Three related species—Artocarpus altilis (Parkinson) Fosberg, Artocarpus camansi Blanco, and Artocarpus mariannensis Trécul—make up what is known as the “breadfruit complex.” They are members of the Moraceae (fig) family. 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.
Breadfruit: Artocarpus altilis (Parkinson) Fosberg
The scientific or Latin name of breadfruit 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 primary 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. 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. 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 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. Breadfruit is now grown in close to 90 countries. Breadfruit is a versatile crop and the fruit can be cooked and eaten at all stages of maturity. The seeds are also edible.
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 15-20 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.
- 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)
Breadnut: Artocarpus camansi Blanco
Breadnut is native to New Guinea, and possibly the Moluccas (Indonesia) and the Philippines. In New Guinea, it 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.
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 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. 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 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.