May 2013 Volume 10

Fortis Greetings from the Land of our Breadfruit Ancestors

Michael O. Walters
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I do not know if I am missed, but some of you may have noticed that I was not around taking photographs of the assortment of shapes and sizes of heads of KC old boys at this year’s Florida picnic.  Why is that?  It is because I am taking photographs of the assortment of shapes and sizes of breadfruit in the land of our breadfruit ancestors, the Pacific Islands.  Many of you will recall our history books which referenced Captain Bligh transporting breadfruit plants from the Pacific.  I am in Tutuila in American Samoa, one of the Pacific islands and although the Jamaican breadfruit may not have been imported directly from this particular island, this is the region of the breadfruit and hence the ancestors of the breadfruit currently grown and loved in Jamaica.   

I love breadfruit, but I always thought “breadfruit was breadfruit”.  Yes, sometimes the shape varied a little, there was the yellow heart and white heart, and there is some variation in taste but to me all were nice and, “breadfruit was breadfruit”.  

The Gleaner  reports that five varieties of breadfruit plants were brought into Jamaica.  I assume our current plants descended from those.  Now that I am living in American Samoa, I am learning that there are over 150 varieties of breadfruit (ulu) in this region

Some breadfruit are more elongated, some rounder, some smoother than others, some with the serrated leaves we see in Jamaica, but some without serrated leaves.  The fruit and trees also come in various sizes, and believe it or not, some breadfruit has seeds that are also edible.   These are in fact breadfruit, and not to be confused with the scientifically related breadnut (chataigne) popular among the Indian community in Trinidad. I have never seen breadfruit with seeds in Jamaica, but the apparently the breadnut was introduced by the French (email correspondence with Dr. Diane Ragone of the Breadfruit Institute of the National Tropical Botanical Garden in Hawaii.

Knowing of my interest in the breadfruit, a Samoan work colleague was kind enough to take me around to show me some of the breadfruit varieties, as well as providing comments for those in American Samoa.  Photographs are attached and comments are shown below.




Easy to roast, has lots of seeds


Leaves not serrated, hard to roast


Some has lots of seeds, some few seed, takes longer to roast than Aveloloa


Has seeds but not many, good to roast


Takes a long time to roast, small leaves


Good to roast, few seeds, leaves not serrated

The Samoa News October 24, 2012 edition reports that the Ma’afala, because of high protein and mineral nutrition is currently being introduced to the Caribbean including Jamaica.

Because of the numerous varieties in American Samoa, there are also various ways of cooking.  In Jamaica we usually roast it in the skin on charcoals or in an oven, boil it, fry it after roasting, and processing to make breadfruit flour, and chips.  In American Samoa the hard texture of some varieties does not allow for roasting in the skin so first the skin is peeled before it is roasted.   Then there is the popular way of boiling the breadfruit, pouring off the water and cooking it down in coconut milk (fa’afilu ulu), and ultimately a slow cooking method of peeling, cutting up, and placing breadfruit among preheated hot rocks.   As in Jamaica, breadfruit is also cooked and used to feed pigs.  Now that I am here I am learning that there are many varieties of breadfruit, many ways of cooking breadfruit, and not all breadfruit are the same.  Therefore “Breadfruit is not breadfruit”.

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