From the book
Fruits of Warm Climates
by Julia F. Morton
Harvesting and Yield
Pests and Diseases
One of the great food producers in its realm and widely known, at least
by name, through its romanticized and dramatized history, the
altilis Fosb. (syns. A.
communis J.R. and G. Forst.; A. incisus L.f.)
belongs to the mulberry family, Moraceae. The common name is almost
universal, in English, or tanslated into Spanish as fruta de pan
(fruit), or arbor de pan, arbor del pan (tree), or pan de pobre; into
French, as fruit a pain (seedless), chataignier (withseeds), arbre a
pain (tree); Portuguese, fruta pao, or pao de massa; Dutch, broodvrucht
(fruit), broodboom (tree). InVenezuela it may be called pan de ano, pan
de todo el ano, pan de palo, pan de name, topan, or tupan; in Guatemale
and Honduras, mazapan (seedless), castana (with seeds); in Peru,
marure; in Yucatan, castano de Malabar (with seeds); in Puerto Rico,
panapen (seedless), pana de pepitas (with seeds). In Malaya and Java,
it is suku or sukun (seedless); kulur, kelur, or kulor (with seeds); in
Thailand, sa-ke, in the Philippines, rimas (seedless); in Hawaii, ulu.
The type with seeds is sometimes called "breadnut", a name better
limited to Brosimum alicastrum Swartz, an edible-seeded tree of
Yucatan, Central America and nearby areas. Its Spanish name is ramon
and the seeds, leaves and twigs are prized as stock feed.
The breadfruit tree is handsome and fast growing, reaching 85 ft (26 m)
in height, often with a clear trunk to 20 ft (6 m) becoming 2 to 6 ft
(0.6-1.8 m) in width and often buttressed at the base, though some
varieties may never exceed 1/4 or 1/2 of these dimensions. There are
many spreading branches, some thick with lateral foliage-bearing
branchlets, others long and slender with foliage clustered only at
their tips. The leaves, evergreen or deciduous depending on climatic
conditions, on thick, yellow petioles to 1 1/2 in (3.8 cm) long, are
ovate, 9 to 36 in (22.8-90 cm) long, 8 to 20 in (20-50 cm) wide, entire
at the base, then more or less deeply cut into 5 to 11 pointed lobes.
They are bright-green and glossy on the upper surface, with conspicuous
yellow veins; dull, yellowish and coated with minute, stiff hairs on
Fig. 13: Ripe breadfruit (Artocarpus altilis). In: K. & J.
Morton, Fifty Tropical Fruits of Nassau, 1946.
The tree bears a multitude of tiny flowers, the male densely set on a
drooping, cylindrical or club-shaped spike 5 to 12 in (12.5-30 cm) long
and 1 to 1 1/2 in (2.5-3.75 cm) thick, yellowish at first and becoming
brown. The female are massed in a somewhat rounded or elliptic, green,
prickly head, 2 1/2 in (6.35 cm) long and 1 1/2 in (3.8 cm) across,
which develops into the compound fruit (or syncarp), oblong,
cylindrical, ovoid, rounded or pearshaped, 3 1/2 to 18 in (9-45 cm) in
length and 2 to 12 in (5-30 cm) in diameter. The thin rind is patterned
with irregular, 4- to 6-sided faces, in some "smooth" fruits level with
the surface, in others conical; in some, there may rise from the center
of each face a sharp, black point, or a green, pliable spine to 1/8 in
(3 mm) long or longer. Some fruits may have a harsh, sandpaper-like
rind. Generally the rind is green at first, turning yellowish-green,
yellow or yellow-brown when ripe, though one variety is lavender.
In the green stage, the fruit is hard and the interior is white,
starchy and somewhat fibrous. When fully ripe, the fruit is somewhat
soft, the interior is cream colored or yellow and pasty, also sweetly
fragrant. The seeds are irregularly oval, rounded at one end, pointed
at the other, about 3/4 in (2 cm) long, dull-brown with darker stripes.
In the center of seedless fruits there is a cylindrical or oblong core,
in some types covered with hairs bearing flat, brown, abortive seeds
about 1/8 in (3 mm) long. The fruit is borne singly or in clusters of 2
or 3 at the branch tips. The fruit stalk (pedicel) varies from 1 to 5
in (2.5-12.5 cm) long.
All parts of the tree, including the unripe fruit, are rich in milky,
gummy latex. There are two main types: the normal, "wild" type
(cultivated in some areas) with seeds and little pulp, and the
"cultivated" (more widely grown) seedless type, but occasionally a few
fully developed seeds are found in usually seedless cultivars. Some
forms with entire leaves and with both seeds and edible pulp have been
classified by Dr. F.R. Fosberg as belonging to a separate species, A.
mariannensis Trecul. but these commonly integrate with A. altilis and
some other botanists regard them as included in that highly variable
Fig. 14 Breadfruit is borne singly or in 2's or 3's at the branch tips
of this handsome, large-leaved tree.
Origin and Distribution
The breadfruit is believed to be native to a vast area extending from
New Guinea through the Indo-Malayan Archipelago to Western Micronesia.
It is said to have been widely spread in the Pacific area by migrating
Polynesians, and Hawaiians believed that it was brought from the Samoan
island of Upalu to Oahu in the 12th Century A.D. It is said to have
been first seen by Europeans in the Marquesas in 1595, then in Tahiti
in 1606. At the beginning of the 18th Century, the early English
explorers were loud in its praises, and its fame, together with several
periods of famine in Jamaica between 1780 and 1786, inspired plantation
owners in the British West Indies to petition King George III to import
seedless breadfruit trees to provide food for their slaves.
There is good evidence that the French navigator Sonnerat in 1772
obtained the seeded breadfruit in the Philippines and brought it to the
French West Indies. It seems also that some seedless and seeded
breadfruit plants reached Jamaica from a French ship bound for
Martinique but captured by the British in 1782. There were at least two
plants of the seeded breadfruit in Jamaica in 1784 and distributions
were quickly made to the other islands. There is a record of a plant
having been sent from Martinique to the St. Vincent Botanical Garden
before 1793. The story of Captain Bligh's first voyage to Tahiti, in
1787, and the loss of his cargo of 1,015 potted breadfruit plants on
his disastrous return voyage is well known. He set out again in 1791
and delivered 5 different kinds totalling 2,126 plants to Jamaica in
February 1793. On that island, the seedless breadfruit flourished and
it came to be commonly planted in other islands of the West Indies, in
the lowlands of Central America and northern South America. In some
areas, only the seedless type is grown, in others, particularly Haiti,
the seeded is more common. Jamaica is by far the leading producer of
the seedless type, followed by St. Lucia. In New Guinea, only the
seeded type is grown for food.
It has been suggested that the seeded breadfruit was carried by
Spaniards from the Philippines to Mexico and Central America long
before any reached the West Indies. On the Pacific coast of Central
America, the seeded type is common and standard fare for domestic
swine. On the Atlantic Coast, seedless varieties are much consumed by
people of African origin. The breadfruit tree is much grown for shade
in Yucatan. It is very common in the lowlands of Colombia, a popular
food in the Cauca Valley, the Choco, and the San Andres Islands; mostly
fed to live stock in other areas. In Guyana, in 1978, about 1,000 new
breadfruit trees were being produced each year but not nearly enough to
fill requests for plants. There and in Trinidad, because of many Asians
in the population, both seeded and seedless breadfruits are much
appreciated as a regular article of the diet; in some other areas of
the Caribbean, breadfruit is regarded merely as a food for the poor for
use only in emergencies. Nowadays, it is attracting the attention of
gourmets and some islands are making small shipments to the United
States, Canada and Europe for specialized ethnic markets. In the Palau
Islands of the South Pacific, breadfruit is being outclassed by cassava
and imported flour and rice. For some time breadfruit was losing ground
to taro (Colocasia esculenta Schott.) in Hawaii, but now land for taro
is limited and its culture is static.
The United States Department of Agriculture brought in breadfruit
plants from the Canal Zone, Panama, in 1906 (S.P.I. #19228). For many
years there have been a number of seedless breadfruit trees in Key
West, Florida, and there is now at least one on Vaca Key about 50 miles
to the northeast. On the mainland of Florida, the tree can be
maintained outdoors for a few years with mild winters but, unless
protected with plastic covering to prevent dehydration, it ultimately
succumbs. A few have been kept alive in greenhouses or conservatories
such as the Rare Plant House of Fairchild Tropical Garden, and the
indoor garden of the Jamaica Inn on Key Biscayne.
An unpublished report of 1921 covered 200 cultivars of breadfruit in
the Marquesas. The South Pacific Commission published the results of a
breadfruit survey in 1966. In it, there were described 166 named sorts
from Tonga, Niue, Western and American Samoa, Papua and New Guinea, New
Hebrides and Rotuma. There are 70 named varieties of seeded and
seedless breadfruits in Fiji. They are locally separated into 8 classes
by leaf form. The following, briefly presented, are those that are
recorded as "very good". It will be noted that some varietal names are
reported under more than one class.
Class I: Leaf entire, or with one or two, occasionally, three lobes.
'Koqo'— round; 4 in (10 cm) wide; seedless; does not
'Tamaikora'—gourd shaped (constricted around middle); to 4
1/2 in (11.5 cm) long, 3 in (7.5 cm) wide; with many seeds. Can be
eaten raw when ripe. Highly perishable. Tree to 40 or 45 ft (12-13.5 m).
Class II: Leaf dissected at apex.
'Temaipo'—round; 3 1/2 in (9 cm) long; seedless. Can be eaten
raw when ripe. There is also an oblong form with many seeds.
Class III: Leaf moderately deeply dissected at apex.
'Uto Kuro'—round; 5 in (12.5 cm) long; does not deteriorate
Class IV: Leaf moderately deeply dissected on upper half.
'Samoa'—('Kasa Balavu') round; 4 to 6 in (10-15 cm) long;
seeds sparse to many.
'Uto Yalewa'—oblong; to 8 in (20 cm) long and 6 in (15 cm)
'Kulu Dina'—oblong; to 16 in (40 cm) long and 13 in (33 cm)
wide; seedless. Need not be peeled after cooking. Tree bears all year.
'Sogasoga'—oblong; to 9 in (23 cm) long and 6 1/2 in (16.5
cm) wide; seedless.
'Uto Dina'—oblong; to 6 in (15 cm) long and 3 to 3 1/2 in
(7.5-9 cm) wide; seedless; need not be peeled after cooking. Tree 60 to
70 ft (18-21 m) high.
'Buco Ni Viti'—oblong; 11 to 14 in (28-35.5 cm) long, 6 to 7
in (15-18 cm) wide; seedless; one of the best cultivars.
'Tamaikora'—oblong; 7 to 9 in (18-23 cm) long, 5 to 6 1/2 in
(12.5-16.5 cm) wide; seeds sparse; pulp eaten raw when ripe.
Tree to 75 or 85 ft (23-26 m) high; bears 2 crops per year.
'Kulu Mabomabo'—oval; 6 to 8 in (15-20 cm) long, 4 to 5 1/2
in (10-14 cm) wide; seedless.
Class V: Leaf moderately deeply dissected; shape of leaf base variable.
'Uto Dina'—round; 4 1/2 to 5 in (11.5-12.5 cm) wide; seed
less. Highly recommended. Tree is 25-30 ft (7.5-9 m) tall.
'Balekana Ni Samoa'—round; 4 to 5 in (10-12.5 cm) long; seeds
sparse. Best of all Samoan varieties. There is an oval form by the same
name; seedless; deteriorates very quickly.
'Balekana Ni Vita'—round; 3 1/2 to 4 in (9-10 cm) long;
seedless. Does not deteriorate quickly.
'Balekana Dina'—oval; 6 to 8 in (15-20 cm) long, 3 to 5 in
(7.5-12.5 cm) wide; seeds sparse. One of the best, especially when
'Tabukiraro'—round; 8 in (20 cm) long; seedless; skin
sometimes eaten after cooking.'Sici Ni Samoa'—oval; 5 to 6 in
(12.5-15 cm) long, 3 to 3 1/2 in (7.5-9 cm) wide; seedless. One of the
highly recommended Samoan varieties.
'Uto Me'—oval; 5 to 6 3/4 in (12.5-17 cm) long, 4 1/2 to 5 in
(11.5 cm) wide; with many seeds; does not deteriorate quickly.
'Uto Wa'—oval; 6 to 7 1/2 in (15-19 cm) long, 5 to 5 1/2 in
(12.5-14 cm) wide. The variety most recommended.
'Kulu Vawiri'—oval; 9 to 12 in (22-30 cm) long, 8 to 9 in
(20-22 cm) wide; especially good when boiled.
Class VI: Leaf deeply dissected.
'Kulu Dina'—round; 3 to 4 in (7.5-10 cm) long; seedless. Need
not be peeled after boiling. Highly recommended.
'Balekana'—oval; 4 in (10 cm) long, 3 in (7.5 cm) wide; of
the best quality. Tree 70 to 80 ft (21-24 m) high.
'Balekana Ni Samoa'—round; 3 in (7.5 cm) long; seeds sparse.
Best of all Samoan varieties.
'Balekana Ni Viti'—oblong; 5 to 6 in (12.5-15 cm) long, 3 to
4 in (7.5-10 cm) wide; seedless. The best native-type variety.
'Uto Dina'—('Kasa Leka') round; 4 in (10 cm) long; seedless.
'Uto Matala'—round; 3 to 4 in (7.5-10 cm) long. Especially
fine when boiled. Tree bears 3 times a year.
Class VII: Leaf deeply dissected; apex pointed.
'Balekana Ni Samoa'—round; 5 to 5 1/2 in (12.5-14 cm) long;
seeds sparse. Best of all Samoan varieties.
'Kulu Dina'—('Kasa Balavu') oval; 6 to 7 in (15-18 cm) long,
4 to 5 in (10-12.5 cm) wide; seedless.
'Uto Dina'—(Large) oval; 8 to 9 in (20-22 cm) long, 4 to 7 in
(10-18 cm) wide; seedless. Also, by the same name, a form with only
moderately dissected leaves.
'Bokasi'—round; 4 in (10 cm) long, 3 in (7.5 cm) wide.
Class VIII: Leaf deeply dissected, wide spaces between lobes.
'Savisavi Ni Samoa'—oval; 4 to 5 in (10-12.5 cm) long, 3 to 3
1/2 in (7.5-9 cm) wide. Ranks with best Samoan varieties.
'Savisavi Ni Viti'—oblong; 6 to 8 in(16-20 cm) long, 4 to 6
in (10-15 cm) wide; seedless; especially good when boiled.
'Savisavi'—round; 3 to 3 1/2 in (7.5-9 cm) wide; especially
good when boiled.
'Balawa Ni Viti'—oval; 6 to 7 in (15-18 cm) long, 3 1/2 to 4
in (9-10 cm) wide; seedless.
'Uto Kasekasei'—round; 4 to 5 in (10-12.5 cm) long; seeds
'Via Loa'—oblong; 6 to 7 in (15-18 cm) long, 4 to 5 in
(10-12.5 cm) wide; seedless; does not deteriorate quickly.
Koroieveibau provides a key to the 8 classes illustrated by leaf and
fruit outline sketches.
P.J. Wester, in 1928, published descriptions of 52 breadfruit cultivars
of the Pacific Islands. In the book, The Breadfruit of Tahiti; by G.P.
Wilder, there are detailed descriptions and close-up, black-and-white
photographic illustrations of the foliage and fruit of 30 named
varieties, and of the foliage only of one which did not have mature
fruit at the time of writing. One 'Aata', an oblong fruit, is described
as of poor quality and eaten by humans only when better breadfruits are
scarce, but it is important as feed for pigs and horses. The tree bears
heavily. Among the best are:
'Aravei'—fruit ellipsoidal; large, 8 to 12 in (10-30 cm)
long, 6 to 9 in (15-22 cm) wide; rind yellowish-green with brown spots
on the sunny side; rough, with sharp points which are shed on maturity.
Pulp is light-yellow, dry or flaky and of delicious flavor after
cooking which takes very little time. Core long, slim, with many
'Havana'—fruit oval-round; the rind yellowish-green, spiny;
pulp golden-yellow, moist, pasty, separates into loose flakes when
cooked; very sweet with excellent flavor; core oval, large, with a row
of abortive seeds. Very perishable; must be used within 2 days; cooks
quickly over fire. Fruit borne in 2's and 3's. Popularly claimed to be
one of the best breadfruits.
'Maohi'—fruit round; 6 in (15 cm) wide; rind bright
yellow-green with patches of red-brown; rough, with spines, and often
bears much exuded latex. Pulp cream-colored and smooth when cooked; of
very good flavor; slow cooking, needs even heat. Core is large. Fruit
is borne in 2's and 3's. Tree a heavy bearer. This is the most common
breadfruit of Tahiti.
'Paea'—ellipsoidal; very large, to 11 in (28 cm) long and 9
in (22.8 cm) wide; rind yellowish-green, spiny; core oblong, thick,
with a row of brown, abortive seeds; pulp bright-yellow, moist,
slightly pasty, separating into flakes when cooked; agreeable but only
one of its forms, 'Paea Maaroaro', is really sweet. Formerly, 'Paea'
was reserved for chiefs only. Needs one hour to roast on open fire. The
tree is tall, especially well formed and elegant.
'Pei'—broad-ellipsoidal; large; rind light-green, relatively
smooth; pulp light-yellow and flaky when cooked, aromatic, of sweet,
delicious "fruity" flavor; cooks quickly. Ripens earlier than others.
When the breadfruit crop is scant, the fruits of this cultivar are
stored by burying in the ground until needed, even for a year, then
taken up, wrapped in Cordyline leaves and boiled.
'Pucro'—fruit spherical or elongated; large; rind
yellow-green with small brown spots, very rough, spiny, thin; pulp
light-yellow and smooth, of excellent flavor. Cooks quickly. Highly
esteemed, ranked with the very best breadfruits. There are two oblong
forms, one with a large, hairy core.
'Rare'—fruit broad-ovoid; to 7 in (17.5 cm) long, rind
bright-green, rough, spiny; pulp of deep-cream tone, fine-grained,
smooth, flaky when cooked; of very sweet, excellent flavor. Core is
small with a great many small abortive seeds. Must be cooked for about
one hour. There are 3 forms that are well recognized. Fruits are borne
singly on a tall, open, short branched tree.
'Rare Aumee'—fruit round; 6 1/2 in (16.5 cm) across; rind
bright-green with red-brown splotches, fairly smooth at the base but
rough at the apex; pulp deep-ivory, firm, smooth when cooked; not very
sweet but of excellent flavor. Cooks quickly. Highly prized; in scarce
supply because the tall, few branched tree bears scantily.
'Rare Autia'—fruit round; 6 in (15 cm) across; rind
dull-green with red-brown markings. Pulp light-yellow when cooked and
separates into chunks; has excellent flavor. Core is large with small
abortive seeds all around. This cultivar is so superior it was
restricted to royalty and high chiefs in olden times.
'Tatara'—fruit broad-ellipsoid; verylarge, up to 10 lbs(4.5
kg) in weight; rind has prominent faces with long green spines; pulp
light-yellow, smooth when cooked and of pleasant flavor. Core is
oblong. This variety is greatly esteemed. The tree is found only in a
small coastal valley where there is heavy rainfall. It is of large
dimensions and high-branching and it is difficult to harvest the fruits.
'Vai Paere'—fruit is obovoid; 10 to 12 in (25-30 cm) long, 7
to 8 in (17.5-20 cm) wide; rind is yellow-green with red-brown
splotches and there is a short raised point at the center of each face;
pulp light-yellow, firm, smooth, a little dryish when cooked, with a
slightly acid, but excellent flavor. Core is oblong, large, with a few
abortive seeds attached. Fruit cooks easily. Tree is very tall, bears
fruit in clusters. Grows at sea level in fairly dry locations.
There are at least 50 cultivars on Ponape and about the same number on
Truk. In Samoa, a variety known as 'Maopo', with leaves that are almost
entire or sometimes very shallowly lobed, is very common and considered
one of the best.
'Puou' is another choice and much planted variety since early times. It
has deeply cut leaves and nearly round fruits 6 in (15 cm) long. 'Ulu
Ea', with leaves even more deeply lobed, has oblong fruits to 6 1/8 in
(15.5 cm) long and 5 in (12.5 cm) wide; is a longtime favorite.
In the past three decades there has been an awakening to the
possibilities of increasing the food supply of tropical countries by
more plantings of selected varieties of seedless breadfruit. In 1958,
many appealing varieties (some early, some late in season) were
collected around the South Pacific region and transferred to Western
Samoa, Tahiti and Fiji for comparative trials. Two years later, plans
were made to introduce Polynesian varieties into Micronesia, and
propagating material of 36 Micronesian types was distributed to other
The breadfruit is ultra-tropical, much tenderer than the mango tree. It
has been reported that it requires a temperature range of 60°
to 100°F (15.56°-37.78°C), an annual rainfall
of 80 to 100 in (203-254 cm), and a relative humidity of 70 to 80%.
However, in southern India, it is cultivated at sea level and up humid
slopes to an altitude of 3,500 ft (1,065 m), also in thickets in dry
regions where it can be irrigated. In the "equatorial dry climate" of
the Marquesas, where the breadfruit is an essential crop, there is an
average rainfall of only 40 to 60 in (100-150 cm) and frequent
droughts. In Central America, it is grown only below 2,000 ft (600 m).
According to many reports, the breadfruit tree must have deep, fertile,
well-drained soil. But some of the best authorities on South Pacific
plants point out that the seedless breadfruit does well on sandy coral
soils, and seeded types grow naturally on "coraline limestone" islands
in Micronesia. In New Guinea, the breadfruit tree occurs wild along
waterways and on the margins of forests in the flood plain, and often
in freshwater swamps. It is believed that there is great variation in
the adaptability of different strains to climatic and soil conditions,
and that each should be matched with its proper environment. The
Tahitian 'Manitarvaka' is known to be drought-resistant. The variety
'Mai-Tarika', of the Gilbert Islands, is salt-tolerant. 'Mejwaan', a
seeded variety of the Marshall Islands, is not harmed by brackish water
nor salt spray and has been introduced into Western Samoa and Tahiti.
The seeded breadfruit is always grown from seeds, which must be planted
when fairly fresh as they lose viability in a few weeks. The seedless
breadfruit is often propagated by transplanting suckers which spring up
naturally from the roots. One can deliberately induce suckers by
uncovering and injuring a root. Pruning the parent tree will increase
the number of suckers, and root pruning each sucker several times over
a period of months before taking it up will contribute to its survival
when transplanted. For multiplication in quantity, it is better to make
root cuttings about 1 to 2 1/2 in (2.5-6.35 cm) thick and 9 in (22 cm)
long. The ends may be dipped into a solution of potassium permanganate
to coagulate the latex, and the cuttings are planted close together
horizontally in sand. They should be shaded and watered daily, unless
it is possible to apply intermittent mist. Calluses may form in 6 weeks
(though rooting time may vary from 2 to 5 months) and the cuttings are
transplanted to pots, at a slant, and watered once or twice a day for
several months or until the plants are 2 ft (60 cm) high. A refined
method of rapid propagation uses stem cuttings taken from root shoots.
In Puerto Rico, the cuttings are transplanted into plastic bags
containing a mixture of soil, peat and sand, kept under mist for a
week, then under 65% shade, and given liquid fertilizer and regular
waterings. When the root system is well developed, they are allowed
full sun until time to set out in the field.
In India, it is reported that breadfruit scions can be successfully
grafted or budded onto seedlings of wild jackfruit trees.
Young breadfruit trees are planted in well-enriched holes 15 in (40 cm)
deep and 3 ft (0.9 m) wide that are first prepared by burning trash in
them to sterilize the soil and then insecticide is mixed with the soil
to protect the roots and shoots from grubs. The trees are spaced 25 to
40 ft (7.5-12 m) apart in plantations. Usually there are about 25 trees
per acre (84/ha). Those grown from root suckers will bear in 5 years
and will be productive for 50 years. Some growers recommend pruning of
branches that have borne fruit and would normally die back, because
this practice stimulates new shoots and also tends to keep the tree
from being too tall for convenient harvesting.
Standard mixtures of NPK are applied seasonally. When the trees reach
bearing age, they each receive, in addition, 4.4 lbs (2 kg)
superphosphate per year to increase the size and quality of the fruits.
In the South Seas, the tree fruits more or less continuously, fruit in
all stages of development being present on the tree the year around,
but there are two or three main fruiting periods. In the Caroline
Islands and the Gilbert Islands, the main ripening season is May to
July or September; in the Society Islands and New Hebrides, from
November to April, the secondary crop being in July and August.
Breadfruits are most abundant in Hawaiian markets off and on from July
to February. Flowering starts in March in northern India and fruits are
ready for harvest in about 3 months. Seeded breadfruits growing in the
Eastern Caroline Islands fruit only once a year but the season is 3
months long—from December to March. Seedless varieties
introduced from Ponape bear 2 to 3 times a year. In the Bahamas,
breadfruit is available mainly from June to November, but some fruits
may mature at other times during the year.
Harvesting and Yield
Breadfruits are picked when maturity is indicated by the appearance of
small drops of latex on the surface. Harvesters climb the trees and
break the fruit stalk with a forked stick so that the fruit will fall.
Even though this may cause some bruising or splitting, it is considered
better than catching the fruits by hand because the broken pedicel
leaks much latex. They are packed in cartons in which they are
separated individually by dividers.
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 forecasted, but experts are
skeptical and view these as unrealistic.
In Jamaica, surplus breadfruits are often kept under water until
needed. Fully ripe fruits that have fallen from the tree can be wrapped
in polyethylene, or put into polyethylene bags, and kept for 10 days in
storage at a temperature of 53.6°F (12°C). At lower
temperature, the fruit shows chilling injury. Slightly unripe fruits
that have been caught by hand when knocked down can be maintained for
15 days under the same conditions. The thickness of the polyethylene is
important: 38-or even 50-micrometer bags are beneficial, but not
Some Jamaican exporters partly roast the whole fruits to coagulate the
latex, let them cool, and then ship them by sea to New York and Europe.
Various means of preserving breadfruit for future local use are
mentioned under "Food Uses", q.v.
Pests and Diseases
Soft-scales and mealybugs are found on breadfruit trees in the West
Indies and ants infest branches that die back after fruiting. In
southern India, the fruits on the tree are subject to soft rot. This
fungus disease can be controlled by two sprays of Bordeaux mixture, one
month apart. Young breadfruit trees in Trinidad have been killed by a
disease caused by Rosellinia sp. In the Pacific Islands Fusarium sp. is
believed to be the cause of die back, and Pythium sp. is suspected in
cases of root rot. A mysterious malady, called "Pingalap disease",
killed thousands of trees from 1957 to 1960 in the Gilbert and Ellice
Islands, the Caroline Islands, Marshalls and Mariannas. The foliage
wilts and then the branch dies back. Sometimes the whole tree is
affected and killed to the roots; occasionally only half of a tree
declines. The fungus, Phytophthora palmivora, attacks the fruit on the
island of Truk. Phomopsis, Dothiorella and Phylospora cause stem-end
Like the banana and plantain, the breadfruit may be eaten ripe as a
fruit or underripe 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
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
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*
*A composite of analyses made in Central America, Mexico, Colombia,
Africa and India.
||Fruit (underripe, raw)
||21.5 29.49 g
||1.08 2.1 g
||0.004 mg (35-40 I.U.)
||0.506 0.92 mg
||15 33 mg
||[N = 16 p. 100])
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
The cyclopropane-containing sterol, cycloartenol, has been isolated
from the fresh fruit. It contitutes 12% of the non-saponifiable extract.
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
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.
Last updated: 8/23/114 by ch