Friday, 14 August 2009
We lost our biggest breadfruit tree last week. I think it was a good thing, the fruits were too high for us to harvest and with it gone it allows a lot more light to fall on two smaller breadfruits. We have decided to toppar these trees. It goes against our no pruning belief, but by removing their tops and selective pruning we can keep the trees small enough to manage the fruit.
I love breadfruit. Firstly the tree is beautiful, graceful with large palmate leaves in a dark glossy green. The fruit hangs from the branches, heavy, dense and round. It's a lighter shade of green and covered with small hexagonal shaped - not scales - but markings, that, as the fruit ripens, become stretched and full promising abundance within. Cutting it it bleeds thick white latex that sticks fingers and lips together. The breadfruit can be roasted, boiled, baked or, my favourite, fried in thick slices. It's delicious. It's cooked with the thin skin attached and can be eaten as is, no need to peel. The flesh is solid and seedless, though it must have had seeds at some point as there is a denser core which is surrounded by a beautiful lacy star pattern of holes about a millimeter in length and elliptical. It's a very filling carbohydrate with more nutritional value than potatoes, it makes excellent chips, here it is roasted or boiled in stews.
The tree propagates itself through root shoots and is quite difficult to manage, the ones we have in the nursery and on the farm appeared by themselves, sometimes quite far from the mother plant. When I lived by the river breadfruit trees could be found at some distance from each other along the banks, I think pieces of root must have broken off and were carried to new resting places.
The Breadfruit is native to Polynesia. In the 1800s the British decided it would be the perfect food for slaves on their plantations in South America and the Caribbean. They sent Captain Bligh to Tahiti to gather hundreds of seedlings. It took Bligh and his team of botanists 6 months to establish trees strong enough to make the journey. When the returning ship got caught in the Doldrums and Bligh began giving the crews' water rations to the plants the men started their infamous mutiny. Bligh survived and was sent once again to Tahiti - the second time he succeeded. I'm glad he did.