Randy McLaren, a Jamaican poet, and his praise for breadfruit:
"Breadfruit, mi love mi breadfruit, from the treetop to the root!"
BREADFRUIT'S ARRIVAL IN JAMAICA
The introduction of the breadfruit tree (Artocarpus altilis) to Jamaica was during years of slavery, when “the great famine of the 1780s, caused by a series of hurricanes that overlapped the war with the American colonies” forced the British to try and find an alternative to imported rice and flour. This search for a staple crop to replace imported goods and the hurricane damaged plantain and yam “emerged in the midst of a bourgeoning imperial European interest in economic botany…actively experimenting with new crops in new environments”(Higman 145). So with the birth of Jamaica’s first botanical gardens and the need for a staple food crop, botanist Joseph Banks advocated for the breadfruit to come to the Caribbean. The British government were convinced and plants were taken from Tahiti, and carried by Captain William Bligh, and in 1793, 346 plants made it to Jamaica and were planted both at Bath Botanical Garden as well as across the island.
It took a while for the breadfruit to become an accepted food. For one, while Jamaican slaves were used to yam and plantain, which traveled with them to Jamaica and was familiar, the breadfruit was foreign and unusual. Even though the trees grew and produced very well, “the breadfruit suffered by being promoted explicitly as a food for slave and as one imposed by the master. Seen in this way, reluctance to accept the breadfruit at the expense of the long-established roots and fruits of the provision grounds was not simple conservatism…but rather a vehicle of resistance to the will of the slave-owning class” (Higman 149).
So breadfruit never became the hit that Joseph Banks or the British government intended for it to be, but by the end of the 19th century it was a very important crop for the poor, as the tree grew very well all across Jamaica and could bear up to 150 fruits a season!
Today, everyone from all walks of life enjoys the breadfruit. A good breadfruit can be found at the market, ripe or ready to eat for an average of J$150-200 ($1.20-$1.61 USD), and it can last for several meals!
from “Jamaican Food: History, Biology, Culture” by B.W. Higman (2008)
HOW TO ROAST A BREADFRUIT
Find a ripe breadfruit at your local market or pick it off the tree. (Most markets have breadfruits already roasted if you don't want to go through the trouble.)
Remove the stem and pierce a hole in the center.
Build a fire to roast it up!
Rotate a few times while it roasts so that it cooks evenly. When it is done it will look something like this:
Remove the outer skin.
Eat until it runs out--and it is tasty with everything!
Some meals with breadfruit:
Is it obvious from the above photos that I am a vegetarian? Breadfruit is great with all meat dishes, too! I love breadfruit because it can be enjoyed in so many different ways. I've experimented with it myself, from improv french toast breadfruit to making little open-faced breadfruit sandwiches. I've seen recipes using breadfruit flowers to make jam, and the Trees that Feed Foundation even teach people how to make breadfruit flour! The other day I hosted two travelers who were coming from Hawaii, where breadfruit is called "'ulu". We decided to roast one up on my coal stove and in the morning, we heated it back up and ate it with salt and honey, it was delicious.
How do you like to eat your breadfruit?