Crop of the Month: ‘Ulu

The entire breadfruit tree is a multipurpose and useful resource.

By Damon Adamson.

Belonging to the Moracceae (Fig or Mulberry Family), breadfruit or ‘ulu in Hawai‘i encompasses four primary sub-species: Artocarpus altilis, Artocarpus incisus, Artocarpus mariannensis or Artocarpus communis. Grown in the Hawaiian Islands, as well as throughout the Pacific Basin area. They have been hybridized and many diversities have become prolific. There are currently 24 distinct species of breadfruit. Fruit size, shape, coloration, seeded or seedless, and seasonal ripening are a few of the differences.

The breadfruit tree is a large evergreen, growing 40-60 feet in height with lateral branch spreads that commonly exceed 30 feet. Its woody primary trunk can be two feet thick while its lateral branches are much smaller in diameter. Its distinctive 7-11 lobed dark green leaves grow alternatively on stout leafstalks of one or two inches. The elliptical shaped leaves measure 15-20 inches in length and 8-12 inches wide. The distinctive leaf shape forms from finely haired buds, five inches or less in length, which are located at the branch nodes.

Breadfruit is monoeceous or having both sex organs within a single tree. The staminate male flower, located at the branch tip grows upright and is yellowish-green, while the pistillate female flower forms a large ball, located just below the male flower. The fruit develops from the female flower and is made up of thousands of fertilized fruit growing together around a core that encompass the breadfruit in its entirety. Propagation is by root cuttings, suckers, or layering and in the seeded variety, by seed.

Equal to if not more than the variety of ‘ulu or breadfruit is its uses. Generally speaking, the entire tree can be categorized into a multipurpose and useful resource. As is commonly known, human consumption of the fruit and seeds, where available, is practiced in many forms, however breadfruit uncooked is also used to supplement livestock feed, and the large swathes of shade produced by the tree offers areas where more sun sensitive foods can be cultivated. The timber is used for housing, canoes, furniture, and firewood. The large leaves are commonly used to cover cooking pots, earthen ovens, and as wrapping for food storage, while the sticky, milk-like sap produced from the tree can be used to water seal cracks in housing, furniture, and canoes, like caulking prior to painting. There are strong suggestions of medicinal qualities also associated with the breadfruit tree.

Breadfruit Salad

  • 2 cups cooked mature breadfruit.
  • 1 cup finely sliced vegetables such as cucumber, cabbage or carrots.
  • 3 tablespoons chopped onion.
  • 1-2 tablespoons lime or other citrus juice.
  • 1 chopped hard boiled egg.
  1. Cut the cooked breadfruit into cubes.
  2. Combine all ingredients.
  3. Serve on greens such as watercress or on edible hibiscus for a decorative touch.

Happy growing…