage, immature, mature but firm and when fully ripe. Breadfruit seeds, rich in protein, can be eaten roasted or boiled like nuts/lentils. Raw, uncooked seeds should not be eaten as they are bitter in taste and may choke.
To prepare, place the fruit on a clean surface and peel its outer skin using a paring knife. Cut the flesh as you do in case of any big-size vegetables and fruits such as pumpkin, butternut squash, muskmelons, etc., into cubes, chunks, slices, or small pieces. In general, cut into quarters, and trim away its fiber-rich central core and discard. In some parts, the whole fruit is roasted intact, which is then peeled and either eaten with seasoning or added to recipes. The ripe fruit used in a similar way like durian or jackfruit.
Here are some serving tips:
Raw breadfruit cubes may be added to stews, soups, curry, baking, and stir-fries much like potatoes.
Its slices fried and eaten like potato chips. Thin slices can be made into chips.
Fresh ripe fruit is eaten much like dessert. It can be added to make a sweet bread, muffins, cakes, puddings, etc.
In the seed variety of breadfruit, its seeds are gathered, sun-dried, and used much like other nuts and kernels.
Allergy or intolerance to breadfruit is rare. However, unripe, raw green-stage fruit should be used only after cooking since its flesh may choke the respiratory tract. Once ripen, however, the fruit can be eaten as it is. (Medical disclaimer).
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