Getting to Know the underestimated & neglected Buah Sukun/Breadfruit

Written by @Lan
(Photos by curiostraveller.com & facts from credited sources)
For Kulafoods Australia

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Thought of the day-“When eating a fruit, think of the person who planted the tree.”-Vietnamese Saying

(This article is written based on my own experience while visiting a fruit garden. The facts however are based on credited sources that were written academically by credible writers, mentioned in the references section. There are 2 parts of this article, Part 1 is about getting to know the Breadfruit while Part 2 is one of the many ways in cooking this fruit.)

PART 1

I am blessed to be living in Malaysia where the climate is categorized as equatorial or rather typical tropical, being hot and humid throughout the year. That is enough to have the nature helps people to cultivate fruits.

At times, no cultivation is needed as certain fruits ably to grow wildly, on their own, in abundance. One of that many fruits is Sukun, we say it here as Buah Sukun, a starchy food for human consumption. In English, that’s Breadfruit and the scientific name is Artocarpus altilis. 

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Apart from the mangoes, can you spot the Breadfruit?

I was wandering in the garden that belongs to my Chief Editor’s (@joehairie) family. It is a huge garden with many fruits and flowers. I was looking at this one strange fruit, green in color and it was just hanging there, waiting to be plucked.

It’s hexagon-like disks for the skin. @joehairie said that if it’s not human plucking it, the squirrels around will surely be the ‘consumers’. I tried fried Sukun before but I’ve never seen one in its original state, until that visit to joe’s garden.

@joehairie then said to me “Since you are here, might as well you write something about this fruit.” I replied, “Why not? Start plucking and later we’ll do a coverage up to the cooking process.” That was when @joehairie plucked one Sukun that was near to him.

Some of the Sukun(s) are just too high, yes, did I tell you, there’s plenty of Sukun in his garden? While some are hanging up there, smaller ones can be seen on the ground, the squirrels must have been the culprit, I say.

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Immature Breadfruit

Back to the scientific name, Artocarpus altilis. The name itself derived from Greek in which Artos is bread while Karpos is fruit. Altitis refers to fat. Known as one of the highest-yielding tropical food plants, a single tree producing to 200 or more football sized fruits per season.

Scientifically speaking, breadfruit is high in complex carbohydrates, low in fat, and cholesterol and gluten free. It has a moderate glycemic index (blood sugar shock) compared to white potato, white rice, white bread, and taro.

Diane Ragone (1997) mentioned that analyses have been made of fresh and cooked breadfruit at various stages of development; products produced by traditional methods such as pit fermentation, dried, roasted breadfruit and sun-dried breadfruit paste; and products such as flour and chips produced by modern processing techniques.

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Getting that Breadfruit!

Breadfruit’s carbohydrate content is as good as or better than other widely used major carbohydrate foods. Compared with other staple starch crops, it is a better source of protein than cassava and is comparable to sweet potato and banana (Graham and Negron de Bravo 1981). Breadfruit is indeed a relatively good source of iron, calcium, potassium, riboflavin and niacin.

Historically speaking, Breadfruit (Artocarpus altilis) was introduced to the Caribbean, from Tahiti in the South Pacific, as a source of food in 1793. Since then it has been recognized as an important crop for food security and still plays an important role in the diets of many households in this region. Breadnut (A. camansi), its closest relative, was introduced earlier; it is seeded and has always been less important for food (Laura B. Roberts-Nkrumah, 2012).

According to Diane Ragone (2014);

Breadfruit is said to be an extremely versatile fruit that can be prepared and eaten at all stages of development and maturity. Mature fruit is the most desirable to use for most dishes, due to its potato-like texture. There are many ways to prepare mature breadfruit: steamed, boiled, fried, baked, or cooked in traditional ways in a fire.

Then it can be used in a variety of dishes such as casseroles, fritters, croquettes, pancakes, breads, curries, stews, chowders, salads and many other dishes. Breadfruit can also be mashed and made into dips, like hummus, or vegetarian burgers or pâté. 

Immature green fruit, from golf ball size to almost full size, can be cooked entire, or cut into thin slices or chunks and boiled until tender. Once cooked, they can be eaten with dips, used in salads, and marinated, or pickled. The flavor and texture resembles artichoke heart. 

It’s a fruit that will make you full for long hours. One statement that is undeniably true. We cooked the breadfruit right after cleaning it. I consumed it. Tried it and it made me not wanting another meal for the next 6 hours. I am not lying. Try it for yourself if you don’t believe a word I said.

It’s a fruit that helped some people during a famine, long time ago. It’s a legend and perhaps the legend of this fruit is true after all. The Hawaiian myth has a story about this particular fruit.

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Young Breadfruit…take note of the size

In an article by Shannon Wianecki (May–June 2013), it is said that breadfruit originated from the sacrifice of the war god Kū. Kū got married and had children and together they lived happily.

A shortage of food supply occurred and Kū could no longer stand to see the sufferings of his people. Kū told his wife that he could get them all out of starvation, but he will need to leave.

Though his wife was a bit hesitated, she finally gave her blessing. Kū went into the ground right where he had stood until only the top of his head was visible. The whole family waited around that area of that particular soil, for days, weeping, feeling sad, watering it with their tears.

All of the sudden, a small green shoot appeared where Kū went into. It didn’t take long for the shoot to grow into a tall leafy tree. On that tree were that breadfruits that Kū’s family and neighbors ate, eventually saving them from the famine. They were no longer starved.

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Immature Breadfruit produces sticky resin, it’s best to leave it for while to get rid of that resin

When we fried the sliced Breadfruit, it tasted like bread. It’s soft. Softer than fried cassava. It’s delicious as it’s marinated before the frying process. That 1 single Breadfruit that was plucked by Joe gave many slices, enough for more than 8 people, we had one great tea-time that afternoon.

Thanks to one Breadfruit, I learned so many new things. I had to read so many articles in order to understand this particular fruit.

It’s a fruit that is ably to create so many kinds of recipe. There are so many ways to cook it. Sadly, the younger generation are into junk food. Little that they appreciate the ‘wonders’ of gardens around them.

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Fried Sukun/Breadfruit

Breadfruit has nutritional value and it’s indeed one great fruit that will help you in your diet. It helped a group of people from famine, it will continue to help maintaining healthy lifestyle, for those who consume it.

It’s not wrong to keep eating those modern day pastries. After all, it’s individual’s right to consume whatever he or she wants to. But there’s nothing wrong as well in trying to explore more of the underestimated and neglected fruits, one of them Breadfruit or Sukun.

I wrote this article in order to create that awareness among the youngsters, or perhaps to the so advanced and modernized people. Producing sustainable food in a self-sufficient garden is one way to protect the environment and at the same time getting all that health benefits from eating nature’s gift.

-To be continued in Part 2 (Cooking Buah Sukun/Breadfruit)

References/Reading List

Andrews, L. (1990). Breadfruit varieties in the Windward Islands. Tropical Fruits Newsl. 1:3-4.

Barrau, J. (1976). Breadfruit and relatives. Pp. 201-202 in Evolution of Crop Plants. (N.W. Simmonds, ed.). Longman, London.

Cowley, E. (1898). Tropical Industries: the breadfruit. Queensland Agric. J. 2(4):299-301.

Diane Ragone (1997). Breadfruit. Artocarpus altilis(Parkinson) Fosberg. Promoting the conservation and use of underutilized and neglected crops. 10. Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research, Gatersleben/International Plant Genetic Resources Institute, Rome, Italy.

Diane Ragone (2014). Breadfruit nutritional value and versatility. Breadfruit Institute of the National Tropical Botanical Garden and Hawai‘i Homegrown Food Network. Retrieved from the portal of State of Hawai‘i Department of Agriculture, on April 7, 2017.

Graham, H.D. and E. Negron de Bravo. (1981). Composition of the breadfruit. J. Food Sci. 46(2):535-539

Gunarto, B. (1992). Cilicap method of breadfruit seedling propagation. Farm Forestry News 5(2):1, 3-4.

Laura B. Roberts-Nkrumah (2012). Breadnut and Breadfruit Propagation. A manual for commercial propagation. Retrieved from www.fao.org on April 7, 2017. (This manual was developed under the FAO-funded Technical Cooperation Project, “Promoting Breadfruit and Breadnut Development in St. Kitts and Nevis TCP/STK/3301” and implemented in collaboration with the Department of Agriculture, Ministry of International Trade, Industry, Commerce, Agriculture, Marine Resources, Consumer Affairs and Constituency Empowerment, in St. Kitts.)

MacMillan, H.F. (1908). Breadfruits of the tropics. Tropical Agric. (Ceylon) 31:428-429

Morton, J. (1987). Breadfruit. Pp. 50-58 in Fruits of Warm Climates. Morton Collectanea. University of Miami, Coral Gables, Florida.

Nochera, C. and M. Caldwell. (1992). Nutritional evaluation of breadfruit-containing composite flour products. J. Food Sci. 57(6):1420-1423.

Shannon Wianecki (May–June 2013). Breadfruit. Maui Nō Ka ʻOi Magazine, Haynes Publishing Group. Retrieved from mauimagazine.net on April 8, 2017.  

Common names

( Source: National Tropical Botanical Garden )

arbol de pan, fruta de pan, pan, panapen, (Spanish)
arbre à pain, fruit à pain (French)
beta (Vanuatu)
bia, bulo, nimbalu (Solomon Islands)
blèfoutou, yovotévi (Bénin)
breadfruit (English)
brotfruchtbaum (German)
broodvrucht, broodboom (Dutch)
cow, panbwa, pain bois, frutapan, and fruta de pan (Caribbean)
fruta pao, pao de massa (Portuguese)
kapiak (Papua New Guinea)
kuru (Cook Islands)
lemai, lemae (Guam, Mariana Islands)
mazapan (Guatemala, Honduras)
meduu (Palau)
mei, mai (Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Marquesas, Tonga, Tuvalu)
mos (Kosrae)
rata del (Sri Lanka)
rimas (Philippines)
shelisheli (Tanzania)
sukun (Indonesia, Malaysia)
‘ulu (Hawai‘i, Samoa, Rotuma, Tuvalu)
‘uru (Society Islands)
uto, buco (Fiji)

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5 thoughts on “Getting to Know the underestimated & neglected Buah Sukun/Breadfruit

    1. Hi Jacky, that’s amazing, I am gonna get to YouTube now to see that video. Thank you for dropping by, appreciate that very much!

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