Festival: A Bounty Of Breadfruit

The Breadfruit Institute, in partnership with Ho’oulu ka ‘Ulu and Hawaii Homegrown Network, recently hosted the Breadfruit Festival Takes Root to create awareness about the use of ‘ulu (breadfruit) as an attractive, nutritious, delicious, abundant, affordable and culturally appropriate food that improves Hawaii’s food security.

The daylong event included cooking demonstrations, sales of breadfruit saplings, strolling musicians, cultural demonstrations, presentations and food made with bread-fruit.

The Breadfruit Institute at National Tropical Botanical Garden promotes conservation and use of breadfruit for food and reforestation, manages the world’s largest breadfruit collection and participates in a global initiative to eliminate hunger.

Varieties available at the festival: Ma’afala, Otea, Piipiia and Puaa.


Breadfruit has been an important staple crop and main component of Pacific agroforestry for more that 3,000 years. The Breadfruit Institute and Global

Breadfruit respond to critical global food security issues by expanding plantings of good quality breadfruit varieties in tropical regions. The profitable and sustainable solution for farmers in Hawaii includes access to clean, pathogen-indexed, tissue-cultured, non-GMO saplings that are uniform and vigorous.

Of the 120 varieties the institute maintains, the Ma’afala is a variety available to residents and farmers. Originating from Upolu, Samoa, Ma’afala is a small, compact tree (up to 33 feet tall) with good branching. It produces an abundance of mostly seedless fruit, the average weight being 2 pounds. White flesh is solid and dense, and firm when cooked. Ma’afala flour can be used in gluten-free bread and contains 7.6 percent protein.

Season: Ma’afala fruits from July through December with some off-season fruiting in January through May.

Storage: Breadfruit can be consumed in three stages: Ripe (brownish and very soft), immature (bright green and firm) and mature (yellowish with a slight give). Once picked, store immature breadfruit on a board overnight. The latex sap will drain. Sandy Nishek of Kaua’i Nursery & Landscaping stores immature and mature breadfruit in ice water until ready for use. Store ripe breadfruit in the refrigerator and use right away. Once cooked, breadfruit freezes well.

Preparation: The skin of ripe ‘ulu will turn brown and the flesh will become very soft and sweet. Ripe breadfruit can be used as a replacement for pumpkin or banana in breads. For dessert, cut in half, remove core, fill cavity with butter and cinnamon, and bake face-down until golden.

Immature and mature breadfruit have a mild flavor and can be used in place of potatoes for chowder, curries, stir-fries and stews. It also makes fantastic fries, fritters or chips, and can be pureed or mashed and used as a side dish. Breadfruit can be boiled, steamed, roasted, baked, pickled, fried, frozen, and dried and ground into flour. ‘Ulu pairs well with coconut milk, milk, butter, ginger, turmeric, garlic, chili peppers and fresh herbs.

There are two ways to prepare immature and mature breadfruit, which when cooked, has the texture and aroma of stiff bread dough.

I like to coat a large pot with cooking oil to prevent the sap from sticking to the sides. Fill it with water, add the whole breadfruit and simmer for about an hour, until it can be pierced with a toothpick. Once cooled, the stem and core easily are removed before peeling and dicing.

Evan McAfee of Midnight Bear Breads cuts the stem off and peels raw breadfruit with a two-sided vegetable peeler. He cuts the fruit in half, removes the core and dices it into 1-inch chunks. He boils it until the outside is translucent but the center is still firm. Evan and Ursa Swift use cooked breadfruit in recipes including hummus and gluten-free bread.

Health benefits: Breadfruit is low in saturated fat, sodium and cholesterol; high in carbohydrates, vita-min C, fiber and potassium; and a good source of calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, thiamine and niacin.

For more information, visit breadfruit.org.


One of the cookbooks for sale at the festival was Ike Aina: From the Seed to the Table, Cooking with Locally Grown Foods. Kua o ka La Public Charter School and the nonprofit Ho’oulu Lahiu on Hawaii Island produced the cookbook.

This recipe, which is in the cookbook, took second place in the dessert category at the 2011 Breadfruit Festival held at Kealakekua, Kona. To order the cookbook, call Susan Osborne at 640-3439. Makes 1 dozen popsicles.

* 2 ‘ulu, very ripe
* 2 cups coconut cream
* 4 tablespoons honey
* 1/2 cup sugarcane juice
* 1 cup lilikoi juice
* sea salt

Mix lilikoi juice and honey in a squeeze bottle and set aside. Scoop bread-fruit flesh, honey and sugarcane juice into a bowl and mix lightly. Add half of the mixture and 1 cup of coconut cream to blender and puree. Repeat with remaining ingredients. Spoon into popsicle molds. As you fill them, squeeze in lilikoi juice, freeze and enjoy.