What The Heck Is Breadfruit And Why Did Bligh Want It?

by Steven Doyle

Breadfruit has long been a staple in Pacific islands, from where it spread to the Caribbean and Africa. Most probably first heard of the tropical wunderkind food that is packed full of nutrients while studying our history which discussed the expeditions of the HMS Bounty commanded by Lieutenant Bligh, and one Mr. Christian who eventually was the lead in a mutiny.             

The perils of the Bounty have been extolled in numerous books, films and poems, detailing the accounts of the ship. The Bounty was purchased by the Royal Navy for a single purpose: to pick up breadfruit trees in Tahiti and transport them to the West Indies to grow as food for the slaves.

The first expedition in 1789 of course lead to disastrous details, but there was a second run for the breadfruit in 1792 commanded once again by the promoted Captain Bligh where he successfully gathered over 2,000 breadfruit trees and carried them off to the West Indies. The slaves in Jamaica ultimately refused the breadfruit and the mission was ultimately considered a failure.

Breadfruit has a distinctive uncooked potato-like flavor. It looks remarkably like jackfruit, but that tastes more like a starchy sour banana. Breadfruit is best served sauteed and masked, assuming the flavors of any sauce or spice that is added.

It is no wonder that the natives of Jamaica did not appreciate the breadfruit. Although abundant and easy to grow, the fruit is bland and tasteless. There are now horticulturalists in Hawaii out to change the fate of what could be nature’s gift as a super food including Dr. Diane Ragone and Ian Cole of the Breadfruit Institute. They celebrate the fruit with a festival in August where there are workshops and tastings to promote breadfruit.

Captain Bligh would be proud.

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Filed under Bake Sale, Festival, Just Curious, Steven Doyle

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