Breadfruit roundup

by Luigi Guarino on April 26, 2011

Our friend Diane Ragone of the Breadfruit Institute has kindly reminded us that there’s been quite a lot published on her favourite fruit lately. Almost worth a Brainfood all on its own, in fact.

Beyond the Bounty: Breadfruit (Artocarpus altilis) for food security and novel foods in the 21st Century. Great potential, but “a deeper understanding of the nutritional characteristics and the development of new products and markets are needed.” Which is kinda provided, at least to some extent, by the next two papers.

Diversity of breadfruit (Artocarpus altilis, Moraceae) seasonality: A resource for year-round nutrition. “About 24 cultivars exhibited very little seasonality and produced fruit throughout the year. The rest of the cultivars could be clustered into seasonality groups with characteristic fruiting patterns.”

Nutritional and morphological diversity of breadfruit (Artocarpus, Moraceae): Identification of elite cultivars for food security. “…individual varieties … are particularly good sources of mineral and protein nutrition.”

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Michael Hermann April 28, 2011 at 7:38 am

Thanks for these interesting papers! Unfortunately, as far as one can tell from the abstracts, they are silent on what constrains the use of breadfruit, in particular the demand. The tree is to be found everywhere in the tropics, but except for Oceania is hardly ever used to any significant extent (except as an ornamental tree). I am afraid, awareness of the nutritional value won’t change that, as food choices continue to be mainly influenced by texture, taste and colour and other culinary attributes. The first paper suggests that breadfruit use is also in decline in Oceania, with wheat and rice to blame. What are the reasons for that? Are they cheaper or more convenient staples? Rather than looking at breadfruit as a source of a flour for substituting wheat (p. 149; a strategy that never seems to have worked to boost the use of minor starchy staples), what can be done to secure it a niche as a specialty food. Any unique recipes that express unique flavours or textures? Celebrate breadfruit rather than relegate it to substitute status! (But I agree the gluten-free property is a first step in the right marketing direction…)

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Max Jones May 17, 2011 at 4:35 pm

Hello Michael, I just wanted to discuss briefly some of the potential reasons that rice and wheat have displaced some of the traditional staples in Oceania. In a recent study (in press), we conducted a survey in Samoa to investigate staple food preference among this population to help determine why imported staples have displaced traditional ones. Based on their responses, there was a clear preference for some of the traditional staples, especially taro and yams, over rice or wheat. Breadfruit was generally ranked at a similar level as rice, higher than wheat. There was also an overwhelming view that the traditional staples are healthier, and this was often cited this as the primary reason that they prefer them.

Of those who liked rice and wheat, they generally liked them for their convenience. When we compared the price of these commodities in Samoa, we found that rice provided far more energy per $ than any other food, suggesting that despite the reported preference for traditional staples, rice is a more economically sound option. Similar trends have been reported in other locations in Oceania.

From this information, it appears that if traditional staples were more economically competitive, and perhaps processed to make them more convenient, the population may select them over imported ones such as rice and wheat.

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Diane Ragone April 29, 2011 at 10:30 pm

Michael, I appreciate your comment. An good summary of constraints on use of breadfruit are addressed in the meeting report at the 1st International Symposium on Breadfruit Research & Development (available on the Breadfruit Institute website: http://ntbg.org/breadfruit/resources/display/cat/4/#30.
Wheat and rice have become important staples in the Pacific but breadfruit is still widely grown and consumed is recognized for its contributions to island food security and economic development. Fiji and Samoa have developed export industries of fresh fruit to New Zealand.
It is an important crop in Jamaica and other Caribbean countries and locally in parts of West Africa and other regions. National food security initiatives in Jamaica and the Seychelles include breadfruit. Fewer than 8 varieties, the handful that Captain Bligh collected in Tahiti and possibly a Tongan variety collected by the French, were introduced to the Caribbean colonies in the late 1790s. Those were the source of almost all the breadfruit trees planted elsewhere in the tropics. Yet there are so many other varieties with different flavors, textures, cooking qualities, nutrient composition, productivity, etc. We have 120 varieties conserved at our garden in Hawaii.
There is a resurgence of interest in breadfruit and the institute has received requests for breadfruit plants from at least 50 countries. So there is definitely demand out there to grow this underutilized crop. And yes, gluten-free flour is a great selling point for expanding use of breadfruit for local and export markets. There are many grassroots projects producing breadfruit flour and incorporating it into local foods, a win win situation for tropical countries where breadfruit grows and wheat must be imported. Indeed, there is a lot to celebrate about breadfruit!

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Frank Lohmann May 6, 2011 at 4:27 am

Hi,
I have several breadfruit trees, which most likely go back to the Trees captain Bligh brought to Jamaica, does anyone know which variety that is?

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Luigi May 6, 2011 at 12:39 pm

Thanks, Frank. Diane Ragone would probably be able to identify the variety from photographs of leaves and fruits.

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