March 12, 2008

Breadfruit Benefits

Like the banana and plantain, the breadfruit may be eaten ripe as a fruit or under ripe as a vegetable. For the latter purpose, it is picked while still starchy and is boiled or, in the traditional Pacific Island fashion, roasted in an underground oven on pre-heated rocks. Sometimes it is cored and stuffed with coconut before roasting. Malayans peel firm-ripe fruits, slice the pulp and fry it in sirup or palm sugar until it is crisp and brown. Filipinos enjoy the cooked fruit with coconut and sugar.

Fully ripe fruits, being sweeter, are baked whole with a little water in the pan. Some cooks remove the stem and core before cooking and put butter and sugar in the cavity, and serve with more of the same. Others may serve the baked fruit with butter, salt and pepper. Ripe fruits may be halved or quartered and steamed for 1 or 2 hours and seasoned in the same manner as baked fruits. The steamed fruit is sometimes sliced, rolled in flour and fried in deep fat. In Hawaii, underripe fruits are diced, boiled, and served with butter and sugar, or salt and pepper, or diced and cooked with other vegetables, bacon and milk as a chowder. In the Bahamas, breadfruit soup is made by boiling underripe chunks of breadfruit in water until the liquid begins to thicken, then adding cooked salt pork, chopped onion, white pepper and salt, stirring till thick, then adding milk and butter, straining, adding a bit of sherry and simmering until ready to serve.

The pulp scraped from soft, ripe breadfruits is combined with coconut milk (not coconut water), salt and sugar and baked to make a pudding. A more elaborate dessert is concocted of mashed ripe breadfruit, with butter, 2 beaten eggs, sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon and rosewater, a dash of sherry or brandy, blended and boiled. There are numerous other dishes peculiar to different areas. Breadfruit is also candied, or sometimes prepared as a sweet pickle.

In Micronesia, the peel is scraped off with a sharpened cowrie shell, or the fruits are peeled with a knife, cored, cut up and put into sacks or baskets, soaked in the sea for about 2 hours while being beaten or trampled; allowed to drain on shore for a few days; then packed in banana leaf-lined boxes to ferment for a month or much longer, the leaves being changed weekly.

In Polynesia and Micronesia, a large number of fruits are baked in a native oven and left there to ferment. Over a period of a few weeks, batches are taken out as needed. In the New Hebrides, peeled breadfruits are wrapped in leaves and placed to ferment in piles of stones on open beaches where they will be flooded at high tide. In Samoa, seeded breadfruits are skinned, washed, quartered and left to ferment in a pit lined and covered with layers of banana and Heliconia leaves, and topped with earth and rocks. The fruits ferment for long periods, sometimes for several years, and form a pasty mass called masi. The seeds are squeezed out, the paste is wrapped in Heliconia leaves smeared with coconut cream and the product is baked for 2 hours. There is a strong, cheese-like odor, but it is much relished by the natives.

The original method of poi making involved peeling, washing and halving the fruit, discarding the core, placing the fruits in stone pits lined with leaves of Cordylme terminalis Kunth, alternating the layers of fruit with old fermented pod, covering the upper layer with leaves, topping the pit with soil and rocks and leaving the contents to ferment, which acidifies and preserves the breadfruit for several years.

Modern poi is made from firm-ripe fruits, boiled whole until tender, cored, sliced, ground, pounded to a paste, kneaded with added water to thin it, strained through cloth, and eaten. If it is to be kept in the refrigerator for 2 days, only a little water is added in kneading; more is added and it is strained just before serving. Food value and digestibility are improved by mixing with poi made from taro which is rated highly as a non-allergenic food. In the Seychelles, the seedless breadfruit is cut into slices 1/2 in (1.25 cm) thick, dried for 4 days at 120°F (48.89°C). In some Pacific Islands, the fruits are partly roasted, then peeled, dried and formed into loaves for long-time storage. The Ceylonese dip breadfruit slices into a salt solution, then blanch them in boiling water for 5 minutes, dry them at 158°F (70°C) for 4 to 6 hours before storing. The slices will keep in good condition for 8 to 10 months. In Guam, cooked fruits may be mashed to a paste which is spread out thin, dried in the sun, and wrapped in leaves for storage. It is soaked in water to soften it for eating. This might be called "breadfruit leather". On the small Kapingamarangi Atoll in the Caroline Islands, the cooked paste is pressed into sheets 5 ft (1.5 m) long and 20 in (50 cm) wide, dried in the sun on coconut leaf mats, then rolled into cylinders, wrapped in Pandanus leaves and stored for at least 3 years.

The dried fruit has been made into flour and improved methods have been explored in Barbados and Brazil with a view to substituting breadfruit in part for wheat flour in breadmaking. The combination has been found more nutritious than wheat flour alone. Breadfruit flour is much richer than wheat flour in lysine and other essential amino acids. In Jamaica, the flour is boiled, sweetened, and eaten as porridge for breakfast.

Soft or overripe breadfruit is best for making chips and these are being manufactured commercially in Trinidad and Barbados. Some breadfruit is canned in Dominica and Trinidad for shipment to London and New York.

In Jamaica, Puerto Rico and the South Pacific, fallen male flower spikes are boiled, peeled and eaten as vegetables or are candied by recooking, for 2-3 hours, in sirup; then rolled in powdered sugar and sun-dried.

The seeds are boiled, steamed, roasted over a fire or in hot coals and eaten with salt. In West Africa, they are sometimes made into a puree. In Costa Rica, the cooked seeds are sold by street vendors.

Underripe fruits are cooked for feeding to pigs. Soft-ripe fruits need not be cooked and constitute a large part of the animal feed in many breadfruit-growing areas of the Old and New World. Breadfruit has been investigated as potential material for chickfeed but has been found to produce less weight gain than cassava or maize despite higher intake, and it also causes delayed maturity.

Experiments by technologists at the United States Department of Agriculture's Western Regional Research Laboratory in Berkeley, California, have demonstrated that breadfruit can be commercially dehydrated by tunnel drying or freeze-drying and the waste from these processes constitutes a highly-digestible stock feed.

Food Value Per 100 g of Edible Portion*

Fruit (underripe, raw)
Ripe (cooked)
Seeds (fresh)
Seeds (roasted)
Seeds (dried)

62.7-89.16 g
67.8 g
35.08-56.80 g
43.80 g

1.3-2.24 g
1.34 g
5.25-13.3 g
7.72 g
13.8-19.96 g
0.1-0.86 g
0.31 g
2.59-5.59 g
3.30 g
5.1-12.79 g
21.5 29.49 g
27.82 g
30.83-44.03 g
41.61 g
15.95 g
1.08 2.1 g
1.5 g
1.67 g
3.0-3.87 g
0.56-1.2 g
1.23 g
1.50-5.58 g
1.90 g
3.42-3.5 g
0.05 mg
0.022 g
0.11 mg
40 mg
0.12 mg
0.04 mg
0.35 mg
178 mg
0.37 mg
0.61-2.4 mg

3.78 mg
2.66 mg

0.004 mg (35-40 I.U.)

0.08-0.085 mg

0.25 mg
0.32 mg
180 mcg
0.033-0.07 mg

0.10 mg
0.10 mg
84 mcg
0.506 0.92 mg

3.54 mg
2.94 mg
2.6 mg
Ascorbic Acid
15 33 mg

13.70 mg
14 mg

Amino Acids
[N = 16 p. 100])




















Aspartic Acid

Glutamic Acid












*A composite of analyses made in Central America, Mexico, Colombia, Africa and India.

Note: There are reportedly two enzymes in the breadfruit—papayotin and artocarpine.

Negron de Bravo and colleagues in Puerto Rico show niacin content up to 8.33 mg in dried, ground seeds collected locally.

It will be seen from the above that the seedless breadfruit is low in protein, the seeds considerably higher, and therefore the seeded breadfruit is actually of more value as food.

Breadfruit flour contains 4.05% protein; 76.70% carbohydrates, and 331 calories, while cassava flour contains, 1.16% protein, 83.83% carbobydrates, and 347 calories per 100 g.


Most varieties of breadfruit are purgative if eaten raw. Some varieties are boiled twice and the water thrown away, to avoid unpleasant effects, while there are a few named cultivars that can be safely eaten without cooking.

The cyclopropane-containing sterol, cycloartenol, has been isolated from the fresh fruit. It contitutes 12% of the non-saponifiable extract.

Other Uses

Leaves: Breadfruit leaves are eagerly eaten by domestic livestock. In India, they are fed to cattle and goats; in Guam, to cattle, horses and pigs. Horses are apt to eat the bark of young trees as well, so new plantings must be protected from them.

Latex: Breadfruit latex has been used in the past as birdlime on the tips of posts to catch birds. The early Hawaiians plucked the feathers for their ceremonial cloaks, then removed the gummy substance from the birds' feet with oil from the candlenut, Aleurites moluccana Willd., or with sugarcane juice, and released them.

After boiling with coconut oil, the latex serves for caulking boats and, mixed with colored earth, is used as a paint for boats.

Wood: The wood is yellowish or yellow-gray with dark markings or orange speckles; light in weight; not very hard but strong, elastic and termite resistant (except for drywood termites) and is used for construction and furniture. In Samoa, it is the standard material for house-posts and for the rounded roof-ends of native houses. The wood of the Samoan variety 'Aveloloa' which has deeply cut leaves, is most preferred for house-building, but that of 'Puou', an ancient variety, is also utilized. In Guam and Puerto Rico the wood is used for interior partitions. Because of its lightness, the wood is in demand for surfboards. Traditional Hawaiian drums are made from sections of breadfruit trunks 2 ft (60 cm) long and 1 ft (30 cm) in width, and these are played with the palms of the hands during Hula dances. After seasoning by burying in mud, the wood is valued for making household articles. These are rough-sanded by coral and lava, but the final smoothing is accomplished with the dried stipules of the breadfruit tree itself.

Fiber: Fiber from the bark is difficult to extract but highly durable. Malaysians fashioned it into clothing. Material for tape cloth is obtained from the inner bark of young trees and branches. In the Philippines, it is made into harnesses for water buffalo.

Flowers: The male flower spike used to be blended with the fiber of the paper mulberry, Broussonetia papyrifera Vent. to make elegant loincloths. When thoroughly dry, the flower spikes also serve as tinder.

Medicinal Uses: In Trinidad and the Bahamas, a decoction of the breadfruit leaf is believed to lower blood pressure, and is also said to relieve asthma. Crushed leaves are applied on the tongue as a treatment for thrush. The leaf juice is employed as ear-drops. Ashes of burned leaves are used on skin infections. A powder of roasted leaves is employed as a remedy for enlarged spleen. The crushed fruit is poulticed on tumors to "ripen" them. Toasted flowers are rubbed on the gums around an aching tooth. The latex is used on skin diseases and is bandaged on the spine to relieve sciatica. Diluted latex is taken internally to overcome diarrhea. (