breadfruit: abundant, delicious and free!
“Hurry up! I can’t hold it much longer!” Holly was pulling down a branch by practically hanging on it so that I could grab the fruit on the end. I jumped up as high as I could but the fruit slipped out of my hands, stubbornly staying fixed on the tree. “So close!” I said, but Holly wasn’t impressed. It didn’t help that we were wearing flip flops on the side of a damp and slightly muddy hill near our condo. “Pull down as hard as you can” I said to Holly as I prepared to take another leap. “OK, but you better get it this time”, Holly said flatly. Thankfully, I did successfully grab the fruit but I slid down part of the hillside when I landed.
Holly’s hands were throbbing and my feet were muddy but we secured the precious prize we were after: fresh picked breadfruit.
Of all the wonderful new fruits we have learned about since moving here, breadfruit is probably the most useful and versatile. Picked while still green, it’s a starchy staple that can be used pretty much as you would potatoes. If you allow it to ripen further, the fruit becomes softer and sweeter and smells and tastes a bit like passion fruit.
Breadfruit, or pana as it is called locally, is also an excellent grain alternative for those on a gluten-free or paleo diet. It has more fiber and is more nutrient-dense than other popular carbohydrates such as rice and potatoes.
Another great thing about breadfruit is that the trees produce A LOT of fruit. There is a huge breadfruit tree down the hill from our condo that seems to always have fruit on it. Each fruit can be as large as a BOWLING BALL and lasts for weeks. Holly freezes the sweet pulp into measured bags so it can conveniently be used for baked goods when needed. We’ve never had to purchase a breadfruit.
Their value as a highly productive food source was recognized early on. Apparently, the trees originated in the South Pacific and were brought to the Caribbean in the late eighteenth century by the British to feed their slaves.
We have used them to make chips and fries and we’ve put them in soups as well, but the following are our three favorite ways to use this versatile fruit.
Tostones de Pana
Tostones are fried plantain slices that are popular here in Puerto Rico and much of the Caribbean. The first few times I had them I didn’t really care for them, but done right, they are a delicious complement to pretty much any meal. However, made with breadfruit, tostones de pana, as they are called, are even better in my opinion. They have a lighter flavor and texture, similar to, but much better than, French fries.
“Papas” de Pana
Cubed and pan fried with onions and peppers, they are a wonderful complement to breakfast. These can also be used as a dinner side dish as well. We had them with chicken mole last night… yum!
Ripe breadfruit can be used to make various nutritious, grain-free baked goods. The two lonely pana-cakes below are all that are left from this morning’s breakfast. :)
I’m sure this list will grow as we continue to find tasty ways to use this amazing local food source. :)