AskDefine | Define breadfruit

Dictionary Definition



1 native to Pacific islands and having edible fruit with a texture like bread [syn: breadfruit tree, Artocarpus communis, Artocarpus altilis]
2 round seedless or seeded fruit with a bread-like texture; eaten boiled or baked or roasted or ground into flour; the roasted seeds resemble chestnuts

User Contributed Dictionary




  1. An evergreen tree, Artocarpus altilis, native to islands of the east Indian Ocean and western Pacific Ocean.
  2. The large round fruit of this tree.




Extensive Definition

Breadfruit (Artocarpus altilis) is a tree and fruit native to the Malay Peninsula and western Pacific islands. It has also been widely planted in tropical regions elsewhere. It was collected and distributed by Lieutenant William Bligh as one of the botanical samples collected by HMS Bounty in the late 18th century, on a quest for cheap, high-energy food sources for British slaves in the West Indies.


Breadfruit trees grow to a height of 20 m (66 ft). The large and thick leaves are deeply cut into pinnate lobes. All parts of the tree yield latex, a milky juice, which is used for boat caulking.
The trees are monoecious, with male and female flowers growing on the same tree. The male flowers emerge first, followed shortly afterwards by the female flowers, which grow into a capitulum, which are capable of pollination just three days later. The pollinators are Old World fruit bats (Family Pteropodidae). 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 fruits per season. 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 West Indies, a conservative estimate is 25 fruits per tree. Studies in Barbados indicate a reasonable potential of 6.7 to 13.4 tons per acre (16-32 tons/ha). Much higher yields have been forecast, but experts are skeptical and view these predictions as unrealistic. The grapefruit-sized 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. Some selectively-bred cultivars have seedless fruit.
The breadfruit is closely related to the breadnut and the jackfruit.


Breadfruit is a staple food in many tropical regions. They were propagated far outside their native range by Polynesian voyagers who transported root cuttings and air-layered plants over long ocean distances. They are very rich in starch, and before being eaten they are roasted, baked, fried, or boiled. When cooked the taste is described as potato-like, or similar to fresh baked bread (hence the name). Because breadfruit trees usually produce large crops at certain times of the year, preservation 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 30 years later. Fermented breadfruit mash goes by many names such as mahr, ma, masi, furo, and bwiru, among others.
Most breadfruit varieties also produce a small number of fruits throughout the year, so 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 further cooked so that 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 or augmented with mashed breadfruit. The resulting “breadfruit poi” is called poi ‘ulu.
Breadfruit contains 25% carbohydrates (110kcal/100g). It has small amounts of minerals (potassium and zinc) and vitamins B1 (100μg) and C (20mg/100g).
Breadfruit was widely and diversely used among Pacific Islanders. Its wood is resistant to termites and marine worms, and consequently it was used as timber for structures and canoes. Its wood pulp can also be used to make paper, called breadfruit tapa. It is also used in traditional medicine to treat illnesses that range from sore eyes to sciatica.

In culture

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, Ku 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, Ku 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, Ku 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 Ku had stood. Quickly, the shoot grew into a tall and leafy tree that was laden with heavy breadfruits that Ku's family and neighbors gratefully ate, joyfully saved from starvation.
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, their distribution in the Pacific was clearly enabled by humans, 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.
The breadfruit tree was mentioned in The Coral Island, a novel written by Scottish juvenile fiction author R.M. Ballantyne.
The Breadnut and the Breadfruit is a short story by Maryse Condé.

See also


External links

breadfruit in Central Bicolano: Rimas
breadfruit in Catalan: Arbre del pa
breadfruit in Czech: Artocarpus altilis
breadfruit in German: Brotfruchtbaum
breadfruit in Dhivehi: ބަނބުކެޔޮ
breadfruit in Marshallese: Mā
breadfruit in Spanish: Artocarpus altilis
breadfruit in Esperanto: Panarbo
breadfruit in French: Arbre à pain
breadfruit in Galician: Árbore do pan
breadfruit in Hawaiian: ‘Ulu
breadfruit in Hebrew: עץ הלחם
breadfruit in Indonesian: Sukun
breadfruit in Pampanga: Kamansi
breadfruit in Haitian: Labapen
breadfruit in Lithuanian: Paprastasis duonmedis
breadfruit in Malayalam: ശീമച്ചക്ക
breadfruit in Maori: Kuru
breadfruit in Dutch: Broodboom
breadfruit in Japanese: パンノキ
breadfruit in Norwegian: Brødfrukt
breadfruit in Polish: Chlebowiec właściwy
breadfruit in Portuguese: Artocarpus incisa
breadfruit in Tahitian: ’Uru
breadfruit in Quechua: Paparawa
breadfruit in Russian: Хлебное дерево
breadfruit in Slovak: Chlebovník obyčajný
breadfruit in Finnish: Leipäpuu
breadfruit in Tamil: ஈரப்பலா மரம்
breadfruit in Thai: สาเก (พรรณไม้)
breadfruit in Tonga (Tonga Islands): Mei
breadfruit in Turkish: Ekmek ağacı
breadfruit in Ukrainian: Хлібне дерево
breadfruit in Chinese: 麵包樹
breadfruit in Kannada: ದಿವಿಹಲಸು
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