Human Flower Project
Breadfruit: The Real Thing
There’s no taste like home; for Georgia Silvera Seamans, that’s creamy Jamaican breadfruit.
Artocarpus altilis is a member of the mulberry family.
Drawing: Bats and Breadfruit
I received a small gift of Jamaican breadfruit recently. Until I prepared it, frying slices and serving them with cherry tomatoes, avocado, and scrambled egg for dinner, I hadn’t realized how much I’ve missed breadfruit.
You can eat it with breakfast, lunch, or dinner. And I have. My husband, a non-Jamaican, asked me what one would traditionally eat with breadfruit. It partners well with eggs and slices of tomatoes, and I also remembered one of my favorite accompaniments – ackee and saltish, Jamaica’s national dish. (Or maybe it was ackee & saltfish, prepared with onions and tomatoes, with a side of breadfruit.)
My mother used to prepare breadfruit by frying peeled slices or by slicing a breadfruit that had been roasted on the stovetop. Simply place the fruit on a burner, slowly turning it until it is charred entirely. Slice the breadfruit and remove the skin before serving. More detailed roasting preparations as well as selection tips can be found here.
Breadfruit, with avocado and scrambled eggs, for dinner
Photo: Georgia Silvera Seamans
Breadfruit is the fruit of the tree Artocarpus altilis, a member of the mulberry family. When cooked, it has a moist, almost creamy texture but tastes like savory, slightly sweet bread – delicious! The breadfruit is “believed to be native to a vast area extending from New Guinea through the Indo-Malayan Archipelago to Western Micronesia.” The plant’s Wikipedia entry relays the following origin story from Hawai’i:
“According to an etiological Hawaiian myth, the breadfruit originated from the sacrifice of the war god Kū. After deciding to live secretly among mortals as a farmer, Kū 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, Kū 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, Kū 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 Kū had stood. Quickly, the shoot grew into a tall and leafy tree that was laden with heavy breadfruits that Kū‘s family and neighbors gratefully ate, joyfully saved from starvation.”
The breadfruit’s female bloom is made up of a thousand tightly packed flowers
Photo: Aloha Dentom
Jamaica experienced a series of famines between 1780 and 1786, and plantation owners lobbied “King George III to import seedless breadfruit trees to provide food for their slaves.” The seedless breadfruit became well established in Jamaica while both seedless and seeded fruits are regularly eaten in Guyana and Trinidad. Seedless trees are grown on Key West in Florida but require intensive care and greenhouses to thrive on the mainland.
Fruits and vegetables “in passenger baggage for personal use” must be declared to U.S. Customs. Only fruit and vegetables on the approved list in APHIS’s FAVIR (aka Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service - Fruits and Vegetables Import Requirements) database are admissible. Breadfruit has no active and/or recent alerts in the FAVIR database. Of course, one can buy canned breadfruit (or, I suppose, fly to Key West), but there is nothing like the real thing.