Health from your gardens 4 – Bread Fruit

Breadfruit called botanically as Artocarpus altilis is a flowering tree in the mulberry family , “Moraceae” growing in many parts of Southeast Asia, South India and many other countries. The texture of the cooked moderately ripe fruit and its potato like flavour similar to freshly baked bread has given its common name – the “bread fruit”. It is called Divi Halasu in Kannada, Curry Chakka or Kottai Palaakai or Pilaakaai in Tamil, Koora Panasa Panu or Panasakai in Telugu , Cheema Chakka in Malayalam and Neer Phanas in Marathi. Bread fruit is known as “buen pan” or “good bread in Indonesia &in Malaysia it is called as “sukun”. In Belize, the Mayan people call it “masapan”. In Puerto Rico it is popular and called as “panapen” or “pana”. It is closely related to other tropical fruits like jackfruit, figs and mulberries. It is used as staple food like rice, sweet potatoes, banana and coconut in many East Asian, Polynesian and Caribbean countries. It is said that ancestors of Polynesians found these trees in New Guinea about 3500 years ago. They gave up rice cultivation they had brought from Taiwan and raised bread fruit wherever they went in Pacific region.

The tree:
The breadfruit tree grows to a height of about 85 feet (26 m); it has thick leaves with intopinnate lobes. All parts of tree yield a milky juice, latex useful for boat caulking. The trees are monoecious having both male and female flowers on the same tree. Male flower come first, then the females which grow into capitula, capable of pollination in 3 days. Gradually fruit develops, each fruit from 1500-2000 flowers, appearing as hexagonal disks on the skin of the fully developed fruit. A fully grown fruit may weigh even as much as 3 kgs. Many bread fruit trees yield throughout the year, but some only once a year.

Flax Flowers

A full grown Bread Fruit tree

Breadfruit is one of the highest-yielding food plants and a single tree can produce 200 or more fruits at a time per season.

Nutritional information :
100 Gms of fruits:

Energy – 103 Cals
Carbohydrates – 27.12 Gms
Proteins – 1.07 Gms
Total fat – 0.20 gm
Cholesterol – 0
Dry Fibres – 4.9 gms
Sodium – 2 mgs
Potassium – 490 mgs

Vitamins – mainly Folates, B1, B6 & in minute quantities A,C,E & K.

Small amounts of minerals – Calcium, Copper, Iron, Magnesium, Selenium, Zinc etc.

Health benefits of Bread Fruit:

  • 100 Gms of fruit provides 103 calories of energy.
  • Its pulp is rich in fibres and useful as a laxative. It helps reduce cholesterol, reduces BP, helps control obesity and protective against colon cancer.
  • It has quite a few anti-oxidants like Xanthin and Luein.
  • Bread fruit is rich in Vitamin C, helpful to develop body resistance and also works as anti-oxidant. It has also many other vitamins in smaller quantities.
  • It is a good source of Potassium, useful in regulating heart rate & BP. It has also other useful minerals like copper, Iron, selenium, manganese etc.
  • Proteins in bread fruit has a higher amounts of amino acids than in Soya.
  • Bread fruit seeds contain 7.4 gms of proteins per 100 gms seeds and also good source of several minerals.

Cooking & Recipes:

Most parts of the fruit except the outermost green uneven skin and innermost fibrous core are edible. Bud stage, immature fruits, mature fruits and ripe fruits are all edible and tasty too. It is a common “vegetable” item used to make various kinds of dishes, being a good source of carbs and nourishment. South Indian Sambar and Mor Kozhambu (Majjige Huli in Kannada), Palya (a dry dish) are dishes used at any meal at any time. They are mixed with rice and eaten.

Bread Fruit slice fry

Bread fruit Sambar

Cubes of bread fruit can be used in soups, stews, stir-fries etc like potato. Slices can be used as French fries or like chips.

Thin slices dipped in suitable batter and deep fried as “Bajji” makes a tasty snack.

The seeds in mature fruit, gathered and sun-dried, can be roasted and eaten, like many other nuts. But raw seeds are bitter in taste and may choke; hence best avoided.

The fruit can also be ground into paste and made into pancakes, cooked and eaten.

Fresh ripe fruit can be eaten as dessert or used to make sweet bread, muffins, cakes and puddings.

Once cooked, bread fruit can be eaten or processed into variety of other foods. A common product is a mixture of cooked or fermented bread fruit mash mixed with coconut milk and baked in banana leaves.

Whole fruit can also be cooked in open fire, then central fibrous part cored out and filled with other foods like coconut milk, sugar, butter, cooked meats or other fruits. The filled fruit can be further cooked for proper permeation of the flavour inside.

The Hawaiian staple food called “poi”, made of mashed taro root is substituted or augmented with mashed bread fruit, making a “bread fruit poi”, also called “poi ulu”.

In Puerto Rico, bread fruit called as “panapen” or “pana” for short is cooked with salted cod fish, olive oil and onions.

Other uses:
The wood of bread fruit tree is light weight with specific gravity of 0.27 and is also resistant to termites and ship worms. Hence it is used as timber for some parts of ship. Wood pulp is also used for making a special paper called “bread fruit tapa”. It is also used in traditional medicine for sore eyes, sciatica etc.

Native Hawaiians use its sticky latex to trap birds, whose feathers were made into cloaks.

Scientists have also found various chemicals which are very strong mosquito repellents.

Bread fruit is sometimes considered a “wonder food” and growing these trees is encouraged in countries with poor food security.

Try some of the nice dishes made out of bread fruit and enjoy good health too.

Be knowledgeable, follow healthy life style and enjoy good health,

Best Wishes,
Dr M Mohan Rao,
M.D & Chief Surgeon (Now retired),
Dr U Mohan Rau Memorial Hospital, Chennai.
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