BookPDF Available

Hawaiian Breadfruit: Ethnobotany, Nutrition, and Human Ecology



Content may be subject to copyright.
Ethnobotany, Nutrition,
and Human Ecology
Brien A. Meilleur
Richard R. Jones
C. Alan Titchenal
Alvin S. Huang
Ethnobotany, Nutrition,
and Human Ecology
Ethnobotany, Nutrition,
and Human Ecology
Brien A. Meilleur
Richard R. Jones
C. Alan Titchenal
Alvin S. Huang
Honolulu, Hawai‘i
College of Tropical Agriculture
and Human Resources
University of Hawai‘i at Ma¯noa
©2004 College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources
University of Hawai‘i at Mänoa
All rights reserved
In memory of Lois A. and Sherwood R.H. Greenwell
For information, contact:
CTAHR Publications and Information Office
3050 Maile Way, Honolulu, HI 96822
808-956-5966 (fax)
Printed by (to be filled in by streamline creative)
ISBN 1-929325-17-7
Botany .......................................................................................................................... 2
Agroecology ................................................................................................................. 4
Breadfruit locations in Hawai‘i ............................................................................. 4
Growing conditions ............................................................................................... 6
Soils................................................................................................................ 8
Phenology ...................................................................................................... 9
Historical Aspects of Hawaiian Breadfruit ............................................................ 12
Traditional oral history ........................................................................................ 13
Hawaiian beliefs, sayings, and legends about breadfruit .................................... 14
Breadfruit introduction, early arboriculture, and plantations .............................. 15
Breadfruit and political implications ................................................................... 17
Recent times ........................................................................................................ 18
The Ethnobotany of Breadfruit in Hawai‘i ............................................................ 18
Material culture ................................................................................................... 19
Construction ................................................................................................. 19
Domestic applications .................................................................................. 19
Specialized uses ........................................................................................... 21
Medicine .............................................................................................................. 21
Procurement of protein, fat, and other animal products ...................................... 22
Role in the human diet ........................................................................................ 23
Preparation of breadfruit as food......................................................................... 26
Food preservation ................................................................................................ 27
Food Value of Hawaiian Breadfruit ........................................................................ 28
Methods of breadfruit sample preparation and analysis...................................... 31
Overall nutritional contribution to Hawaiians..................................................... 35
Seasonality, Reproduction, and Yield ..................................................................... 40
Seasonality .......................................................................................................... 40
Reproduction and longevity ................................................................................ 42
Yield .................................................................................................................... 42
Conclusions ............................................................................................................... 47
Acknowledgments ..................................................................................................... 49
Appendix: Historical Citations of Breadfruit Occurrence
on the Main Islands of the Hawaiian Archipelago .............................................. 51
References.................................................................................................................. 55
Hawaiian Breadfruit 1
he breadfruit tree, known throughout the Hawaiian
archipelago as ‘ulu, occupied an important multi-
dimensional niche in ancient Hawaiian culture. This majestic,
spreading tree figured prominently in Hawaiian spiritual life, was
employed in a range of material applications, and served as a
ready source of food and medicine. Bread-
fruit trees were common features of the
landscape around villages and work sites and
were also cultivated in large, well tended
groves, both before and for some time after
the arrival of Captain Cook in 1778. Today
‘ulu is, on the whole, relatively uncommon
as a food in Hawai‘i. Although its wood is
still sometimes used for carving, its practical
uses today are substantially fewer than in
earlier times. Nevertheless, breadfruit trees
are still found throughout Hawai‘i,
particularly in rural locations and in the
remnants of ancient plantations.
In the following pages we summarize some of the available
ethnographic and ethnohistorical information about the Hawaiian
breadfruit tree, situate its occurrence in Hawai‘i, evaluate its
importance in ancient Hawaiian economy and human ecology,
and add a modern nutritional assessment of the fruit. Our purpose
is to address questions of its significance in ancient Hawai‘i,
especially as a crop for food and animal feed, and to stimulate
renewed interest in ‘ulu as a culturally appropriate component of
Hawaiian landscapes and as a healthful and easily produced food.
The trees that once shaded many Hawaiian homes and work sites
could do so again throughout the islands, providing nutritious,
inexpensive, and easily prepared food for many months of the
Hawaiian Breadfruit
Ethnobotany, Nutrition, and Human Ecology
Breadfruit trees were
common features of
the landscape around
villages and work
sites and were also
cultivated in large,
well tended groves,
both before and for
some time after the
arrival of Captain
Cook in 1778.
2Hawaiian Breadfruit
Edible species of the paleotropical (Old World Tropical) genus
Artocarpus, a member of the mulberry family (Moraceae), are
believed to have originated in Indo-Malaysia, western Melanesia,
and the Philippines,(11, 12, 56, 111) although some authors believe their
presence in the Philippines may have resulted from a more recent
introduction.(103, 120) According to French ethnobotanist Jacques
Barrau, three of the perhaps 50 species of breadfruit were
domesticated, with “the crop [then having] been fairly profoundly
modified in cultivation.” (13, p. 201) Many-seeded and seedless
cultivated varieties (cultivars) are known. Seeded varieties are
diploid (2n = 56), while seedless ones are triploid (2n = 84).(102)
The breadfruit, known to botanists as Artocarpus altilis
(Parkinson) Fosb., is a large, sterile tree with monoecious flowers
and edible fruits; the Hawaiian type is most likely of hybrid origin.
The species was first described
to the Western world in the
accounts of the Spanish explorer
Mendaña, following his visit to
the Marquesas Islands in 1595.(49)
Breadfruit is distributed through-
out Oceania, and in Polynesia it
is absent only on Easter Island
and in New Zealand and the
Chatham Islands. Its seedlessness
is believed to have originated in
Polynesia,(101, 111) with the number
of cultivars increasing noticeably
as one moves from the western to the eastern Polynesian
archipelagoes. The infraspecific diversity of breadfruit varieties
in Polynesia is especially marked in the Marquesas and the Society
Islands (presently French Polynesia), where scores of clones—
perhaps even hundreds(86)—were once cultivated.(46, 102) In Hawai‘i,
only one prehistoric seedless variety is known.(51, 107)
The trunk of the breadfruit tree can attain a diameter of 2
feet (60 cm) or more. It is often straight in its lower portion,
usually branching at 10–15 feet (3–5 m) above ground level. Its
lower branches spread horizontally before curving upward and
usually are much longer than the upper branches. As a result, its
In ancient times in
Hawai‘i, breadfruit
trees would have
dominated every
other type of
cultivated vegeta-
tion in most areas
used for habitation
and agriculture.
Hawaiian Breadfruit 3
horizontal branches may break under even moderate winds. The
mature tree forms a dome-shaped canopy reaching a height of
35–50 feet (10–15 m) and is capable of providing considerable
shade. In ancient times in Hawai‘i, breadfruit trees would have
dominated every other type of cultivated vegetation in most areas
used for habitation and agriculture.
The wood of the tree is yellow and turns dark brown when
exposed to air. It is relatively soft and light but elastic, with an
open, course grain, and is said by some authors to be termite
resistant,(75, p. 39) although others claim otherwise.(74) The
young bark is clear green, turning gray with age. The
salmon-red inner bark is milky and fibrous. Mature leaves
are leathery, dark green on their upper surface with paler
green undersides, 12–36 inches (30–100 cm) long,
sometimes deeply incised, and attached to the branches
by short, thick petioles.
The tree generally begins to bear its oval or spheroid
fruits at 5–7 years of age. In Hawai‘i, the fruit enlarges to
a diameter of 3–8 inches (8–20 cm), is seedless, and
individuals weigh up to around 10 pounds (4 kg). Observers in
Polynesia have put the range of fruit weight at between 1 and 5
pounds (0.5–2 kg). Others have variously stated that fruits weigh
anywhere from 1 to 5 kg, or between 2 and 11 pounds. When one
of us weighed 10 “typical” fruits from each of two trees in West
Hawai‘i, one located at around 600 m elevation and the other at
about 300 m, the fruits averaged just over 3 pounds. Some of the
variation in fruit weight reported in the literature may be
attributable to the age of the tree, because as the tree ages, the
fruits get smaller.(96)
Each fruit is composed of between 1500 and 2000 flowers
fused into an organ technically called a syncarp. The fruits are
bright green when young, turn brown when partially ripe, and
then turn a rich yellowish-brown when thoroughly ripe. The pulp
(fruit flesh) is white in young fruit but becomes creamy yellow
in mature fruit; the pulp surrounds a tough core that, like the
skin, is removed before consumption. Throughout Oceania,
breadfruit trees are estimated to produce from 50 to 150 fruits
per year,(11) although yields of up to 700 fruits per year have been
The fruits are bright
green when young,
turn brown when
partially ripe, and
then turn a rich
when thoroughly
4Hawaiian Breadfruit
Breadfruit locations in Hawai‘i
Breadfruit trees are found where they were planted by man, or
within root-spreading distance of those trees. Under favorable
conditions, ‘ulu freely self-propagates from root shoots, and such
“starts” will coexist with and eventually replace the parent trees.
Unless removed, damaged, or out-competed by other vegetation,
breadfruit trees can self-propagate indefinitely.
Many breadfruit
trees can still be found today on all the main islands between 1000
and 2000 feet (300–600 m) elevation in both windward and
leeward settings. But a survey of breadfruit trees presently existing
in Hawai‘i would not provide a reliable picture of the extent of
‘ulu in the islands in ancient times; for that, we have pieced together
a patchwork of information drawn from various literature sources.
When Europeans arrived in Hawai‘i, breadfruit trees were
observed growing either individually or in groups of a few
together near habitations,(75) or in extensive orchard-like
plantations either near or sometimes at some distance from
inhabited areas.(32, 82) Upon entering the agricultural zone above
Kealakekua Bay on Hawai‘i in December 1778, the HMS
Discovery surgeon David Samwell noted only a few houses within
the plantations there.(14, p. 1166) Similar approaches to breadfruit
cultivation (scattered versus intensely planted) have been noted
in Samoa.(102) Both planting strategies were described many times
in Hawai‘i during the 19th century.(3, 19, 38, 123) On Hawai‘i, in
particular, the two ways of growing breadfruit have been linked
to windward versus leeward geographical and cultural variables.
For example, according to archeologist T. Stell Newman, in the
windward regions of the island of Hawai‘i the
“...settlement pattern is characterized by scattered fields
or gardens with scattered small villages or family
habitations...generally less intensive cultivation of
available land...[while on the leeward side are
found]...massive field systems in contradistinction to the
scattered fields of the windward type. The West Kohala
system, for example, measures about two by thirteen
miles while the Kona system measures about three by
eighteen miles....” (90, p. 6)
A survey of
breadfruit trees
presently existing
in Hawaii would
not provide a
reliable picture of
the extent of ‘ulu
in the islands
in ancient times.
Hawaiian Breadfruit 5
It was these West Hawai‘i (leeward) field systems and their
associated breadfruit plantations that fascinated early visitors to
Hawai‘i in the late 1700s and early 1800s. In 1793, for example,
surgeon-naturalist Archibald Menzies of the HMS Discovery
“...entered [the Kona] breadfruit plantations, the trees of
which were a good distance apart, so as to give room to
their boughs to spread out vigorously on all sides
(82, p.74)
Again, in 1794, Menzies and company
“...commenced [their] march [uphill from Kealakekua
Bay] with a slow pace, exposed to the scorching heat of
the meridian sun, over a dreary barren track of a gradual
ascent, consisting of little else than rugged porous lava
and volcanic dregs, for about three miles, when [they]
entered the bread fruit plantations whose spreading trees
with beautiful foliage were scattered about that distance
from the shore along the side of the mountain as far as
[they] could see on both sides.”
Charles Wilkes, leader of the American Exploring Expedition
in 1840, located this same breadfruit plantation 2 miles (3.2 km)
back from the Kona coastline, where “ a belt half a mile wide,
the breadfruit is met with in abundance....”(123, p. 95) This zone was
referred to “in the native land claim records of the mid-nineteenth
century as the kalu‘ulu or maloko‘ulu.(69, p. 186) Our review of land
claims from three West Hawai‘i ahupua‘a (Holualoa, Keauhou,
and Ke‘ei) indicated extensive reference to kaluulu and ‘ulu, with
all evidence pointing to these words as the terms applied to the
breadfruit zone within what is now called the Kona Field System
(discussed in detail on pp. 43–46).
Summarized in Appendix Tables A-1 to A-4 (see pp. 51–54)
are historical observations or accounts of breadfruit on the main
Hawaiian islands of Hawai‘i (Table A-1); Kaua‘i and Ni‘ihau
(Table A-2); Maui, Läna‘i, and Moloka‘i (Table A-3); and O‘ahu
(Table A-4). Each table includes citations of literature that refer
to what might be either “scattered sites,” “plantation sites,” or
“legendary sites.” We relied mostly on documented descriptions
of 18th- and 19th-century Euro-American visitors and on other
miscellaneous reports, many of which include brief ethnohistorical
The West Hawai‘i
field systems and
their associated
breadfruit planta-
tions fascinated
early visitors to
6Hawaiian Breadfruit
statements, some of which provided insights into traditional
Hawaiian agriculture. Our distinction of the planting patterns
described, between individual trees (“scattered sites”) and many
trees in groves (“plantation sites”), is fairly well justified in some
cases. However, the citations often lacked detailed information,
and in many instances we used considerable license in our
classification. Thus the information presented in the tables is only
suggestive of what actually may have existed.
Under “scattered sites” we group what appear to be examples
of one or a few trees, possibly representing cases of breadfruit
trees grown in proximity to house lots or work sites. These
references might indicate trees planted and managed by individual
households who were the direct beneficiaries of the trees and
their products. Such trees would provide readily available fruits
and other useful items, as well as shade and play areas for children.
Under “plantations” we group those references that appear
to indicate multiple, adjacent trees unlikely to have been self-
propagated from a single parent tree. Much more so than in the
case of individual trees, these trees appear to have been planted,
managed, and their fruits consumed through the organizational
mechanisms of a complex political economy. While in some cases
we employ considerable subjectivity in concluding that a
concentration of trees is being described, writers sometimes
simplified our task by employing terms such as “groves,”
“plantations,” or “orchards.” (10, 33, 82)
Under “legendary sites” are found references to breadfruit
locations in published accounts or summaries of Hawaiian myths
and legends. Many of these sites were also recorded in the ethno-
historical literature, highlighting the intersection of Hawaiian
mythology with physical reality and, on some occasions, the
empirical basis of traditional oral history.
Each site is presented as cited in abbreviated form (e.g.,
“innumerable plantations”) along with actual or approximate dates
of observation (e.g., “in 1779” or “early 1800s”), and the
bibliographic reference.
Growing conditions
The widespread distribution of breadfruit in old Hawai‘i, as
evident from the literature cited in the Appendix tables, testifies
to the presence of highly suitable growing conditions in a range
of ecological zones on the main islands. As we have seen,
arboriculture was
by no means
restricted to
windward settings
in Hawai‘i, or to
lowland areas.
Hawaiian Breadfruit 7
breadfruit arboriculture was by no means restricted to windward
versus leeward settings in Hawai‘i or to such lowland areas as
are described, for example, as the principal breadfruit zones of
the Society Islands. In February 1793, Menzies compared the
upland breadfruit groves of West Hawai‘i with the lowland
plantings of Tahiti:
“Higher up along the verge of the woods...we...entered
their breadfruit the size of the trees,
the luxuriancy of their crop and foliage, sufficiently show
that they thrive equally well on an elevated situ-
ation...which was not the case in the crowded groves of
Tahiti, where we found them always planted in the plains
along the sea side....” (82, p. 74–76)
Likewise, in August 1819, French botanist Charles
Gaudichaud of the ship Uranie observed breadfruit growing at
higher elevations (above1000 ft [300 m]) in or near Hawaiian
villages where “...all necessary conditions for vegetation:
excellent soil and a super-abundance of warmth and humidity...”
were found. He further observed “...habitations bordering the
virgin forests...shaded by...artocarpus [breadfruit]...and near
them...all the useful vegetables previously observed along the
border of the sea...irrigated by thousands of little streams....”(113, p.
8–9) Prehistorian Peter Bellwood similarly describes breadfruit trees
thriving at elevations well above sea level on Hawai‘i:
“At Lapakahi, [Kohala District of Hawai‘i]...from about
1400 [A.D.]...ethnohistorical accounts indicate the
cultivation sheltered spots...found on
higher inland slopes where rainfall was sufficient for
cultivation.” (18, p. 107)
Whether found near sea level or at higher elevations,
Hawaiian breadfruit groves appear to have been situated in areas
with deeper, well drained soils, adequate moisture supplied by
rainfall or groundwater, and direct sunlight during most of the
day. Intolerance of saline soils ensures that most varieties do better
when grown some distance from zones having ocean spray or
groundwater salinity.(108) It is not surprising, then, that in a Pacific-
wide context a positive correlation was found between breadfruit
8Hawaiian Breadfruit
presence and an adequate water regime,(93) for if subjected to
insufficient moisture, the fruits will fall before reaching maturity.(30,
96) This may be due, in part, to shallow root systems that gather
the plants’ water requirements mostly from the surface soil.(74)
Scientific descriptions of optimal breadfruit growing conditions
highlight these same criteria: adequate water regime, good soil
and drainage, freedom from shade, and year-round warmth and
humidity.(75, 96, 101) Nevertheless, some breadfruit trees are observed
to grow in conditions of salinity or drought elsewhere in Oceania,
and it is possible that varieties had been selected for such
tolerances.(24, 86)
We have mentioned that Gaudichaud found breadfruit soils at
higher elevations in Hawai‘i to be “excellent,” and the Reverend
William Ellis noted that the soil in breadfruit groves “...was
entirely covered with a rich mold, formed by decaying vegetation
and the decomposed lava.”(33, p. 27–28) A somewhat more technical
understanding of the relationship between soil types and breadfruit
is obtained by comparing the locations of plantation sites in the
Appendix tables with soil maps constructed for the Hawaiian
Islands by the U.S. Soil Conservation Service.(117) This agency
used a 10-order soil classification system, and four of the orders
are found to cover over half of the state. These soil orders—
Histosols, Inceptisols, Oxisols, and Mollisols—dominate the areas
where the breadfruit concentrations noted in our tables were found
in Hawai‘i.
Histosols and Inceptisols cover about 40 percent of the state
and are largely confined to the island of Hawai‘i. These two orders
represent the substrate for all of the breadfruit locations cited for
that island. Histosols occur on geologically young, forested lands
and are characterized by a relatively thin layer (2–8 inches [5–20
cm]) of organic material over lava rock. Inceptisols develop
mostly from the layers of volcanic ash that cover much of Hawai‘i
and East Maui.(8) The third order, Oxisols, constitutes the substrate
of all cited breadfruit locations on Kaua‘i and, on Maui, the
locations in Keka‘a and the central valley. Oxisols dominate
relatively flat lands at lower elevations on the geologically older
islands and possess “...exceptional resistance to physical
deterioration under intensive mechanized agriculture....” (8, p. 47)
They supported the state’s formerly extensive pineapple and
Optimal breadfruit
growing conditions
include an
adequate water
regime, good soil
and drainage,
freedom from
shade, and year-
round warmth and
Hawaiian Breadfruit 9
sugarcane plantations, of which those currently in the central
valley of Maui are a remnant. The fourth soil order, Mollisols,
represents the substrate of the breadfruit locations on O‘ahu and
in the Lahaina region of Maui. Mollisols are “...well-drained,
relatively young soils that develop on coral, lava, or alluvium.
They occur in moderately dry areas of the islands and are generally
rich in plant nutrients.” (8, p. 47)
While these descriptions are based on soil surveys conducted
in the mid-20th century, they generally agree with the cursory
observations of soils made by early Euro-American visitors to
Hawai‘i. On the island of Hawai‘i, breadfruit plantations
flourished on once-forested lava substrates with relatively thin
layers of organic material and volcanic ash. Elsewhere, they
thrived on geologically older and deeper soils rich in plant
nutrients and highly resistant to deterioration.
As we have seen, breadfruit was cultivated at various elevations
in prehistoric Hawai‘i, from sea level to the lower border of the
native forest, which we estimate to have been located, depending
on the extent of clearing, at up to about 2600 ft (800 m) above
sea level.(3, p. 143)
We have found only a few statements about moisture regimes
associated with Hawaiian breadfruit plantations. For example,
archeologist Patrick Kirch found that in West Hawai‘i
“...[breadfruit] arboricultural intensification (e.g. in field systems)
was limited to Kona because the lower rainfall at [the] Lalamilo
and Kohala [field systems to the north] was below the ecological
tolerance of the tree.” (69, p. 189)
Water availability for a representative sample of breadfruit
plantations can be estimated from rainfall statistics published by
the State of Hawai‘i.(41) These provide median annual rainfall data
for a 67-year period (1916–1983) from rain gauge measurements
throughout Hawai‘i. For our purposes, estimated median annual
rainfall data were obtained from sites situated in or near known
breadfruit-growing locations on the four main islands (taken from
the Appendix tables). Elevations and average minimum and
maximum temperatures for the rain gauge sites were also obtained.
This information is summarized in Table 1.
Despite variations in data on rainfall, elevation, and tem-
perature found at known breadfruit sites within and among islands,
On the island of
Hawai‘i, breadfruit
flourished on once-
forested lava
substrates with
relatively thin
layers of organic
material and
volcanic ash.
10 Hawaiian Breadfruit
Rainfall Elevation Temperature
range median range median range median
Hawai‘i 40 –145 inches 59 inches 30 –1500 ft 1050 ft 60 –82°F72
1000 –3700 mm 1500 mm 9 475 m 320 m 16 –28°C22
Kaua‘i 47–67 inches 51 inches 85 –230 ft 184 ft 66 –80°F73
1200 –1700 mm 1300 mm 26 –70 m 56 m 19–27°C23
Maui 14–35 inches 28 inches 10–400 ft 236 ft 65–86°F73
350–890 mm 700 mm 3 –122 m 72 m 18 –30°C23
O‘ahu 45 60 inches 52 inches 20–200 ft 177 ft 6982°F75
1150 –1500 mm 1325 mm 6 61 m 54 m 21–28°C24
Table 1. Summary of rainfall, elevation, and annual temperature ranges and medians at Hawaiian breadfruit
plantation sites.
Hawaiian Breadfruit 11
medians of the data from island to island correspond with the
breadfruit plant’s basic requirements, as outlined above, with the
exception of the Maui plantation sites. There, the groves,
especially around Lahaina, receive substantially less rainfall than
those on the other islands, well below the 60–100 inches (1524–
2540 mm) of annual rainfall determined to produce optimum
breadfruit growth.(101) In comparison, Puna plantation sites are
characterized by a median annual rainfall of 145 inches (3683
mm). Nonetheless, breadfruit thrived in the Lahaina region,
apparently because of the many streams traversing the Lahaina
plain, the area’s well known high water table,(124) and the Mollisol
substrate, which ensured adequate drainage. The availability of
groundwater near Lahaina has been noted:
“Southward along the coast from the ali‘i settlement
were a number of areas where dispersed populations
grew taro, sweetpotato, breadfruit and coconut on slopes
below and in the sides of valleys which had streams with
constant flow.” (46, p. 492)
With the exception of West Hawai‘i, where breadfruit groves
were found up to perhaps 2000–2600 ft (600–800 m) above sea
level,(69) most concentrated breadfruit arboriculture in Hawai‘i was
confined to below 650 ft (200 m) (see Table 1). West Hawai‘i’s
tableland topography between 1000 and 2000 ft (300–600 m)
elevation and its summer orographic rainfall pattern are unique in
the archipelago
and most likely contributed to the transformation
of the native mesic forest there into an enormous upland zone of
very productive agricultural land which was organized from early
times into what is now called the Kona Field System.
(3, 65, 70)
The temperature data for plantation sites show no unexpected
discrepancies, with the median annual temperatures of all
locations, summarized in Table 1, falling within the optimum
range of 70–90°F (21–32°C).(101) Maui has the warmest locations,
which were also the lowest and driest. Sites on Hawai‘i were the
highest and coolest, and also the wettest.
Of the climatic and physical elements, it can be argued that
adequate rainfall and a relatively flat, open topography with good
drainage at an elevation below 600 m were the most important
criteria for the installation of breadfruit plantations in Hawai‘i,
where variability in temperature is small within general lowland
The Kona Field
System was an
enormous upland
zone of very pro-
ductive agricultural
land organized from
early times.
12 Hawaiian Breadfruit
(below 2000 ft [600 m]) elevational gradients, and where micro-
climatic differences are largely attributable to precipitation
gradients.(41) In general, adequate rainfall, or in some cases
groundwater supply, combined with fertile, well drained lowland
soils or upland tableland soils and tropical temperatures to provide
Hawaiian planters with many desirable locations to grow
breadfruit. The number and, in several notable instances, the extent
and density of the plantations within the archipelago testify to
the degree to which Hawaiians recognized and exploited these
Historical Aspects
of Hawaiian Breadfruit
Hawaiian oral history, archaeology, eth-
nography, ethnohistory, and studies of
breadfruit horticulture permit us to
reconstruct aspects of breadfruit’s history
and human ecological significance in
ancient and early post-Cook Hawai‘i (after
1778). For example, a review of the
evidence allows the conclusion that the
plant could only have come to Hawai‘i
through human agency. Given that the
Hawaiian breadfruit is sterile, and that mature trees were found
in the islands by the first Euro-American visitors, no other
explanation is possible. But where did the plant come from?
The traditional presence of the specific Hawaiian cultivated
variety of breadfruit has been documented in several other
Polynesian archipelagos.(102) In Samoa, for example, the Hawaiian
cultivar is called ulu e‘a. There, as in the Cook Islands, the
Marquesas, and the Society Islands, where it is variously known
as ulu maoi, maohi, maori, or maore (all of which are Polynesian
variants of the Hawaiian term maoli, meaning native, indigenous,
genuine, or real[98]), it is one of scores of breadfruit cultivars grown.
On the Polynesian outlier of Anuta, it is called maore. According
to breadfruit expert Diane Ragone, in each of these islands the
Hawaiian type is “recognized as one of the oldest [breadfruit]
The specifics of time
and place of
breadfruit’s actual
implantation in
Hawai‘i are
Hawaiian Breadfruit 13
cultivars.” (103, p. 206) Horticulturist G. P. Wilder describes this variety
(maohi) in Tahiti as “...the commonest of all the breadfruit
[varieties]...[with a]...flavor very agreeable.” (122, p. 44) Similarly,
Tahitian scholar Teuira Henry calls the ‘uru-ma‘ohi of Tahiti “the
most common and a very good kind.” (50, p. 41) Ragone concluded
that “its widespread distribution and antiquity suggest that this
may be one of the earliest, if not the original, seedless triploid
cultivar.” (102, p. 120)
‘Ulu was one of the many edible plants transported to Hawai‘i
on the Polynesian colonizing voyages, perhaps via a transport
technology similar to that described for open-ocean movement
of breadfruit in the Caroline Islands, where
“the rooted cultivars were wrapped in well rotted
coconut husk fiber...the whole thing...wrapped in dried
leaves...then a coconut basket is woven around the entire
sucker.” (108, p. 44)
However, it is unknown if breadfruit’s introduction to Hawai‘i
was early or late, or if it resulted from a single colonization event
or occurred several times over a long period. Sustained prehistoric
Eastern Polynesian intercourse with Hawai‘i has yet to be
convincingly demonstrated,(31) and the specifics of time and place
of breadfruit’s actual implantation in Hawai‘i are unknown.
Legendary evidence suggests several spots where breadfruit may
have been introduced.
Traditional oral history
Hawaiian mythology scholar Martha Beckwith noted that legends
take rational or mythical (non-rational) turns regarding the origin
of breadfruit.(17, p. 97) The rational legendary explanations point to
breadfruit as being physically transported to Hawai‘i, possibly
from Samoa or Tahiti. In one such version, the voyage was made
by Kaha‘i, with Hawaiian breadfruit appearing to come either
from Upolo in Tahiti or the Samoan group.(44, 112) Once in Hawai‘i,
breadfruit was said to have been first planted either at Pu‘uloa in
Kohala on Hawai‘i,(17) at Pu‘uloa on O‘ahu,(37, 44, 64) or at Kualoa on
O‘ahu.(22, 29, 89)
Taking forms intermediate between rational and mythical
accounts, other legends tell of fishermen from Pu‘uloa who were
blown off course to the “traveling island of plenty” of the gods
Once in Hawai‘i,
breadfruit was said
to have been
planted either at
Pu‘uloa in Kohala
on Hawai‘i or at
Pu‘uloa or Kualoa
on O‘ahu.
14 Hawaiian Breadfruit
Käne and Kanaloa, from whence they brought breadfruit back to
Hawai‘i.(16, p. 16) The goddess Haumea, hearing of this, visited the
trees and then scattered breadfruit throughout the islands.(37)
In mythical legendary explanations, breadfruit trees origi-
nated from human body parts, from dead people, or from divine
intervention.(17) One of these legends describes a man from
Ka‘awaloa in Kona on Hawai‘i who told his children that a
breadfruit tree would grow at the door of their house after his
death. His hair and hands would be the roots, his legs the branches,
and his testicles the fruit. Gods from Waipi‘o on Hawai‘i, not
knowing this, cooked and ate the fruit, but when told that the
fruits were from a dead man’s testes, they vomited from Kona to
Waipi‘o, spreading breadfruit throughout the western and northern
parts of the island.(17, 37) Another account relates that the god Kü
bid farewell to his earthly wife during a famine and disappeared
into the ground. From there a breadfruit tree grew, providing fruit
for his wife and child.(17) Another narrative tells of a man named
Ulu who died of hunger. His family buried his body near a spring.
During the night, a breadfruit tree grew from the spot, producing
fruits that provided for them.(17, 37) In another variant, Abraham
Fornander related an account of the creation of the first man that
implicates breadfruit:
“After Kumu Honua was created and placed upon his
land, Kane conferred with him and his wife and
established laws for them, and the law was called ‘laau’
(tree). The words of Kane are not fully reported in the
legend; but it was afterwards thought that the tree was
the breadfruit-tree (‘ulu) and that it grew at Honokohau,
in North Kona, Hawaii; that it sprung from Kane...and
that its fruits have been bitter or sour from that day to
this.” (37, p. 268)
Hawaiian beliefs, sayings, and legends
about breadfruit
According to Hawaiian scholars Mary Kawena Pukui(44) and
Martha Beckwith,(17) Hawaiians recognized male and female forms
of breadfruit, as they did in many other plants. These sexual
concepts do not correspond to those recognized in scientific
botany. The sexual distinction in breadfruit involves the
recognition of “normal,” erect plants as male versus stunted or
Hawaiian Breadfruit 15
“bushlike” plants as female.(17, 118) Examples of female breadfruit
plants were found on Ni‘ihau. Their so-called “stunted” nature
there may result from their reported cultivation in cavities and
sinkholes(121) and this, when combined with their being little fresh
water on that island, may possibly have resulted in the impression
that the trees hugged the ground.(97)
Upright breadfruit trees were viewed as kinolau, or instances
of the “myriad bodies” of Kü,(46) one of the four major Hawaiian
gods. Certainly, this belief accounts in part for the association
between Kü and breadfruit in traditional origin accounts. The
“bushlike” or so-called female breadfruit plants were closely
associated with “the mysterious form-changing goddess
Haumea...,” mother of Kü and patron of childbirth.(16, 54, 64, 118) In
several Hawaiian legends Haumea took breadfruit form,(17) and in
at least one instance it is said that Haumea “entered a breadfruit
tree in her supernatural form.”(54) Breadfruit was also sacred to
Käne,(18) the Hawaiian deity responsible for introducing cultivated
plants. Narratives exist in which an altar decoration or offering
to Laka (goddess of hula) was made from breadfruit(29) and in
which its role in the annual makahiki festival is described.(77)
Breadfruit also figures in many accounts of transition
between life and death(89) and in those depicting the moment at
which a departed soul becomes either a respected ancestral spirit
(aumakua) or a perpetually drifting and unaffiliated one—these
latter concepts perhaps drawing somewhat from Christian beliefs
of the afterlife.(37, 62, 66) Funeral wreathes are sometimes made from
breadfruit leaves.(89)
Given its important place in Hawaiian cosmology and its
elaborate and eclectic material role (discussed below), it is not
surprising that breadfruit was a common component in Hawaiian
proverbs, riddles, aphorisms, and adages involving aspects of
traditional Hawaiian life and expressions of cultural values. There
are several excellent compendia of these sayings.(46, 58, 97)
Breadfruit introduction, early arboriculture,
and plantations
Differences in oral histories related to breadfruit prevent well
founded conclusions about the provenance of the Hawaiian
breadfruit, especially since the lone Hawaiian cultivar was
traditionally present in several Polynesian island groups, including
the Marquesas and the Society archipelagos, both of which are
Upright breadfruit
trees were viewed
as kinolau of
Kü...“bushlike” or
so-called female
plants are closely
associated with
“the mysterious
mother of Kü
and patron of
16 Hawaiian Breadfruit
candidates as points of departure for the Polynesian colonizers
of Hawai‘i. It bears noting that the “rational” legendary accounts
support the scientific explanation that the plant reached Hawai‘i
through human agency, possibly to be grown first on O‘ahu or
Regardless of the provenance and the date of introduction of
breadfruit, the elaboration of Hawaiian sayings, origin accounts,
and legends involving the tree reflects a longstanding association,
both metaphorical and material, between breadfruit and
Hawaiians. This point seems to be confirmed by the cultural
association between ‘ulu fruit and the uniquely Hawaiian ‘ulu
maika bowling stones, the innovation of which is dated to what
is called the “mid-Developmental Period,” A.D. 600–1100, by
archaeologist Patrick Kirch.(70) He believes that the maika bowling
game was invented then, and because ‘ulu is linked to the game
conceptually,(77) it suggests the possibility that breadfruit was
present in Hawai‘i before 1100 A.D. Other archaeologists
including Melinda Allen support the hypothesis of a later
introduction based on a reading of oral history and physical
evidence, and in consideration of “the relatively minor importance
of breadfruit in Hawaiian economy...” (3, p. 147) which, she claims, is
consistent with a later introduction.
Polynesian colonizers of Hawai‘i probably first planted
breadfruit cuttings near their habitations. Elsewhere in Polynesia,
people have planted breadfruit trees near their homes for each
newborn, both metaphorically and sometimes in reality, in order
to ensure the child a life-long food supply.(30, 45) However, by at
least the late 18th century, individual plantings of breadfruit near
habitations had been complemented in Hawai‘i by massive
plantations, some of which covered many square kilometers, and
these plantations were, in all likelihood, managed by complex
political hierarchies.
The information compiled in the Appendix tables provides
some sense of where breadfruit was traditionally grown in
Hawai‘i. But what made these observations of breadfruit trees so
worthy of recording? Certainly, several 18th- and 19th-century
Euro-American visitors and settlers were impressed by the extent
and the organization of the breadfruit groves,
(19, 33, 82)
the best example
of which is the Kona Field System. Many early ethnohistorical
accounts are so strongly worded that some later writers have
referred to this plantation as a veritable forest of breadfruit.
(46, 65, 106, 109)
Hawaiian Breadfruit 17
The size and maturity of the breadfruit trees in the groves
noted by late 18th and early 19th century observers, and their
association with the sophisticated understory horticulture
characteristic of the Kona Field System,(82) indicate that large-
scale breadfruit arboriculture and clonal crop polyculture
involving taro, sweetpotato, banana, sugarcane, and other
domesticated crops were flourishing in Hawai‘i well before the
arrival of non-Polynesians. Indeed, many of the groves are
referenced in Hawaiian legends, confirming the antiquity and the
importance of breadfruit at these sites long before they were
recorded by Euro-Americans.(17, 37, 99, 105)
There is also evidence that some plantations may have been
developed after European contact. In 1779, for example, David
Samwell noted that Läna‘i was generally barren, and he was told
by the “Indians” that no plantains or breadfruit were grown on
the island.(14, p. 1220) However, over a century later, breadfruit groves
were found on the east coast of Läna‘i, opposite Maui.(34) This
apparent change may be related to transformations in the use of
space similar to those described at Anahulu, O‘ahu.(71) There, a
process of agricultural intensification that included the creation
of breadfruit groves occurred following a massive historical
Hawaiian population movement that was motivated by the
political and military ambitions of Kamehameha I in the early
19th century.
Breadfruit and political implications
In contrast to the scattered plantings of breadfruit trees near house
sites, intensive breadfruit arboriculture had important political
underpinnings in Hawai‘i. Breadfruit groves constituted a resource
management option that was functionally similar to intensive
wetland taro cultivation and to large-scale pisciculture, all of
which were driven in large measure by political-militaristic
competition, chiefly glorification, and the associated requirement
of feeding large human populations upon which the chiefly power
bases resided.(69) In noting that the major breadfruit groves
generally cut across boundaries of ahupua‘a, the traditional
political-economic unit, many observers believe that this
agricultural pattern was an outgrowth of some form of central
planning and organized implementation.(3, 28, 65, 69) A similar pattern
has been noted in the Marquesas Islands, where “individuals
owned trees in the vicinity of their houses and chiefs owned
18 Hawaiian Breadfruit
plantations....”(44, p. 182) Given the extent and the apparent
productivity of the Kona Field System (discussed further on pp.
43–46), and that of the other West Hawai‘i field systems in Kohala
and Waimea,(70) it is no surprise that a West Hawai‘i chiefly line
eventually achieved military supremacy and paramount status
within the Hawaiian archipelago.(69)
Recent times
By the late 1800s and early 1900s, many of the heavily planted
breadfruit groves had been seriously fragmented or destroyed,
(44, 48)
mostly as a result of depopulation, land-use changes,(76) and
associated forces of cultural decline that led to shifts in food
availability and dietary preferences. By 1926, University of
Hawai‘i horticulturist Willis Pope wrote that “...there are no
breadfruit orchards anywhere....” (96, p. 10) Nevertheless, isolated trees
near homes or work sites can still be found throughout Hawai‘i,
and remnants of the Kona Field System
plantation are visible from the air.
The Ethnobotany of
Breadfruit in Hawai‘i
The breadfruit tree was of great practical value
to Hawaiians. In everyday life, the wood and
sap were used in construction; the bark, root,
and milky sap were employed in medicine;
and the bark, wood, sap, and leaves had many common household
applications. The sap and fruit were used in bird-capturing and
fishing activities. The wood was commonly carved to produce
domestic and ritual goods, sporting gear, and game pieces. The
fruit was prepared in a variety of ways for human and animal
consumption. As a foodstuff, it was a regular item in ceremonial
offerings, tribute, trade, and taxation. Whether it was used as a
raw material or as a final product, Hawaiians employed nearly
every part of the breadfruit tree.(44) Today the breadfruit design is
popular in Hawaiian quilts and other art forms, including tattoo.
The material aspects of Hawaiian breadfruit ethnobotany are
summarized in the following sections.
Hawaiian Breadfruit 19
Material culture
The wood of the breadfruit tree was commonly used by ancient
Hawaiians in building and to a lesser degree in canoe construction.
Door frames(6, 63, 77) and house timbers(75) were made from breadfruit
wood, as were the seats, decking, and paddles of canoes.(52, 74)
Damaged canoes were repaired with this light wood. Sometimes
entire hulls were constructed from ‘ulu logs, but it is generally
thought that these were much less common than canoes built of
koa (Acacia koa), the preferred wood,(52, 77) and use of breadfruit
wood may actually have been confined mostly to small inshore
craft and training canoes for children. Older trees that had ceased
to produce well were probably the ones most often taken for these
The milky sap of the tree was employed as glue and caulking
in canoes, buildings, and musical instruments.(21, 52, 75) In Samoa,
the Hawaiian breadfruit called ulu e‘a was believed to produce
the best sap for these purposes.(103)
Domestic applications
Objects made from parts of the breadfruit tree were common in
the Hawaiian domestic economy. The inner bark of young
breadfruit branches was used to make kapa (tapa, or bark cloth)
for clothing and other household applications.(14, 46, 77) Hawaiian
historian Samuel Kamakau claimed that “...the first tapas made
from plants were made from pö‘ulu (the tender shoots of the
breadfruit tree)...” and that “...later, wauke [Broussonetia
papyrifera] was obtained,” (63, p. 109) but it is generally felt that
breadfruit tapa was not as soft or durable as tapa made from wauke
(paper mulberry), the preferred natural resource.(46, 81) The male
‘ulu flower is said to produce a yellowish dye.(20, 21)
The easily worked but fairly durable wood of the breadfruit
tree was also employed to construct smaller household or cere-
monial objects such as bowls,
poi boards, drums, and implements
used in sports and other physical activities. Five of the 49 pahu in
the Bishop Museum drum collection were judged to have been
carved from breadfruit.
Like several of the lighter Hawaiian
woods, breadfruit was used to make surfboards.
(29, 73)
In the late
1800s, the English traveler Isabella Bird observed “surf-bathing”
and described the “wave sliding boards” as “... a tough plank
shaped like a coffin lid, about two feet broad, and from six to nine
Today the breadfruit
design is popular in
Hawaiian quilts and
other art forms,
including tattoo.
20 Hawaiian Breadfruit
feet long, well oiled and cared for...made of the erythrina [wiliwili],
or the breadfruit tree.”
(19, p. 69)
Breadfruit wood was also used to
construct sleds for racing down hillsides.
As with canoe repairs,
breadfruit wood was used to patch many smaller wooden objects.
The emory-textured leaf served as a fine “sandpaper” for
finishing all sorts of woodwork and objects used in body
decoration such as kukui nut (Aleurites molucanna) lei.(52) As with
canoes and their parts, bowls made from Hawaiian hardwoods
like koa and kou (Cordia subcordata) were progressively
smoothed with natural abrasives, first with coral or pumice and
eventually with breadfruit leaves.(29, 57, 77) The leaf sheathes served
as extra-fine sandpaper for delicate work.
Breadfruit was closely associated with the Hawaiian game
of ‘ulu maika, which was described as a favorite of Kamehameha
I.(37) Players hurled or bowled a bi-convex stone disc called ‘ulu
along a course where accuracy and distance were objectives and
betting was common. Half-grown breadfruits may have been
originally used in this game,(77) much as they were found to have
been used in Samoa,(21) thus lending the name of the plant to the
spherical stone used later.
The breadfruit tree itself served in other important ways that
have not been well recognized in studies of Hawaiian human
ecology. One poorly appreciated “application” was the shade from
the tropical sun provided by breadfruit foliage. This shade was a
desirable attribute of the tree in inhabited areas and was often
remarked upon by early visitors.(5, 33) During a visit to Waimanu
Valley, O‘ahu, in 1873, Isabella Bird saw “...some very pretty
grass houses, under the shade of the most magnificent bread-
fruit trees....” (19, p. 139) Similarly, at Pa‘ula on Hawai‘i, Handy and
Handy noted that
“...there were also breadfruit trees, sweet-potato
plantations, and many kukui and kou trees. People from
the beaches liked to rest in the shade of those trees,
cooking breadfruit, roasting kukui nuts, and preparing
pandanus leaves for mat making.”(46, p. 603)
Within heavily cultivated areas of dryland taro, sweetpotato,
or other annually cropped plants where most if not all natural
overstory vegetation had been removed, intense midday sun can
become not only uncomfortable for humans but can reduce
Like several of the
lighter Hawaiian
woods, breadfruit
was used to make
Hawaiian Breadfruit 21
agricultural production. Hawaiians were known to have made fires
on exceptionally dry, hot days to produce smoke, thereby
attempting to protect their crops from the sun’s burning rays.
(63, p. 25)
Early Euro-American observers saw sweetpotato and paper
(82, p. 75)
growing within breadfruit groves, sometimes along
with mountain apple (Syzygium malaccense)
(33, p. 32)
and banana.
(14, p. 521)
The tree does not appear to have been limited to the kalu-‘ulu
(breadfruit) zone when grown in the Kona Field System, having
also been
planted to some extent in the äpa‘a zone, where taro
and sweetpotato horticulture dominated.
It is probable that one
feature of breadfruit’s presence within these zones of intense
cropping activity was to supply a measure of shade to the other
cultivated plants grown there, as well as to the people tending them.
Other under-appreciated uses of breadfruit in domestic life
were its role as firewood and in play. Its wood was sometimes
used as fuel,(37) and there are several 19th century accounts of
Hawaiian children singing or chanting from perches in breadfruit
trees high above the ground.(54, p. 29)
Hawaiians used the bark, buds, fruit, and roots of the breadfruit
tree medicinally, but the milky sap appears to be the part of the
tree most frequently employed in medicinal preparations.
Hawaiians used the roots of the breadfruit tree as a
purgative.(75, 107) A remedy for “impure blood” was said to involve
breadfruit bark pounded with flowers or bark from six plants and
then cooked in coconut milk.(59) The bark was employed as a
bandage or cast to set bone fractures,(43) and a treatment for thrush
involving breadfruit leaf buds has been described.(46)
Breadfruit sap was applied externally to combat skin
eruptions.(47) These were considered by several observers to have
been one of the most common afflictions of early Hawaiians and
possibly were linked to overconsumption of salt.(92) Sap was mixed
with lama (Diospyros species) wood ashes for ulcers and sores
around the mouth.(59) Other combinations involving breadfruit sap
were prepared with kukui (Aleurites molucanna) and, in post-
Cook times, papaya (Carica papaya) and tobacco ashes to hasten
the healing of deep cuts, wounds, sores, and unspecified “skin
diseases.”(59) Breadfruit sap served to fill and “repair” damaged
teeth, and mixed into a paste with fern fronds, it was applied to
fever blisters until scabs formed.(79)
Breadfruit shade
was a desirable
attribute of the tree
in inhabited areas
and was often
remarked upon by
early visitors.
22 Hawaiian Breadfruit
The fruits were common ingredients in a multitude of
“medical treatments” involving other plants.(43, 59) It is claimed that
breadfruit leaves “had special powers” to treat various disorders
when placed under sleeping mats.(43, p. 24) The phytochemical bases
for many of these medicinal applications were summarized by
Ragone,(104, p. 37) thereby demonstrating the efficacy of
breadfruit-derived treatments in many traditional
therapeutical uses.
Procurement of protein, fat, and other
animal products
The fruit of ‘ulu was an important fodder for domestic
pigs(29, 96) and dogs(115) in Hawai‘i, as it was elsewhere in
Oceania,(102) and it is still commonly fed to pigs. Both
animals were produced in large numbers by Hawaiians
as articles of food, tribute, and trade.(22, 33, 115) Pigs were
especially important in ritual(69) and, after Cook’s arrival,
were highly prized by visiting ships seeking non-
perishable provisions.(14, 33, 115) Dogs were consumed in
traditional ritual and aristocratic feasting as well as in
everyday life,(16, 21) sometimes in large numbers,(32, p. 247) and it is
probable that dog consumption among Hawaiians increased in
the post-Cook period as the foreigners’ demand for pigs drew
down those stocks.(115, p. 8)
The intensive production of breadfruit and other plant foods
apparently allowed a steady supply of pigs and dogs for
consumption, gift-giving, tribute, and taxation in ancient times
and in the early post-Cook period in Hawai‘i. After the arrival of
explorers, whalers, and merchants, the wide availability of bread-
fruit permitted Hawaiians to offer it to honored guests and to
exchange it for desired trade items. Cook’s ships and those that
immediately followed them were well supplied, through gift-
giving and trade, with pigs and plant foods that commonly
included breadfruit.(14, pp. 1081, 1151, 1188, 1219, 1221) Exchange was not new to
Hawaiians; like other agricultural products, breadfruit was already
commonly traded within traditional Hawaiian society among
fishermen and farmers, the latter exchanging agricultural products
for marine resources.(63, 123)
Specialized uses
Like other Polynesians, Hawaiians once caught and variously
Breadfruit leaves
“had special
powers” to treat
various disorders
when placed under
sleeping mats.
Hawaiian Breadfruit 23
used many species of endemic forest birds and hole-nesting
pelagic birds. One of the principal capture techniques involved
smearing sap of breadfruit and other plants onto long poles and
then placing these sticky traps where forest birds congregated in
trees or directly into the nesting holes of pelagic birds.(14, 37, 77)
Boiling the sap may have been part of the glue preparation
process.(5) Feathers from captured forest birds were used to make
chiefly capes and other regalia, and the birds commonly were
consumed afterwards.(77, p. 37) The use of wild birds as food after
their capture was a common practice throughout Polynesia.
(46, 63, 66, 80)
The ripe fruits of ‘ulu placed in baskets were used by
Hawaiian fishermen to entice fish, especially kala (Naso species),
into fishtraps.(63) As chum, breadfruit was also employed to fatten
fish and to attract a broad range of species into areas where baited
hooks and nets had been placed.(67)
Uses of breadfruit as animal fodder, as an item of exchange
for fish, as a bird lime, and as a fish bait can be viewed collectively
as mechanisms by which a raw agricultural product was trans-
formed into or used to procure less abundant and highly valued
protein, fat, and other animal products during ancient and early
historical times. Successful breadfruit arboriculture and related
success in animal husbandry contributed to higher living standards
among the common people and enhanced prestige among the
chiefs, for, as Hawaiian scholar David Malo put it, pigs and dogs
“were sources of wealth...and in great demand....” (77, p. 78)
Role in the human diet
During repeated visits to the main islands in 1778 and 1779, Cook’s
ships always found “breadfruit [to be] in great plenty.”
(14, p. 1221)
Approximately 50 years later, during the first half of the 19th
century, Malo again recorded that “the ulu or breadfruit is very
much used as a food by the natives.” (77, p. 43) By the 1920s, however,
heavy breadfruit consumption had become a thing of the past,
with the 1921 Hawaii Agricultural Experiment Station annual
report stating “the fruit of [breadfruit] was once extensively used
for food by the Hawaiians.” (48, p. 21)
These and other accounts of breadfruit’s important food role,
the apparent ease with which it was obtained by early visitors,
and its common use as pig and dog fodder and fish food and bait
all seem to combine to indicate that breadfruit occupied a very
significant economic position during the late Hawaiian pre-Cook
Intensive produc-
tion of breadfruit
and other plant
foods apparently
allowed a steady
supply of pigs and
dogs for consump-
tion, gift-giving,
tribute, and
24 Hawaiian Breadfruit
and early post-Cook periods. Nevertheless, at least one of the
early European experiences with breadfruit in Hawai‘i was less
than satisfactory. In the 1804 Russian expedition to Hawai‘i, Yuri
Lisianski found the breadfruit quality to be poor(10, p. 34) and also
indicated difficulty in obtaining the fruits. On the surface, this
account seems to contradict other evidence suggesting that
Hawaiian breadfruit was abundant and of high quality.
Nevertheless, this apparent incongruity may perhaps be explained
by considering known features of Hawaiian breadfruit maturation
and physical requirements.
Hawaiian breadfruit trees mostly produce from mid-summer
to late fall, doing best in well watered, deeper soils with good
drainage at some distance from saline conditions. The two sites
at which the Russians describe breadfruit in Hawai‘i, near Hikiau
Heiau in Kealakekua Bay and at Ka‘awaloa just north of there,
and the timing of their visits in early to mid-June, would seem to
ensure under normal conditions that the Russian experience with
Hawaiian breadfruit would be one of the poorest of any of the
early European visitors. Indeed, when considering the timing of
the visits at the start of the fruiting season, that rainfall at
Ka‘awaloa and Kealakekua Bay is one of the lowest in Hawai‘i,(8)
and that the light soils (at Ka‘awaloa) and the proximity to the
ocean (at both sites) would be similarly unfavorable to breadfruit
culture, we may understand why “Lisianski and his men were
not impressed by the...breadfruit trees...[that] were [there] in poor
condition.” (10, p. 139) It is also worth considering the possible effects
of drought that year, as serious rainfall deficiency occurs
somewhere in Hawai‘i every 21 years, on average.(46, 69)
With the exception of a second less-well documented critical
remark,(83, p. 4) the other early descriptions of Hawaiian breadfruit
that we surveyed portray it as an important component of the
traditional diet, as a plant readily supplied to visitors when
available, and as a common fodder for domesticated animals.(7, 19,
33, 38, 72, 82, 100, 113)
Despite the preponderance of evidence demonstrating a very
substantial role for breadfruit in the traditional Hawaiian economy
and diet, none of the evidence we reviewed places the crop in a
paramount position as the human staple, as it was, for example,
in the Marquesas Islands. Describing Hawaiian foods of the early
1820s, William Ellis stated that
Early descriptions
of Hawaiian
breadfruit portray it
as an important
component of the
traditional diet, as a
plant readily
supplied to visitors
when available, and
as a common fodder
for domesticated
Hawaiian Breadfruit 25
“The natives subsist principally on the roots of the arum
esculentum, which they call taro, on the convolvulus
batatas, or sweetpotato, called by them uara, and uhi,
or yam. The principal indigenous fruits are the uru, or
breadfruit; the niu, or cocoa-nut; the maia, or plantain;
the ohia, a species of eugenia; and the strawberry and
raspberry.”(33, p. 25)
Ellis’ placement of breadfruit in a non-staple though important
subsistence position in the Hawaiian food hierarchy is particularly
useful because it was made by a person who had in the early 19th
century visited other Polynesian archipelagos where breadfruit
production and consumption predominated in the agricultural
Later writers are less subtle than Ellis in their assessments
of the breadfruit’s alimentary status in traditional Hawai‘i.
Explorer and eclectic natural historian Joseph Rock, for example,
claimed that “ Hawaii the breadfruit has not played a very
important part in the household..., as it the South Seas.”(107,
p. 117) Others, like botanist Elbert Little and forester Roger Skolmen,
stated rather unequivocally that it “was not an important food...
probably because the Hawaiians had not introduced good
varieties,”(74, p. 98) even though, as we mentioned earlier, the
Hawaiian cultivar is consistently viewed elsewhere as a superior
variety. The botanist Degener says that “ an article of food,
the breadfruit was not of much importance in Hawaii.” (29, p. 129; see also
51, 83, 95)
Fortunately, these negative appraisals of breadfruit in Hawai‘i
by 20th century writers having little or no first-hand experience
with traditional Hawaiian lifeways have been balanced by more
nuanced modern descriptions that we feel are more in line with
the comments of earlier Hawaiian and Euro-American observers.
While well known Bishop Musuem ethnographers E.S. Craighill
Handy and Elizabeth Green Handy generally placed breadfruit
in a secondary alimentary position in Hawai‘i, they nevertheless
recognized regional variation in production and consumption:
“...except in Puna, Hawai‘i, breadfruit was wholly secondary to
taro and sweetpotato as a staple.” (46, p. 151) On Läna‘i, archeologist
Kenneth Emory noted that “...the sweet potato was the staple,
although taro, yams, and breadfruit were important supplementary
items of diet.”(34, p. 520)
...but by the 1920s,
heavy breadfruit
consumption had
become a thing of
the past.
26 Hawaiian Breadfruit
Explanations proposed to account for the secondary agri-
cultural and alimentary importance of breadfruit in Hawai‘i, when
compared to other Polynesian archipelagoes where breadfruit was
the staple, have ranged from cultural preferences to physical
environmental differences. Most authors promote this second
explanation(1, p. 20; 46, p. 73) claiming, for example, that the Marquesans,
Samoans, and Tahitians produced an agroecological response
favoring breadfruit over taro because of topographic and climatic
factors that made large-scale irrigated taro agriculture more
difficult there when compared to Hawaiian conditions. Despite
such ecological-geographical assertions, Handy also saw cultural
factors at work, noting that “...Hawaiians consider [breadfruit]
inferior in taste and in nutritional value and...because it produces
much gas....”(44, p. 189; 83) Indeed, as we will see further on, preference
for taro in Hawai‘i was probably at least in part culturally
determined, for breadfruit is nutritionally equivalent to taro, and
when considering vitamin and mineral content, it may even be
somewhat superior to taro in overall food value.
Preparation of breadfruit as food
The fruits were picked by hand or knocked off the tree using
long wooden poles (lou), to be caught in a net or by a person
waiting below.(21, 44) Breadfruit can be prepared and consumed in a
number of ways. Baking in earth ovens (imu) or broiling over
hot coals and preparation as poi ‘ulu were common. Roasted
breadfruit is mentioned as a principal dietary element of certain
traditional specialists such as kükini (runners). While in training,
it is claimed that kükini were denied poi and heavy foods, being
permitted fowl and vegetables, and especially roasted taro,
sweetpotato, and breadfruit.(77) It is generally believed that
breadfruit was not kapu (forbidden) to women.(2, p. 36)
Breadfruit was also prepared as a yellowish poi in Hawai‘i,
much in the same way that taro poi was prepared,(95) with the
degree of fermentation corresponding to individual taste. Some
people preferred breadfruit poi because it was said to be “sweeter”
than taro poi, while others preferred taro and breadfruit poi
mixtures.(77) Whether eaten directly after baking, or transformed
into poi, fairly small quantities were most likely prepared and
consumed within a few days. The fruit was also transformed into
piele ‘ulu (or piepiele ‘ulu), a pudding of coconut milk and
breadfruit cooked in earth ovens, or into pepeie‘e, a hardened
Hawaiian Breadfruit 27
version of the latter involving much
the same preparation but with more
coconut milk added. Once dried, it
could be consumed over several
months.(22, 46, 73) Hawaiian historian
David Malo(77, p. 21, 43) considered poi
‘ulu and pepeie‘e to be “delicious.”
More recently, people have
taken to boiling breadfruit or frying
it in butter. As a modern foodstuff,
breadfruit’s importance jumped
during World War II in many of the more remote and less well
provisioned areas of Hawai‘i. The latex from a scored trunk or
branch was traditionally chewed by children(46, p. 154) and, after the
introduction of sugar and mint and other aromatic plants, these
were added to the latex as flavor enhancers. Today, many
nontraditional edible breadfruit products are being developed,
ranging from chips to flour to freeze-dried derivatives.(104, p. 27)
While many people in Hawai‘i with access to breadfruit trees
still enjoy eating breadfruit, some reject the taste.(48, p. 21) The
following account of breadfruit as food by one Hawaiian (W. S.
Lokai) in the early 20th century exemplifies the less-than-
unanimous appreciation of the fruit:
“Breadfruit was of three kinds. 1. The rat-eaten
breadfruit; the reason it was so called was on account
of the holes made by rats. 2. The wind-stricken fruit; it
was so called because of its exposure to the wind at all
times. 3. The soggy fruit; so called because the inside
or pulp was water-soaked, lumpy and tough when
eaten.” (37, p. 678)
Food preservation
Long-term preservation of breadfruit through an anaerobic
fermentation process involving intense acidification was practiced
on many of the Pacific archipelagoes where the tree was grown.(9,
27, 95, 108) This practice is generally viewed as a cultural response to
lean times resulting from chronic drought or disruption of agri-
cultural production by warfare.(27) Despite the fact that breadfruit
spoils quickly once harvested,(103) and ensilage of the fruits in large
subterranean pits was a major cultural feature of the Marquesas
Breadfruit is
equivalent to taro,
and when consider-
ing vitamin and
mineral content,
it may even be
somewhat superior
to taro in overall
food value.
28 Hawaiian Breadfruit
and Samoa, Hawaiians do not appear to have practiced this
preservation technology. The earliest Euro-American visitors to
Hawai‘i do not mention breadfruit preservation of any sort, nor
is the practice of fermentation in pits supported to any extent by
the archaeological record. Nonetheless, one early 19th century
observation suggestive of pit ensilage was made during the visit
by the Kruzenstern-Lisianski expedition to O‘ahu in 1804 by
Fedor Shemelin, who found breadfruit to have been placed in a
hole “for two months when not quite ripe.”(10, p. 139) However,
evidence suggests that this may have been a fairly recent
innovation at the time it was recorded, for Cook and King claim
to have shown Hawaiians how to preserve breadfruit in this
manner in 1778.(103, p. 211) Small pits possibly used for food storage
were also described by archeologist Roger Green at Makaha on
O‘ahu, but he concluded “it is unlikely that [they] were used for
[breadfruit] preservation.” (42, p. 70)
Food Value of Hawaiian Breadfruit
In the following section we present a nutritional assessment
of Hawaiian breadfruit. First, we summarize (Table 2) a
series of nutritional analyses reported from 1917 through
1976. These provide a background and comparative base
for results obtained during the course of our study.
The sampling design for the analyses presented in
Tables 3–6 (pp. 32–35) was adopted to assess overall
nutritional quality of the Hawaiian breadfruit cultivar as
well as quantitative differences in food value between breadfruits
from geographically and climatologically distinct areas within the
state of Hawai‘i. Two distinct sites were sampled, one in a leeward
upland area of the island of Hawai‘i, and the other in a windward
coastal location. Both sites are known to have produced abundant
breadfruit in ancient times. Fruits chosen appeared ripe but not so
overripe as to make handling difficult. Each fruit was beginning
to ooze gum and was mottled but still firm, although not brick-
hard to the touch.
Fruits from the windward location were gathered
from breadfruit trees within Hilo city limits (~50 ft [15 m]
elevation). Fruits from the leeward site were collected from trees
in the Keauhou area of Kona (600–700 ft [180–210 m] elevation).
Hawaiian Breadfruit 29
Reference 1 2 3 4 5
Preparation Baked Baked Boiled
Calorie count 119 / 134
Carbohydrate 25% 27.82% 29.3 / 31.7 g “high”
Fat 0.31% 0.3 / 0.3 g
Protein 1.34% 1.3 / 1.4 g
Fiber 4% 1.50% – – –
Calcium 0.022% 21 / 24 mg “fair”
Phosphorus 0.062% 59 / 67 mg “fair-good”
Iron 0.4 / 0.4 mg “poor”
Vitamin A “fair” “poor” 0 / 26 IU “poor”
Vitamin C “poor” “fair” 10 / 10 mg “fair”
Thiamin “fair” 122 / 109 mg
Riboflavin 58 / 56 mg
Niacin 0.7 / 1.3 mg
Ash 1.23% – – –
Water 25–30% 67.80% – – –
– information not provided
References and sample information
1. MacCaughey (ref. 75, p. 43), citing
Hawaiian Planters’ Monthly
13:315 (1894); unspecified amount of breadfruit.
2. Miller (ref. 83, p. 5), unspecified amount of Hawaiian
mixed with an unspecified Samoan variety.
3. Miller and Bazore (ref. 84, p. 19), qualitative summary re: Hawaiian
4. Miller and Branthoover (ref. 85, p. 5).
100 g “green, mature, cooked” breadfruit;
100 g “ripe, cooked” breadfruit.
Na Lima Kokua
(ref. 87, p. 3), qualitative summary re: Hawaiian
Table 2. Older nutritional data on Hawaiian ‘
30 Hawaiian Breadfruit
At each location, two fruits were gathered from each of three
trees. The fruits were harvested in early December, 1991, and
prepared within two days of harvest. We tested four samples from
each location (eight samples total): raw fruit, baked fruit, poi
made from the baked fruit, and fermented poi‘ulu. Details of the
experimental methods are given on page 31.
Each prepared sample was analyzed in triplicate for water,
protein, fat, available carbohydrate (starch and sugar), dietary
fiber, ash, 10 minerals, and 6 vitamins. Values presented in Tables
3–5 show the means of the three analyses for each of the four
breadfruit preparation methods: raw, baked, poi, and fermented
poi. Energy content of Hawaiian breadfruit was calculated from
the protein, fat, and carbohydrate contents using standard formulas
that account for the average digestibility of fruits.(119)
The enzymatic/gravimetric method can quantify dietary fiber
by separating it from other carbohydrates such as starch. Con-
sequently, in starch-rich foods like breadfruit, the enzymatic/
gravimetric method generally yields lower but more accurate
dietary fiber results. Our dietary fiber analyses resulted in
significantly lower values for breadfruit than those published in
USDA Nutrient Database SR-17(116) for an unspecified breadfruit
cultivar (see Table 3).
Data for soluble and insoluble fiber composition also are
presented in Table 6. To our knowledge, these are the only values
currently available for these fractions of dietary fiber in breadfruit,
and we recently published them in the Journal of Food Com-
position and Analysis.(53)
Mineral content is presented in Table 4. Values for water-
soluble vitamins (vitamin C, thiamin, riboflavin, and niacin) and
two fat-soluble vitamins, (A and E) are presented in Table 5.
Comparison of data from the Hilo and Kona breadfruits
reveals some differences between the two locations. The Kona
raw breadfruit samples had higher water content, possibly due to
differences in the climate or soil but more likely due to the Kona
breadfruit sample being slightly less ripe than the Hilo sample,
as suggested by the Kona sample’s lower starch/sugar content
(total available carbohydrate) (Table 3). Comparison of results
for baked and poi samples showed very similar water and
carbohydrate contents for both the Hilo and Kona fruits, possibly
indicating greater uniformity in ripeness.
Ash and individual mineral values were generally higher in
Hawaiian Breadfruit 31
Methods of breadfruit sample preparation
and analysis
Raw fruit samples: one of the two fruits from each of the
three trees at each location was selected by flipping a coin.
These fruits were sliced in half, the cores and skins were re-
moved, and the pulp was cut into 1-inch cubes. Equal num-
bers of cubes from each of the three fruits were mashed to-
gether in a bowl. One cup of this mashed fruit was placed in
a triple-layered freezer bag, labeled, and frozen.
Cooked samples: the six fruits remaining after sampling
the raw fruit, three from each location, were baked uncov-
ered and whole in a standard oven at 250°F (121°C) for six
hours, roughly simulating the traditional Hawaiian slow-cook-
ing process in an underground oven (imu). After being cooled
to room temperature, each fruit was cut in half, and the core
was removed. The cooked pulp was cut into 1-inch (3-cm)
cubes. Equal numbers of cubes from each of the three cooked
fruit samples were mashed together in a bowl.
Crushed mixtures from each of the three baked fruit
samples were divided into three portions, one each for the
baked fruit sample, the poi sample, and the fermented poi
sample. The two portions for the baked samples were then
bagged, labeled, and frozen.
Poi was made by adding equal amounts of commercial
bottled water to the baked, mashed fruit pulp and pounding it
to pudding consistency. The fresh poi‘ulu was then frozen.
The remaining freshly prepared poi‘ulu samples were put in
bowls, covered with cheesecloth, left to ferment at room tem-
perature for 36 hours, and then frozen.
Chemical analyses were done at the College of Tropical
Agriculture and Human Resources, University of Hawai‘i at
Mänoa. Total dietary fiber was measured by the enzymatic/
gravimetric method that was recently adopted as the standard
method for dietary fiber analysis by the Association of Offi-
cial Analytical Chemists (AOAC). Mineral content was ana-
lyzed by inductively coupled plasma (ICP). Water-soluble
vitamins (vitamin C, thiamin, riboflavin, and niacin) were ana-
lyzed by high pressure liquid chromatography (HPLC). Two
fat-soluble vitamins, vitamin A and vitamin E, were measured
by standard AOAC methods.
32 Hawaiian Breadfruit
Table 3. Breadfruit nutrient composition (per 100-g sample) and comparative values from various sources.
Starch and Dietary
Water Energy Protein Fat sugar fiber
Sample (g) (kcal) (g) (g) (g) (g)
Raw breadfruit
Hilo 67.6 112 1.4 0.3 29.2 0.9
Kona 79.4 68 0.8 0.3 17.5 0.8
Mean 73.5 90 1.1 0.3 23.4 0.9
Baked breadfruit
Hilo 66.5 115 1.3 0.2 30.2 0.9
Kona 67.2 112 0.6 0.2 29.9 0.9
Mean 66.9 113 0.9 0.2 30.1 0.9
Breadfruit poi
Hilo 86.9 45 0.5 0.1 11.8 0.4
Kona 83.2 57 0.3 0.1 15.4 0.4
Mean 85.1 51 0.4 0.1 13.6 0.4
Fermented breadfruit poi
Hilo 87.1 45 0.5 0.1 11.7 0.3
Kona 81.6 64 0.3 0.1 17.1 0.3
Mean 84.4 54 0.4 0.1 14.4 0.3
Raw breadfruit* 70.7 103 1.1 0.2 22.2 4.9
Taro, cooked* 63.8 142 0.5 0.1 34.6 5.1
*USDA Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 17, 2004.
Hawaiian Breadfruit 33
Ash Ca P Mg Na K Fe Zn Cu Mn B
Sample (g) (mg) (mg) (mg) (mg) (mg) (mg) (mg) (mg) (mg) (mg)
Raw breadfruit
Hilo 0.72 19.8 29.7 26.4 4.2 224 0.33 0.07 0.10 0.07 0.50
Kona 1.16 36.0 26.0 41.1 10.4 354 0.46 0.10 0.06 0.04 0.54
Mean 0.94 27.9 27.9 33.8 7.3 289 0.40 0.09 0.08 0.06 0.52
Baked breadfruit
Hilo 0.85 26.4 32.1 23.1 4.9 283 0.52 0.17 0.10 0.07 0.51
Kona 1.15 23.2 26.4 46.2 6.6 339 0.36 0.07 0.04 0.03 0.72
Mean 1.00 24.8 29.3 34.7 5.8 311 0.44 0.12 0.07 0.05 0.62
Breadfruit poi
Hilo 0.30 12.6 11.7 10.4 1.4 83 0.26 0.12 0.05 0.03 0.21
Kona 0.58 8.5 13.6 23.8 3.3 172 0.33 0.16 0.02 0.02 0.44
Mean 0.44 10.6 12.7 17.1 2.4 128 0.30 0.14 0.04 0.03 0.33
Fermented breadfruit poi
Hilo 0.32 11.7 13.0 10.3 1.4 88 0.20 0.07 0.05 0.03 0.22
Kona 0.56 9.2 14.4 23.9 3.5 175 0.34 0.04 0.02 0.02 0.39
Mean 0.44 10.5 13.7 17.1 2.5 132 0.27 0.06 0.04 0.03 0.31
Raw breadfruit* 0.93 17.0 30.0 25.0 2.0 490 0.54 0.12 0.08 0.06
Taro, cooked* 0.97 18.0 76.0 30.3 15.0 484 0.72 0.27 0.20
*USDA Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 17, 2004.
Table 4. Breadfruit nutrient composition (per 100-g sample) and comparative values from various sources.
34 Hawaiian Breadfruit
Table 5. Breadfruit nutrient composition (per 100-g sample) and comparative values from various sources.
Vit A Vit C Thiamine Riboflavin Niacin Vit E Vit B6 Folacin Vit B12 Panto-
RE B1 B2 B3 aTE thenate
Sample (mg) (mg) (mg) (mg) (mg) (mg) (mg) (µg) (µg) (mg)
Raw breadfruit
Hilo – 18.2 0.31 0.09 1.6 0
Kona 23.3 0.25 0.11 1.8 0
Mean 20.8 0.28 0.10 1.7 0
Baked breadfruit
Hilo – 15.4 0.19 0.07 1.6 0
Kona 14.1 0.22 0.10 1.9 0
Mean 14.8 0.21 0.09 1.8 0
Breadfruit poi
Hilo 5.7 0.07 0.03 0.6 0
Kona 7.2 0.09 0.03 0.9 0
Mean 6.5 0.08 0.03 0.8 0
Fermented poi
Hilo 6.3 0.07 0.01 0.8 0
Kona 6.8 0.06 1.2 0
Mean 6.6 0.07 0.01 1.0 0
Raw breadfruit* 429.0 0.11 0.03 0.9 0.1 0.1 14 0 0.46
Taro, cooked* 05.0 0.11 0.03 0.51 0.44 0.33 19 0 0.34
RE: Retinol Equivalents; aTE: alpha Tocopherol Equivalents. A dash (–) indicates that only a trace of the nutrient was found; because these very
small amounts are at the limits of analytical reliability and are not of nutritional significance, no value is reported. A blank space indicates that no
analysis was conducted. *USDA Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 17, 2004.
Hawaiian Breadfruit 35
Table 6. Breadfruit nutrient composition (per 100-g sample): soluble and insoluble dietary fiber contents of Hawai‘i -
grown breadfruit and taro.
Dietary fiber (g)
Sample Soluble Insoluble Soluble / insoluble Total fiber (g)
Raw breadfruit
Hilo 0.12 0.74 0.16 0.86
Kona 0.18 0.66 0.27 0.84
Mean 0.15 0.70 0.21 0.85
Raw taro
‘Lehua’ 1.3 2.30 0.57 3.6
‘Bun long’ 0.8 3.00 0.27 3.8
Dasheen 2.36 2.05 1.15 4.41
Mean 1.49 2.45 0.66 3.94
Breadfruit poi
Hilo 0.05 0.32 0.16 0.37
Kona 0.06 0.37 0.16 0.43
Mean 0.06 0.35 0.16 0.40
Average fresh taro poi 1.18 1.93 0.61 3.11
Dietary fiber values for taro are from analyses done in the laboratory of Alvin Huang, University of Hawai‘i.
36 Hawaiian Breadfruit
the Kona raw breadfruit sample than in the Hilo sample. Total
ash was also higher in the Kona baked sample. Two minerals for
which breadfruit is a good source, magnesium and potassium, are
both significantly higher in the Kona raw and baked samples. It is
possible that soil mineral content, growing conditions, fruit
ripeness, or some other variable influenced some of the differences
observed between the two locations. Additional sampling would
be necessary to draw conclusions about the significance of the
locational differences in nutrient composition, but the present data
serve to suggest the potential variability that might be expected.
For comparison, the breadfruit nutrient data from USDA
Nutrient Database SR-17(116) are presented in Tables 3–5. This
standard reference is the most common nutrient database used
by nutritionists and in modern nutrient analysis software. Like
most sources of nutrient data, this reference does not specify the
variety of breadfruit analyzed or the provenance of the samples
analyzed. Some earlier sources of nutrient data that specified
“Hawaiian” breadfruit (Table 2) were limited in scope, probably
relying on older and less precise analytical techniques. It is rarely
clear which breadfruit variety was tested; in some cases it may
not have been the Hawaiian cultivated variety at all.(83)
With some minor differences, our nutrient values for raw
breadfruit are similar to those published in USDA SR-17(116). This
can be seen by comparing the means of nutrient content values
for the Hilo and Kona raw breadfruit samples with the USDA
breadfruit values (Tables 3–5). Using the mean of the nutrient
values for the two locations provides the most current nutrient
values representative of raw Hawaiian breadfruit as commonly
selected for cooking in the firm-ripe state.
Our analysis also included the trace elements manganese and
boron, which only recently have been demonstrated to be
important in human nutrition. Breadfruit provides a liberal amount
of boron relative to the current intake recommendation of about
1 mg/day,(90) but it is not a good source of manganese given the
recommendation for about 2 mg/day.(55)
The slow, low-temperature baking of Hawaiian breadfruit
results in substantial loss of vitamin C and thiamin. Vitamin C is
reduced by about 30 percent and thiamin by 25 percent. The
addition of water in preparing breadfruit poi reduces the
concentration of nutrients by about half due to simple dilution.
Fermentation at ambient temperatures for 36 hours had little effect
Hawaiian Breadfruit 37
on the nutrient content of the breadfruit poi except for depleting
Assuming, as we have, that taro was the preferred Hawaiian
staple, breadfruit would have been consumed secondarily on a
daily basis and either commonly or periodically in place of taro
when the taro supply was limited or breadfruit was abundant.
Nutritionally, breadfruit is a very adequate substitute for taro.(53)
Carbohydrate is the primary source of food energy in both foods,
with protein being low and fat very low. Comparison of raw or
baked breadfruit with taro in similar states illustrates substantial
similarity of the macronutrient composition of these two Hawaiian
foods (Table 3). Breadfruit is a fair to good source of dietary
fiber. However, taro contains four to five times as much total
dietary fiber as breadfruit, and taro also contains a higher
proportion of soluble fiber (Table 6). Although nutrition science
is only beginning to understand the importance of these two types
of dietary fiber, it has been demonstrated that a higher intake of
soluble dietary fiber may lower blood cholesterol levels.(4)
One way to evaluate the nutrient contribution of any food is
to see what nutrient requirements would be met if a person ate
nothing but that food to meet energy needs. Figure 1 illustrates
this for a woman eating 2000 calories of baked Hawaiian
breadfruit daily (and cooked taro, for comparison). This hypo-
thetical consumption of breadfruit as a staple would contribute
significant amounts of several minerals and vitamins to the diet,
especially magnesium, potassium, thiamin, niacin, vitamin C, and
fair amounts of riboflavin. Other nutrients are present in
substantially lower quantities. Most of the B vitamins are higher
in breadfruit than in taro, although vitamin B-6 is an exception.
Vitamin C is much higher in breadfruit, while mineral levels are
nearly equivalent in the two foods. Our analysis detected only
trace amounts of vitamin A, while others have reported small
amounts.(40) Our sampling procedures did not include the breadfruit
skin, and any significant amount of vitamin A may be located
Looking at Figure 1, one might conclude that breadfruit is
nutritionally superior to taro. Depending on the nutrients of most
concern, this could be considered true if the fruit of breadfruit
and the corm of taro alone are compared. However, our
comparison does not include the taro leaf, which also was
frequently consumed. Taro leaf is a very good source of vitamin
Assuming that taro
was the preferred
Hawaiian staple,
breadfruit would
have been con-
sumed secondarily
on a daily basis and
either commonly or
periodically in
place of taro when
the taro supply was
limited or bread-
fruit was abundant.
38 Hawaiian Breadfruit
100 150 200 250 300 350
Vit C
Vit A
Figure 1. Nutrient density comparisons between breadfruit and taro. (See text for explanation.)
Percent of recommended intake
(below the limit of detection)
Taro Breadfruit
Hawaiian Breadfruit 39
A and folacin and a good source of vitamin C. The comparison
of breadfruit with taro in Figure 1 shows that both staples have
their nutritional strengths and weaknesses. One substitutes well
for the other, and both contribute important nutrients when they
serve as major sources of energy in a total dietary pattern. For
instance, in considering the dietary habits of contemporary
Hawaiian and other Polynesian peoples, some researchers(111) have
concluded that breadfruit is nutritionally superior to the common
staples rice and potato. Although the nutritional superiority of
breadfruit relative to white rice is supportable, the comparison
with brown rice or potato is debatable. As is the case for breadfruit
and taro, these other starchy staple foods each have their
nutritional strengths and weaknesses, with each filling a similar
niche in an overall dietary pattern.
Overall nutritional contribution to Hawaiians
The nutrition data show that breadfruit could easily have served
as the major staple in the Hawaiian dietary pattern. Nutritionally,
it substitutes well for taro. Nevertheless, it seems that taro was
the usual staple in the Hawaiian diet, although it also appears
that considerable variation in both taro and breadfruit production
and consumption existed within the archipelago; the physical and
possibly cultural variables affecting this variation are poorly
understood. One could guess that the substantial production of
breadfruit in upland Kona was related to a need there for foods
higher in protein or fat, perhaps due to the reduced availability of
fish at elevations some distance from the sea. Although breadfruit
is low in protein and fat, its production in Kona and other upland
sites contributed to raising pigs and dogs for consumption and to
obtaining fish through exchange with coastal inhabitants, thereby
converting the vegetal resource into other needed nutrients.
Breadfruit was thus transformed into animals that could be utilized
in upland settings to satisfy normal dietary protein and fat
requirements. It could also be “banked” there in the form of
animals that could be consumed when taro, breadfruit, and other
vegetable sources were in short supply.
Comparison of
breadfruit with taro
shows that both
staples have their
nutritional strengths
and weaknesses.
One substitutes well
for the other, and
both contribute
important nutrients
when they serve as
major sources of
energy in a total
dietary pattern.
40 Hawaiian Breadfruit
Seasonality, Reproduction,
and Yield
Given the differences noted in the historical record and the
variability in assessments both of the agricultural abundance of
breadfruit and its dietary importance in Hawai‘i, ranging from
limited cultivation and marginal importance in the diet to widely
cultivated and substantial in the diet, we investigated features of
Hawaiian breadfruit seasonality, reproduction, and yield to see
what this information could add to our knowledge of breadfruit’s
importance in ancient Hawai‘i.
In comparing the single Hawaiian breadfruit variety to the many
cultivars found elsewhere in Polynesia and throughout the South
Pacific, many writers have attributed a relatively short fruiting
season to the Hawaiian breadfruit: May–June through August.(51,
75, 89, 107) However, much evidence contradicts this claim. For
example, despite generally similar conclusions on seasonality,
botanist Vaughn MacCaughey also recognized “...some variation...
at different elevations and on the different islands,”
(75, p. 42)
as did
botanist Marie Neal in noting that “a small crop is borne in
(89, p. 303)
Furthermore, University of Hawai‘i nutritionist
Carey Miller was able to obtain “...breadfruit from the first of
September until the last of December...” with it becoming
“difficult to obtain...during January and February.”(83, p. 5) In
contrast, tropical fruit specialist Julia Morton stated, “Breadfruits
are most abundant in Hawaiian markets off and on from July to
February.” (86, p. 56)
Similarly, Captain James Cook was able to obtain “plenty of...
breadfruit...” on January 19, 1778, upon arrival at Kaua‘i,(14, p. 1081)
and he again obtained “a large quantity of breadfruit...” on
December 2 and 3, 1778, from Moloka‘i and Hawai‘i, as he did
from windward Hawai‘i on December 21.(14, p. 1152, 1154) Following
his death on February 14, 1779, breadfruit was offered by
Hawaiians as a “peace offering” on at least two occasions at
Kealakekua Bay, on February 19 and 20,(14, p. 1214) and it was
presented to Cook’s ships for trade between Maui and Läna‘i on
February 24.(14, p. 1219) Given that the fruits do not keep for more
Breadfruit was
transformed into
animals that
could satisfy
normal dietary
protein and fat
requirements, and
it thus could be
“banked” and
consumed when
other vegetable
sources were in
short supply.
Hawaiian Breadfruit 41
than a few days after being gathered,(103, p. 207) breadfruit thus appears
to have been readily available in most of the archipelago well
into the winter months, at least at that time. University of Hawai‘i
horticulturist Willis Pope also described a longer fruiting season
that is more consistent with the descriptions found in Samwell’s
journal, the tree producing for “...about eight months of each
year.” (96, p. 10)
While our study of breadfruit has not investigated seasonality
through direct observation, it is likely that differences in
availability are attributable at least in part to year-to-year
fluctuations in production and to locality-dependant factors, as
ethnographers E. S. Craighill and Elizabeth Green Handy
concluded when they stated that they “...were told that in Puna in
a good year, breadfruit may be eaten for eight months of the year,
beginning with May. Elsewhere five months is the usual period,
from May to September.” (46, p. 152)
Moreover, few of the statements we found on seasonality
draw a clear distinction between peak-season and low-season
availability, a common phenomenon in many parts of Hawai‘i
where breadfruit is grown. Our observations on Hawai‘i indicate
that Hawaiian breadfruit is available for more than just the summer
months. The fruits harvested for the nutritional analyses we did
were taken from trees in East and West Hawai‘i in early December
1991. The three mature trees found at the Amy B. H. Greenwell
Ethnobotanical Garden in Captain Cook on Hawai‘i (1500 ft [450
m] elevation) usually fruit copiously for about six months each
year (July–August through November–December), but fruits
could often be found as well during a second, smaller fruiting
period in the winter.
We should also recognize that the Hawaiian chiefs on the
larger islands would have been able to draw upon breadfruit trees
growing over a range of elevations from sea level to perhaps
2000–2600 ft (600–800 m), with fruits from trees at the higher
sites ripening later. If we consider the elevation-related differences
in flowering and maturation and peak- and low-season production,
an 8-month to even 10-month period of breadfruit availability
might easily be possible, and especially so for the political and
ceremonial needs that could not in all likelihood have been met
if fruits were drawn from a single locality. The situation in Tahiti
was comparable.(36, p. 188; 50, p. 40)
“ Puna in a
good year,
breadfruit may be
eaten for eight
months of the year,
beginning with
42 Hawaiian Breadfruit
Reproduction and longevity
As elsewhere in Polynesia,(44, 101) in Hawai‘i breadfruit trees are
propagated from root cuttings or root shoots,(46) sometimes after
“wounding” surface roots to stimulate shoot production.
According to Handy, breadfruit is referred to in Hawaiian as ‘ai
kämeha‘i, or “food (ai) that reproduces itself ‘by the will of the
gods,’ that is, by sprouting.” (44, p. 187)
Referring collectively to the many breadfruit varieties grown
throughout southeastern Polynesia and Micronesia, French
ethnobotanist Jacques Barrau noted that transplanted root cuttings
will reach fruit-bearing age in about five or six years.(11, p. 120)
Although the trees are capable of several hundred years
longevity,(101) it is more often stated that they remain at peak fruiting
capacity for between 35 and 60 years under good conditions.
(2, 94, 96)
Highly variable statements have been made about breadfruit yields
in Hawai‘i. On the one hand, Stewart “found yields [to be] very any season” during 1823–25,(83, p. 4) much as the Russian
Shemelin had found in 1804. On the other hand, Captain Cook,
having observed breadfruit production elsewhere in Polynesia,
was impressed by breadfruit productivity in Hawai‘i, for “when
he visited Kauai [he] noticed that breadfruit thrives here, not in
such abundance, but produces double the quantity of fruit they
do on the plains of Otaheite.” (46, p. 153) David Samwell similarly noted
that Hawai‘i, Maui, and Kaua‘i produced “the breadfruit in great
plenty,” and he was told that O‘ahu also “produces plenty of
breadfruit.” (14, p. 1221)
To assist resolution of the yield issue, we have attempted to
estimate breadfruit yields in ancient Hawai‘i. While we could
not determine the exact extent of area planted to breadfruit, the
density and uniformity of the plantings, nor the average yearly
production per tree at some representative point in Hawaiian
history, the preliminary calculations that we present below suggest
that breadfruit production in traditional Hawai‘i must have been
very sizable indeed.
Although there are many ethnohistorical records of traditional
Hawaiian land management and resource use prior to 1850, at a
time when Hawaiian agriculture was still flourishing,(76) most lack
the detail needed to make explicit calculations. However, two
eyewitness accounts from this period have been critical to our
Breadfruit is
referred to in
Hawaiian as ‘ai
kämeha‘i, or
“food (ai) that
reproduces itself
‘by the will of the
gods,’ that is, by
Hawaiian Breadfruit 43
estimates. In the first, Archibald Menzies, surgeon-naturalist
during Captain Vancouver’s visit to Kealakekua Bay in 1794,
describes breadfruit trees growing in the Kona Field System
behind the bay:
“We commenced our march with a slow pace...for about
three miles, when we entered the bread fruit plantations
whose spreading trees with beautiful foliage were
scattered about that distance from the shore along the
side of the mountain as far as we could see on both
sides.” (82, p. 74)
Some 50 years later, during the 1840–41 visit of the United
States Exploring Expedition, Charles Wilkes described the same
“Two miles back from the a belt a half a mile
wide, the breadfruit is met with in abundance, and above
this the taro is cultivated with success.”(123, p. 95)
These two accounts have permitted us to estimate the size and
the yield of the breadfruit zone within the Kona Field System
and, by extrapolation, to generate a rough estimate of breadfruit
production in traditional Hawai‘i. But first, for context, we
summarize what is known about the configuration of the Kona
Field System.
The core of the Kona Field System extended makai (from
the sea) to mauka (toward the mountain) for perhaps 5 miles
behind Kealakekua Bay, between Honaunau to the south and what
is now Kailua-Kona to the north, a distance of about 18 miles.
While Ross Cordy(25, p. 258)
claims that by the end of the 18
the system “extended from above Keähole Point south to the
border with Ka‘ü district,” a distance of approximately 43 miles,
we are unsure of breadfruit planting densities at these northern
and southern extremities, and we use the more widely accepted
18 mile extension to calculate our breadfruit yields. For our
purposes, the system was thus approximately 3 miles (4.8 km)
wide by 18 miles (29 km) long,(65) totaling about 34,500 acres or
140 km2. Viewing it from makai to mauka (that is, looking uphill),
it was composed of a kula or “coastal plain” zone, a kalu-‘ulu or
breadfruit zone, an äpa‘a zone, and an ‘ama‘u or tree fern
The core of the
Kona Field System
extended makai to
mauka for perhaps
five miles behind
Kealakekua Bay.
44 Hawaiian Breadfruit
(Sadleria) zone. The kula zone, mostly dry and rocky, consisted
of scattered plantings of sweetpotato and paper mulberry, the kalu-
‘ulu was dominated by breadfruit trees and complimented with
understory plantings, the äpa‘a zone was densely planted to
dryland taro, sweetpotato, and sugarcane, and the ‘ama‘u zone
was planted intermittently to banana and other crops. Based on
these descriptions and more recent statements,(3) it is evident that
the breadfruit belt occupied only a part of the Kona Field System.
Consider now Menzies’ statement that breadfruit plantations
within the Kona Field System “were scattered...along the side of
the mountain as far as we could see on both sides,”(82, p. 74) and
Wilkes’ claim that breadfruit formed “a belt half a mile wide”
above Kealakekua Bay.(123, p. 95) If we accept that Menzies’ obser-
vation was made from approximately a midpoint in the Kona
Field System’s north–south extension in 1794, we can estimate
the size of the kalu-‘ulu to be about
mile (0.8 km) wide by 18
miles (29 km) long, totaling about 5750 acres (23 km2), or about
one-sixth of the area of the whole system. We can now link this
estimate of the size of the Kona Field System’s kalu-‘ulu zone
with information on numbers of trees planted per surface area,
on fruit yield per tree, and on fruit weight.
We begin with Pope’s statement that “...a conservative
estimate. . .indicates that an acre will yield about 12 tons of fruit
[per year in Hawai‘i]...” and that trees were typically spaced about
40 feet (12.2 m) apart, resulting in a plantation of about 25 trees
per acre.(96, p. 10; 49, p. 68) Using Pope’s acreage yield estimates, the kalu-
‘ulu zone of the Kona Field System would have produced
approximately 69,000 tons of breadfruit per year. However, if
we focus rather on Pope’s planting density figure per acre of 25
trees and multiply this number by conservative estimates of single-
tree yields made by Barrau and others (see p. 3) of between 50
and 150 (average 100) fruits per mature tree per year, and then
by fruit weight variously estimated at between 1 and 10 pounds
(average 5 lb/fruit), we conclude that the Kona Field System’s
breadfruit zone may have been planted to around 144,000 trees,
producing about 6.25 tons per acre or around 36,000 tons of fruit
per year. We could also use Ragone’s lower estimate of between
1 and 5 pounds per fruit (average 2.5 lb/fruit), or our 1991 figure
of 3.2 lb average fruit weight, to conclude that about 18,000 or
23,000 tons respectively would have been produced each year in
the breadfruit zone of the Kona Field System.
Hawaiian Breadfruit 45
Even though other breadfruit groves existed in Hawai‘i, such
as in Puna and Hilo on Hawai‘i and Lahaina on Maui, and perhaps
also to some extent in the other West Hawai‘i field systems of
Kohala and Lälämilo-Waimea, and individual holdings were
numerous and widely scattered throughout the archipelago (see
the Appendix, pp. 57–60), we did not attempt to calculate the
extent of these combined sites, as their dimensions are largely
unknown. Nevertheless, in order to establish a rough estimate
for archipelago-wide breadfruit production, it seemed right to
multiply our estimate of the kalu-ulu annual breadfruit yield by
some factor commensurate with the combined production of
breadfruit trees located in the other plantations, in the äpaa zone
of the Kona Field System and presumably at its northern and
southern extremities as described by Cordy, and in the many
individual holdings throughout the archipelago. For example, if
we multiply the 36,000 ton mid-range estimate of annual kalu-
‘ulu breadfruit yield by 2, we achieve a conservative archipelago-
wide production estimate of 72,000 tons; if we multiply by 3, we
reach 108,000 tons. Whichever may be more accurate, we felt it
was fair to conclude that breadfruit production in Hawai‘i in a
“normal” year in the late 18th century may well have reached
between 50,000 and 100,000 tons, of which more than 83 percent
would have been usable as food.(96, p. 17)
We conclude that
the Kona Field
System’s breadfruit
zone may have been
planted to around
144,000 trees,
producing about
6.25 tons per acre
or around 36,000
tons of fruit per
©Hawaiian Mission Children’s Society Library
46 Hawaiian Breadfruit
Some people may feel that our planting density and uni-
formity and weight assumptions for the breadfruit zone of the
Kona Field System are unrealistic, and there is evidence to support
this.(3) Given that any number of topographic or phenologic
impediments to planting breadfruit uniformly within the kalu-
‘ulu zone would mean fewer trees per acre than the figure of 25
that we used, we might assume accordingly that yields would
have been lower than our optimal figures indicate, whichever
average fruit weight was employed in our calculations. Issues
such as drought, volcanic activity, and other natural phenomena
that would periodically reduce yield have also been raised,(3) as
has the issue of warfare in West Hawai‘i, where breadfruit trees
would have been periodically damaged or destroyed,(76, p. 25) a
situation that is better known and documented in Central
All of these factors—fruit weight, seasonal fluctuations,
warfare, and climatic and edaphic differences among and within
islands—would need to be assessed more thoroughly in order to
achieve a comprehensive assessment of breadfruit yield in ancient
Hawai‘i. Nevertheless, and despite the likelihood of geographic
and other irregularities that could lead to fluctuations in planting
density and annual yield, whichever of our estimates of kalu-
‘ulu plantation extent, planting density, or fruit weight we choose
to link with Langsdorffs statement based on Marquesan breadfruit
consumption that “ or two...trees are sufficient to support a
man the whole year round,”(46, p. 187) which equates to 12.5–25 people
per acre planted to breadfruit, or with Sturtevant’s assessment
that 1 acre (planted to 27 trees) is “sufficient for the support of
from ten to twelve people during the eight months of fruit-
bearing,”(49, p. 68) our analysis still shows that total breadfruit yields
were massive in ancient Hawai‘i, possibly capable of feeding
from 75,000 to several hundred thousand people annually. This
conclusion is consistent with other evidence that points to the
ready availability of breadfruit for food, gift, and trade in early
post-Cook Hawai‘i during all but a few months of the year, and
to the production of surpluses that permitted breadfruit to be used
regularly as animal fodder.
Observers of Hawaiian demography believe that the
prehistoric population of Hawai‘i was either peaking or slightly
declining in the late 1700s,(70, 109, 112) at about the time that Euro-
American visitors were first viewing breadfruit and the other
Our analysis
shows that total
breadfruit yields
were massive in
ancient Hawai‘i.
Hawaiian Breadfruit 47
Hawaiian crops. It is thus not surprising that “at the time of the
coming of the first European explorers the breadfruit was plentiful
around the native settlements and villages on all the islands; more
plentiful than it had been at any subsequent period.”(75, p. 37) On a
related issue, we found no evidence to contradict the statement
by Handy and Handy that “...Hawai‘i probably produced most,
Kaua‘i came second, Maui third, and O‘ahu fourth.”(46, p. 448)
According to Kirch, the events and processes leading to this
flourishing situation can be dated to around 1200 A.D., when
“...rapid development of large, densely settled populations...and
the expansion and intensification of both irrigation and dryland
field systems. . .”(70, p. 233) have been recognized in the archaeological
record. Our summaries of breadfruit tree sites, uses, densities,
and productivity strongly suggest that breadfruit played a major
part in this evolution, contrary to the recent conclusions of some
scholars.(3, p. 147; 25, p. 37)
After reviewing the biological aspects and the agro-ecological
features of breadfruit arboriculture in traditional Hawai‘i, we
described breadfruit’s position in Hawaiian mythology and
material culture, demonstrating that breadfruit was substantially
implicated in a wide range of Hawaiian oral traditions and
everyday activities. Its large-scale cultivation in groves had
significant political overtones. We also provided suggestive
evidence that the shade provided by breadfruit trees, the fish and
other animal products obtained through exchange with its fruits,
and the fodder provided by its fruits in animal husbandry and in
pisciculture were three significant aspects of traditional Hawaiian
political economy that have been largely overlooked in
assessments of breadfruit’s importance in Hawai‘i. Breadfruit was
also a commonly consumed food item, and we showed that its
food value matched or exceeded that of taro within a
comprehensive Hawaiian dietary pattern.
Our estimates of breadfruit yields point to the likelihood that
breadfruit was grown on a massive scale in Hawai‘i during the
traditional period for food, being capable alone of sustaining
between 75,000 to several hundred thousand people annually.
“At the time of the
coming of the first
European explorers
the breadfruit was
plentiful around the
native settlements
and villages on all
the islands; more
plentiful than it had
been at any
subsequent period.”
48 Hawaiian Breadfruit
Nevertheless, its human alimentary contribution by island or
district appears to have varied substantially and to have been both
direct and indirect, in part due to poorly understood physical and
possibly cultural variables. It is worth noting that breadfruit
plantations were unevenly distributed throughout the archipelago
(Appendix tables), as were Hawaiian populations,(26) but the
relationship between concentrations of breadfruit arboriculture
and human population densities remains unstudied. It would be a
useful exercise to establish the correspondence between these
two variables while also taking into account other aspects of
traditional Hawaiian economy, such as important locations of
wetland and dryland taro cultivation and pisciculture.
We also saw that breadfruit plantation density and extent
varied between windward and leeward settings, at least on the
larger islands, and that plantation locations on all the main islands
appeared to be near major villages and village clusters. Hilo, Kona,
and Puna on Hawai‘i, Wailua on Kaua‘i, Lahaina on Maui, and
Waimänalo on O‘ahu were heavily populated in the late pre-Cook
period, at the time that intensive breadfruit arboriculture was
practiced nearby. It is an unlikely coincidence that the largest of
the Hawaiian field systems, the Kona Field System, was located
in the district described by William Ellis in 1822 “as the most
populous of the six great divisions of Hawaii [island].(33, p. 186)
Presumably, the groves observed by early Euro-American visitors
had been originally planted to provision the people who had settled
in these areas, along with their domesticated animals. It was
possibly between 1600 and 1800 A.D., the period when the most
intensive development of the field systems occurred, that both
human populations and breadfruit plantations within these areas
began to develop substantially through mutually interacting
pressures: human numbers in response to the growing availability
of breadfruit and other resources, and breadfruit groves in response
to the increasing need for more food and fodder, both occurring
through a process mediated by competition among chiefs.
All the evidence we reviewed, whether for our ethnobotanical
treatment or for our nutritional and yield analyses, underscores
the inaccuracy of consigning breadfruit to a minor role in
traditional Hawaiian human ecology. This beautiful, productive
tree has an ongoing role to play in the Hawaiian lifestyle, and we
hope our work contributes to an expansion of its presence in
Hawaiian landscapes.
All the evidence we
reviewed, whether
for our ethnobotan-
ical treatment or
for our nutritional
and yield analyses,
underscores the
inaccuracy of
consigning bread-
fruit to a minor
role in traditional
Hawaiian human
Hawaiian Breadfruit 49
Kealakekua Ranch Ltd. generously provided grants to the Amy
B.H. Greenwell Ethnobotanical Garden, Bishop Museum, to
undertake the research for and drafting of this study, and to the
College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, Univer-
sity of Hawai‘i at Mänoa, to assist in its publication.
The drawing on page 45, by Persis Thurston, was provided
by the Hawaiian Mission Children’s Society Library. The ‘ulu
quilt pattern image reproduced on page 1 and elsewhere was pro-
vided by the Kona Historical Society. Dietrich Varez kindly
allowed us to use his block-cut images, reproduced on pages 12,
27, and elsewhere.
Many other institutions and people provided valuable sup-
port. We would like to thank the Bishop Museum Library; the
UH Center, West Hawai‘i Library; and the Kona Historical Soci-
ety for helping us obtain bibliographic references and difficult-
to-find documents. We would also like to thank Pat Bacon, Jean
Greenwell, Terry Hunt, Kana‘e Keawe, Alexandre Meilleur,
Peter Van Dyke, and especially late Sherwood Greenwell for
collaboration and support.
50 Hawaiian Breadfruit
52 Hawaiian Breadfruit
Legendary sites
Hilo, “the breadfruit of Piihonua” (37, p. 278)
South Hilo/Waiäkea, “a...tree laden with fruit” (99, p. 219-220)
North Kona, “breadfruit from the uplands of Hu‘ehu‘e” (99, p. 52–53)
Puna, “lowlands of Ko‘oko‘olau,” and “the low hanging breadfruit trees
of Kalapana...the breadfruit trees of Malama” (37, p. 248, 256)
Uluka‘a, “a mythical land...with breadfruit” (105, p. 19–31)
Waipi‘o Valley, “a breadfruit grove...beside the falls of Hi‘ilawe” (17,
p. 36)
Table 2. Kaua‘i and Ni‘ihau.
Scattered sites
Ha‘ikü ahupua‘a, “old trees [in] kuleana,” prehistoric (46, p. 427)
Moloa‘a, “a few old trees,” in 1935 (46, p. 422)
Näwiliwili River, “a few old trees,” in 1935 (44, p. 67)
Pää ahupua‘a, “planted in the gulches,” prehistoric (46, p. 427)
Waimea Village, “few trees,” in 1778 (46, p. 409)
Anahola, “many breadfruit trees...according to Keahi Luahine,” pre-
historic (44, p. 189)
Kapa‘a/Wailua, “cultivated in quantity,” prehistoric (46, p. 269)
Upper Wailua, “extensively planted,” prehistoric (46, p. 284)
Wailua River, “abundance of trees,” prehistoric (46, p. 425)
Waimea to Wailua, “extensive plantings early voyagers” (44,
p. 189)
Waipake Stream, “a number of old...trees,” in 1935 (46, p. 422)
Scattered sites
Ni‘ihau, “in large cracks and cavities...moist sinkholes” no date (121,
p. 24, 80)
Hawaiian Breadfruit 53
Table 3. Maui, La¯ na‘i, and Moloka‘i.
Scattered sites
Lahaina, “cottage smoke among the branches,” in 1823 (33, p. 76–77)
South Lahaina, “grew in valleys,” prehistoric (46, p. 492)
East Maui, “old breadfruit trees,” no date (Hämäkua, Ko‘olau,
Honomanü, Wailua nui, Nahiku, Häna, Wailua, Kïpahulu,
Kukui‘ula... 46, p. 153)
Central Valley, “much breadfruit,” prehistoric (Olowalu, Waikapü,
Wailuku, Waihe‘e, Waiehu...46, p. 153)
Keka‘a, “a famous grove,” prehistoric (46, p. 491)
Lahaina, “groups of trees...down close to the sea,” in 1825 (5, p. 103)
Lahaina, “the trees of Kauheana,” prehistoric (46, p. 494)
Lahaina, [contained] “fine trees forty years ago as any I have seen in
Samoa or Fiji,” around 1840s, (44, p. 190)
Near Lahaina, “double rows of breadfruit,” in 1819 (46, p. 493)
Lele (Lahaina), “the breadfruit grove of Lele, from one end to the other
of Lahaina,” 1812 (54, p. 106, 109)
S. shores of W. Maui, “second only to Puna,” no date (44, p. 190)
Legendary sites
Lahaina, “southwest of Lahaina Fort...the breadfruit trees of Kauheana,”
(37, p. 542)
East coast opposite Maui, “breadfruit groves,” late 1800s (34, p. 48)
Läna‘i, “much breadfruit...planted,” no date (44, p. 190)
“No trees seen” in 1779 by Samwell (14, p. 1220)
Scattered sites
Southeast end, “tree was cultivated,” no date (46, p. 153)
Hälawa Valley, “grove on south side of valley,” 1990s (39)
54 Hawaiian Breadfruit
Table 4. O‘ahu.
Scattered sites
Anahulu Valley, “associated with habitation,” prehistoric (68, p. 7)
Honolulu, “breadfruit...seen among the cultivated grounds,” in 1825
(5, p. 122)
Köloa Stream, “trees at...old homesites,” in 1953 (46, p. 461)
Kualoa, “the first trees to Hawai‘i,” prehistoric (89, p. 302–304)
Moanalua River, “bank of a salt lake,” in 1815 (46, p. 474)
Pearl River, “houses shaded by foliage,” in 1831 (100, p. 63)
Waimea Valley, “house sites,” late 1800s (46, p. 464)
Coast of Wai‘anae Mountains, no date (44, p. 190)
Kahana Valley, “trees in the valley,” prehistoric (46, p. 445)
Southerly side, “breadfruit was planted,” no date (Wailupe, Waikïkï,
Kalihi, ‘Ewa...46, p. 153)
Waimänalo District, “was filled with trees,” in 1847 (46, p. 459)
Windward coast inland, “in sheltered places,” no date (Waialua, Waimea,
Kahuku, Lä‘ie, Punalu‘u, Kahana, Käne‘ohe, Kailua, Waimänalo...
(46, p. 153)
Legendary sites
Moanalua Gardens, “a breadfruit tree from which the ghosts of the dead
leaped into the underworld” (89, p. 303).
Hawaiian Breadfruit 55
1. Abbott, I. 1982. The ethnobotany of the Hawaiian taro. Native Plant-
ers 1:17–22.
2. ____ 1992. La‘au Hawai‘i: Traditional Hawaiian Uses of Plants.
Honolulu, Bishop Museum Press.
3. Allen, M. 2001. Gardens of Lono. Honolulu, Bishop Museum Press.
4. Anderson, J., and N. Gustafson. 1988. Hypocholes-terolemic ef-
fects of oat and bean products. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 48(suppl.):749–
5. Anonymous. 1826. Voyages of HMS Blonde to the Sandwich Is-
lands in the Years 1824–1825. London, John Murray.
6. Apple, R. 1971. The Hawaiian Thatched House. Honolulu, Island
Heritage Press.
7. Arago, J. 1823. Narrative of a Voyage Round the World...During
the Years 1817...1820. vol. 1. London, Treuttel and Wurtz.
8. Armstrong, R. 1983. Atlas of Hawaii. Honolulu, Univ. of Hawaii
9. Atchley, J., and P. Cox. 1985. Breadfruit fermentation in Micronesia.
Econ. Bot. 39:326–335.
10. Barratt, G. 1987. The Russian Discovery of Hawai‘i. Honolulu,
Editions Ltd.
11. Barrau, J. 1957. L’arbre à pain en Océanie. J. d’Agric. Trop. et Bot.
Appliquée 4(3–4):117–123.
12. ____ 1961. Subsistence Agriculture in Polynesia and Micronesia.
Bernice P. Bishop Museum Bulletin 223.
13. ____ 1976. Breadfruit and relatives. In: N. Simmonds (ed.), Evolu-
tion of Crop Plants. London, Longman.
14. Beaglehole, J. (ed.). 1967. The Journals of Captain James Cook on
his Voyages of Discovery, III: The Voyage of the Resolution and
Discovery 1776–1780. part 2. London, Cambridge Univ. Press for
the Hakluyt Society.
15. Beckley, E. 1883. Hawaiian Fisheries and Methods of Fishing.
Honolulu, Advertiser Press.
16. Beckwith, M. 1951. The Kumulipo: A Hawaiian Creation Chant.
Honolulu, Univ. of Hawaii Press.
17. ____ 1976 (1940). Hawaiian Mythology. Honolulu, Univ. of Ha-
waii Press.
18. Bellwood, P. 1987. The Polynesians—Prehistory of an Island People.
London, Thames and Hudson Ltd.
19. Bird, I. 1974 (1875). Six Months in the Sandwich Islands. Rutland,
Vermont, Charles Tuttle Co.
20.Brigham, W. 1911. Ka Hana Kapa. The Making of Bark-cloth
in Hawaii. Mem. of the Bishop Museum 3.
56 Hawaiian Breadfruit
21. Buck, P. 1957. Arts and Crafts of Hawaii. Honolulu, Bishop Mu-
seum Press.
22. ____ 1959. Vikings of the Pacific. Chicago, Univ. of Chicago Press.
23. Cheever, H. 1850. The Island World of the Pacific. New York, Harper.
24. Coenan, J., and J. Barrau. 1961. The breadfruit tree in Micronesia.
S. Pacific Bulletin 11:37–39, 65–67.
25. Cordy, R. 2000. Exalted Sits the Chief. Honolulu, Mutual Publish-
26. Coulter, J. 1931. Population and Utilization of Land and Sea in
Hawaii, 1853. Bernice P. Bishop Museum Bulletin 88.
27. Cox, P. 1980. Two Samoan technologies for breadfruit and banana
preservation. Econ. Bot. 34(2):181–185.
28. Cuddihy, L., and C. Stone. 1990. Alteration of Native Hawaiian
Vegetation. Honolulu, Univ. of Hawaii, Cooperative National Park
Resources Studies Unit.
29. Degener, O. 1975 (1930). Plants of Hawaii National Park Illustra-
tive of Plants and Customs of the South Seas. Ann Arbor, Mich.,
Braun-Brumfield, Inc.
30. Dening, G. 1980. Islands and Beaches: Discourse on a Silent Land.
Marquesas 1774-1880. Honolulu, Univ. of Hawaii Press.
31. Dye, T. 1989. Tale of two cultures: traditional historical and ar-
chaeological interpretations of Hawaiian prehistory. Bishop Mu-
seum Occasional Papers 29:3–22.
32. Ellis, W. 1825. Journal of a Tour Around Hawaii. Boston, Crocker
and Brewster.
33. ____ 1969 (1822). Polynesian Researches—Hawaii. Rutland, Ver-
mont, Charles Tuttle Co.
34. Emory, K. 1969 (1924). The Island of Lana‘i: a Survey of Native
Culture. Bernice P. Bishop Museum Bulletin 12.
35. ESHA Research. 1992. The Food Processor Nutrition Software, Plus
version 5. Salem, Oregon.
36. Feldon, E. 1981. Early Tahiti as the Explorers Saw It, 1767–1797.
Tucson, Univ. of Arizona Press.
37. Fornander, A. (T. Thrum, ed.) 1916–20. Hawaiian Antiquities and
Folk-lore. vols. 4–6. Memoirs of the Bernice P. Bishop Museum.
38. de Freycinet, L. 1978. Hawaii in 1819: a narrative account by Louis
Claude Desaulses de Freycinet. E. Wiswell, (trans.), M. Kelly (ed.),
Pacific Anthrop. Records 26.
39. Garnett, W. Personal communication.
40. Gebhardt, S., R. Cutrufelli, and R. Matthews. 1982. Composition of
Foods—Fruits and Fruit Juices. Agricultural Handbook 8–9, Hu-
man Nutrition Information Service, USDA, Washington, D.C.
41. Giambelluca, T., M. Nullet, and T. Schroeder. 1986. Rainfall Atlas
of Hawai‘i. Honolulu, Dept. of Land and Natural Resources.
Hawaiian Breadfruit 57
42. Green, R. 1980. Makaha Before 1880 A.D. Honolulu, Bishop Mu-
seum Press.
43. Gutmanis, J. 1976. Kahuna La‘au Lapa‘au. Aiea, Hawaii, Island
44. Handy, E.S. 1940. The Hawaiian Planter—Volume 1. Bernice P.
Bishop Museum Bulletin 161.
45. ____ 1986 (1923). The Native Culture in the Marquesas. Bernice P.
Bishop Museum Bulletin 9.
46. ____, and E.G. Handy. 1972. Native Planters in Old Hawaii. Bernice
P. Bishop Museum Bulletin 233.
47. Handy, E.S., M. Pukui, and K. Livermore. 1934. Outline of Hawai-
ian Physical Therapeutics. Bernice P. Bishop Museum Bulletin 126.
48. Hawaii Agricultural Experiment Station. 1921. Annual Report. U.S.
Gov’t. Printing Office, Washinton, D.C.
49. Hedrick, U.P. (ed.). 1972. Sturtevant’s Edible Plants of the World.
New York, Dover Pubs, Inc.
50. Henry, T. 1985. (1928). Ancient Tahiti. Bernice P. Bishop Museum
Bulletin 48.
51. Hillebrand, W. 1981 (1888). Flora of the Hawaiian Islands.
Monticello, New York, Ulbrecht and Cramer.
52. Holmes, T. 1981. The Hawaiian Canoe. Honolulu, Editions Lim-
53. Huang, A., C.A. Titchenal, and B. Meilleur. 2000. Nutrient compo-
sition of taro corms and breadfruit. J. Food Composition and Analysis
54. Ii, J.P. 1959. Fragments of Hawaiian History. M. Pukui (trans.), D.
Barrere (ed.), Honolulu, Bishop Museum Press.
55. Institute of Medicine (Food and Nutrition Board). 2001. Dietary
Reference Intakes for Vitamin A, Vitamin K, Arsenic, Boron, Chro-
mium, Copper, Iodine, Iron, Manganese, Molybdenum, Nickel, Sili-
con, Vanadium, and Zinc. Washington, D.C., National Academy
56. Jarrett, F. 1959. Studies in Artocarpus and allied genera. III. A revi-
sion of Artocarpus subgenus Artocarpus. J. Arnold Arboretum
57. Jenkins, I. 1989. The Hawaiian Calabash. Honolulu, Editions Ltd.
58. Judd, H. 1930. Hawaiian Proverbs and Riddles. Bernice P. Bishop
Museum Bulletin 77.
59. Kaaiakamanu, D., and J. Akina. 1922. Hawaiian Herbs of Medici-
nal Value. A. Akana (trans.), Honolulu, Territorial Board of Health.
60. Kaeppler, A. 1980. Pahu and Puniu: An Exhibition of Hawaiian
Drums. Honolulu, Bernice P. Bishop Museum.
61. Kamakau, S. 1961. Ruling Chiefs of Hawaii. Honolulu,
Kamehameha Schools Press.
58 Hawaiian Breadfruit
62. ____ 1964. Ka po‘e kahiko: The People of Old. Honolulu, Bishop
Museum Press.
63. ____ 1976. The Works of the People of Old: Na hana a ka po‘e
kahiko. M. Pukui (trans.), D. Barrere (ed.), Honolulu, Bishop Mu-
seum Press.
64. ____ 1991. Tales and Traditions of the People of Old. No Mo‘olelo
a Ka Po‘e Kahiko. M. Pukui (trans.), D. Barrere (ed.), Honolulu,
Bishop Museum Press.
65. Kelly, M. 1983. Na mala o Kona: Gardens of Kona. Bernice P.
Bishop Museum Report 83-2.
66. Kepelino’s Traditions of Hawaii. Beckwith, M. (ed.), Bernice P.
Bishop Museum Bulletin 95.
67. Kikuchi, W. 1973. Hawaiian aquacultural system. PhD dissertation,
Univ. of Arizona.
68. Kirch, P. 1979. Late Prehistoric and Early Historic Settlement-Sub-
sistence Systems in the Anahulu Valley, O‘ahu. Bernice P. Bishop
Museum Report 79-2.
69. ____ 1984. The Evolution of the Polynesian Chiefdoms. Cambridge,
Cambridge Univ. Press.
70. ____ 1985. Feathered Gods and Fishhooks. Honolulu, Univ. of
Hawaii Press.
71. ____ 1992. The Archaeology of History. vol. 2 of Anahulu: The
Anthropology of History in the Kingdom of Hawaii. P. Kirch and M.
Sahlins. Chicago, Univ. of Chicago Press.
72. von Kotzebue, O. 1821. A Voyage of Discovery into the South Sea
and Bering the Years 1815–1818. 3 vols. London,
Longman, Hurst.
73. Krauss, B. 1974. Ethnobotany of the Hawaiians. Lyon Arboretum
Lecture 5, Honolulu.
74. Little, E., and R. Skolmen. 1989. Common Forest Trees of Hawaii.
Agriculture Handbook no. 679, USDA, Washington D.C.
75. MacCaughey, V. 1917. The genus Artocarpus in the Hawaiian Is-
lands. Torreya 17(3):33–48.
76. Major, M. 2001. An agricultural history of Kealakekua. In: M. Allen
(ed.), Gardens of Lono. Honolulu, Bishop Museum Press, pp. 23-
77. Malo, D. 1951 (1898). Hawaiian Antiquities. N. Emerson (trans.).
Honolulu, Bishop Museum Press.
78. Matsunaga, P. 1983. Periods of rainfall and associated drought re-
ports on the island of Hawaii. MA thesis, Univ. of Hawaii, Hono-
79. McBride, L. 1975. Practical Folk Medicine of Hawaii. Hilo, The
Petroglyth Press.
Hawaiian Breadfruit 59
80. Meilleur, B. 1996. Forests and Polynesian adaptations. In: L. Sponsel
et al. (eds.), Tropical Deforestation: The Human Dimension. New
York, Columbia Univ. Press, pp. 76–94.
81. ____, M.-A. Maigret, and R. Manshardt. 1997. Hala and wauke in
Hawai‘i. Bishop Museum Bulletin in Anthropology 7.
82. Menzies, A. 1920. Hawaii Nei 128 Years Ago. Honolulu, New Free-
dom Press, W.F. Wilson (ed.).
83. Miller, C. 1929. Food values of breadfruit, taro leaves, coconut,
and sugar cane. Bernice P. Bishop Museum Bulletin 64.
84. ____, and K. Bazore. 1945. Fruits of Hawaii, Description, Nutri-
tive Value and Use. Hawaii Agri. Exp. Sta. Bulletin 96.
85. ____, and B. Branthoover. 1957. Nutritive Values of Some Hawaii
Foods in Household Units and Common Measures. Hawaii Agric.
Exp. Sta. Circ. 52.
86. Morton, J. 1987. Breadfruit. In: J. Morton, Fruits of Warm Climates,
distributed by Creative Resource Systems, Inc., Winterville, N.C.
pp. 5–58
87. Na Lima Kokua. 1976. Breadfuit (Ulu): Uses and Recipes. Lawai,
Hawaii, Pacific Tropical Botanical Garden.
88. National Research Council. 1989. Recommended Dietary Allow-
ances. 10th edition. Washington D.C., National Academy Press.
89. Neal, M. 1965. In Gardens of Hawaii. Bernice P. Bishop Museum
Bulletin 50.
90. Newman, T. 1970. Hawaiian fishing and farming on the island of
Hawa‘ii in A.D. 1778. PhD dissertation, Univ. of Hawaii.
91. Nielsen, F. 1992. Facts and fallacies about boron. Nutrition Today
92. Norton, S. 1992. Salt consumption in ancient Polynesia. Perspec-
tives in Biology and Medicine 35(2):160–181.
93. Oliver, D. 1989. Oceania—The Native Cultures of Australia and
the Pacific Islands. vol. 1. Honolulu, Univ. of Hawaii Press.
94. Petard, P. 1986. Quelques Plantes Utiles de Polynésie Française.
Papeete, Tahiti, Editions Haere Po No Tahiti, Ra‘au Tahiti.
95. Pollock, N. 1984. Breadfruit fermentation practices in Oceania. Bull.
de la Société des Océanistes 40(79):151–164.
96. Pope, W. 1923–1926. The breadfruit: a study of the origin, history,
nomenclature, description, propagation, composition, uses and ef-
fort to preserve valuable varieties. Thesis, vol. 2, section 2, Hawaii
Agricultural Experiment Station.
97. Pukui, M. (trans.). 1983. ‘Olelo no‘eau. Honolulu, Bishop Museum
98. _____, and S. Elbert. 1986. Hawaiian Dictionary. Honolulu, Univ.
of Hawaii Press.
60 Hawaiian Breadfruit
99. ____, S. Elbert, and E. Mookini. 1974. Place Names in Hawai‘i.
Honolulu, Univ. of Hawaii Press.
100. Pultz, M.-A. (ed.). 1981. A Botanist’s Visit to O‘ahu in 1831. Press
Pacifica, Ltd.
101. Purseglove, J. 1968. Tropical Crops: Dicotyledons. London,
102. Ragone, D. 1991a. Collection, establishment, and evaluation of a
germplasm collection of Pacific Island breadfruit. PhD disserta-
tion, Univ. of Hawaii at Manoa.
103. ____ 1991b. Ethnobotany of breadfruit in Polynesia. In: P. Cox
and S. Banack (eds.), Islands, Plants, and Polynesians. Dioscorides
Press, pp. 203–220.
104.____ 1997. Breadfruit: Artocarpus altilis (Parkinson)
Promoting the conservation and use of underutilized and neglected
crops. 10. Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research/
Gatersleben and International Plant Genetic Resources Institute,
Rome, Italy. 77 pp.
105. Rice, W. 1923. Hawaiian Legends. Bernice P. Bishop Museum
Bulletin 3.
106. Riley, T. 1982. Where taro is king. In: Native Planters: Ho‘okupu
Kalo, J. Kennedy (ed.), vol. 1, no. 1, Honolulu.
107. Rock, J. 1974 (1913). The Indigenous Trees of the Hawaiian Is-
lands. Lawai, Hawaii, Pacific Tropical Botanical Garden.
108. Schattenburg, P. 1976. Food and cultivar preservation in
Micronesian voyaging. Misc. Working Papers, Pacific Islands Pro-
gram 1:25–53, Univ. of Hawaii.
109. Schilt, R. 1984. Subsistence and conflict in Kona, Hawai‘i. Bernice
P. Bishop Museum Report 84-1:3–10.
110. Schmitt, R.C. 1978. Demographic Statistics of Hawaii: 1778–1965.
Honolulu, Univ. of Hawaii Press.
111. Smith, N., J. Williams, D. Plucknett, and J. Talbot. 1992. Tropical
Forests and Their Crops. Ithica, NY, Cornell Univ. Press.
112. Stannard, D. 1989. Before the Horror: The Population of Hawai‘i
on the Eve of Western Contact. Honolulu, Social Science Research
Inst., Univ. of Hawaii.
113. St. John, H., and M. Titcomb. 1983. The vegetation of the Sand-
wich Islands as seen by Charles Gaudichaud in 1819. Occ. Papers
of the Bernice P. Bishop Museum 25:1–16.
114. Thrum, T. 1908. Thrum’s Hawaiian Annual. Honolulu.
115. Titcomb, M. 1969. Dog and Man in the Ancient Pacific with Spe-
cial Attention to Hawaii. Honolulu, Bishop Museum Special Pub.
116. USDA, Agricultural Research Service. 2004. USDA Nutrient Da-
tabase for Standard Reference, Release 17. Nutrient Data Labora-
tory Home Page,
Hawaiian Breadfruit 61
117. U.S. Soil Conservation Service. 1960. Soil Classification: A Com-
prehensive System. 7
Approximation. Washington, D.C.
118. Valeri, V. 1985. Kingship and Sacrifice: Ritual and Society in An-
cient Hawaii. Chicago, Univ. of Chicago Press.
119. Watt, B., and A. Merrill. 1963. Composition of Foods. Agriculture
Handbook No. 8, USDA, Washington, D.C.
120. Wester, P. 1921. The food plants of the Philippines. The Philip-
pines Agri. Review 14(3):211–384.
121. Wichman, J., and H. St. John. 1990. A Chronicle and Flora of
Ni‘ihau. Lawai, Hawaii, National Tropical Botanical Garden.
122. Wilder, G. 1971 (1928). The Breadfruit of Tahiti. Bernice P. Bishop
Museum Bulletin 50.
123. Wilkes, C. 1845. Narrative of the United States Exploring Expe-
dition...1838–1842. 5 vols., Philadelphia, Lea and Blanchard.
124. Wong, W. Personal communication.
View publication statsView publication stats
... Artocarpus altilis, commonly known as breadfruit, is an evergreen tree found in tropical regions that produces large, edible starchy fruits. Over a millennium of migrating and settling, sea-farers brought the highly productive tree across Oceania from west to east, domesticating favorite cultivars along the way (Ragone, 1997;Meilleur et al., 2004;Zerega et al., 2005). A heavy reliance on this crop by Pacific people for millennia is well-documented, where it contributed to agricultural production, resilience, and socio-political dynamics (Lincoln and Ladefoged, 2014;Meilleur et al., 2004). ...
... Over a millennium of migrating and settling, sea-farers brought the highly productive tree across Oceania from west to east, domesticating favorite cultivars along the way (Ragone, 1997;Meilleur et al., 2004;Zerega et al., 2005). A heavy reliance on this crop by Pacific people for millennia is well-documented, where it contributed to agricultural production, resilience, and socio-political dynamics (Lincoln and Ladefoged, 2014;Meilleur et al., 2004). In more recent history, explorers such as the Spanish de Quiros, William Dampier, and Captain Bligh played substantial roles in its introduction to the world beyond Pacific waters . ...
... Breadfruit has been hailed as having the potential to transform agriculture in the global tropics, particularly in the areas of malnutrition and poverty (Jones et al., 2011a(Jones et al., , 2011bLucas and Ragone, 2012). Although nutritive values fluctuate amongst cultivars and cooking methods, the fruit is generally a good source of complex carbohydrates while being low in fat and sugars with a relatively low glycemic index, and it is rich in certain vitamins and minerals (Ragone, 1997(Ragone, , 2014Meilleur et al., 2004;Jones et al., 2011aJones et al., , 2011bLiu et al., 2014;Turi et al., 2015). Although protein makes up a small proportion of the fruits profile, breadfruit cultivars offer high quality protein made up largely of essential amino acids (Somashekhar et al., 2013;Liu et al., 2015;Nochera and Ragone, 2016). ...
Breadfruit (Artocarpus altilis) has been promoted as an underutilized crop with tremendous potential to address global hunger and transform agricultural practices in the tropics. While traditionally confined to Oceania, breadfruit has been spread throughout the global tropics in the 250 years, with a significant increase in distribution and production over the last 20–30 years, bringing the crop into a vast array of growing conditions. We apply a systematic protocol to 33 previous studies representing 41 locations to explore the effect of abiotic environmental factors on nutritive aspects of breadfruit in three categories: proximate analyses, micro- and macro-nutrients, and vitamins. In applying linear and multi-variate regressions, data suggests that the abiotic factors play a strong role in the nutritive value of the crop and that each category of nutrition responds differently to the environment. In general, proximate analyses were most responsive to average annual precipitation, while vitamin concentrations respond to both climate and soil parameters; micro- and macro-nutrients show little correlation to climate or soils. We present findings in the context of previous research on abiotic influence of food nutrition.
... Hawaiian arboriculture was distinctly different than elsewhere in Polynesia, as was clearly remarked upon by early European visitors. Rather than closed canopy forests, the breadfruit plantations of Hawai'i were well spaced to allow greater light penetration, and trees generally appear to have been well tended and pruned (Meilleur et al. 2004). These systems also appear to have been more diversely intercropped than other arboricultural systems in the Pacific, likely relating to the more spacious planting regime and higher light levels ( Figure 7.5). ...
... Like other Pacific regions, sporadic trees and household trees were prevalent, with breadfruit a common occurrence in every district of every island (Handy 1940;Handy et al. 1972;St. John and Titcomb 1983;Meilleur et al. 2004). ...
... Lumber and firewood was a common application. The lightweight wood is preferred for small canoes, canoe outriggers, surfboards, land sleds, and floats (Krauss 1974(Krauss , 1993Orliac 1984;Ragone 1991b;Meilleur et al. 2004). Indeed, some efforts appear to be made to affect the form of a cultivated breadfruit tree for a specific timber use. ...
Breadfruit species (Artocarpus altilis and A. altilis × A. mariannensis) have been an important food and material resource for many Pacific Island societies for centuries, and have traditionally been a primary staple for many small islands and atolls. Domesticated by Near Oceania peoples several thousand years ago, breadfruit was spread throughout the tropical Pacific Islands as a core part of their agricultural economies. During the historical European colonial period, breadfruit cultivars were spread to many new tropical regions outside of Oceania, where they have become an important food source to varying degrees. Breadfruit played multiple roles in traditional cultivation, from closed canopy food forests, to heavily managed agroforesty systems, to backyard trees. In contemporary times, technological advances have facilitated new small‐ to large‐scale production for commercialization of breadfruit. As breadfruit cultivation becomes increasingly extensive, agronomic information on cropping systems and production management becomes increasingly necessary for efficient crop production and loss prevention. This review covers the botanical classification of breadfruit; its traditional spread, cultivation, and uses; and contemporary research into the agronomic aspects of breadfruit growth and production, including the physiology, ecology, yields and phenology, propagation, pests and diseases, and symbionts. We conclude by outlining the future agronomic research priorities for breadfruit.
... Hawaiian arboriculture was distinctly different than elsewhere in Polynesia, as was clearly remarked upon by early European visitors. Rather than closed canopy forests, the breadfruit plantations of Hawai'i were well spaced to allow greater light penetration, and trees generally appear to have been well tended and pruned (Meilleur et al. 2004). These systems also appear to have been more diversely intercropped than other arboricultural systems in the Pacific, likely relating to the more spacious planting regime and higher light levels ( Figure 7.5). ...
... Like other Pacific regions, sporadic trees and household trees were prevalent, with breadfruit a common occurrence in every district of every island (Handy 1940;Handy et al. 1972;St. John and Titcomb 1983;Meilleur et al. 2004). ...
... Lumber and firewood was a common application. The lightweight wood is preferred for small canoes, canoe outriggers, surfboards, land sleds, and floats (Krauss 1974(Krauss , 1993Orliac 1984;Ragone 1991b;Meilleur et al. 2004). Indeed, some efforts appear to be made to affect the form of a cultivated breadfruit tree for a specific timber use. ...
Full-text available
Breadfruit species (Artocarpus altilis and A. altilis × A. mariannensis) have been an important food and material resource for many Pacific Island societies for centuries, and have traditionally been a primary staple for many small islands and atolls. Domesticated by Near Oceania peoples several thousand years ago, breadfruit was spread throughout the tropical Pacific Islands as a core part of their agricultural economies. During the historical European colo- nial period, breadfruit cultivars were spread to many new tropical regions out- side of Oceania, where they have become an important food source to varying degrees. Breadfruit played multiple roles in traditional cultivation, from closed canopy food forests, to heavily managed agroforesty systems, to backyard trees. In contemporary times, technological advances have facilitated new small to large‐scale production for commercialization of breadfruit. As breadfruit culti- vation becomes increasingly extensive, agronomic information on cropping systems and production management becomes increasingly necessary for effi- cient crop production and loss prevention. This review covers the botanical classification of breadfruit; its traditional spread, cultivation, and uses; and contemporary research into the agronomic aspects of breadfruit growth and production, including the physiology, ecology, yields and phenology, propaga- tion, pests and diseases, and symbionts. We conclude by outlining the future agronomic research priorities for breadfruit.
... According to the Recommended Dietary Allowances, Breadfruit (1,000 calorie serving) can fulfil over 100% of carbohydrate and fibre requirements, over 50% of K and Mg, over 20% of protein, vitamin C, Fe, Ca, and P, and over 8% of folic acid (Jones et al., 2011;Jones et al., 2013). Some varieties are also high in the carotenoid (Englberger et al., 2003;Meilleur et al., 2004;Ragone and Cavaletto, 2006). Because of their limited shelf life, the fruits should be consumed within five days of harvesting. ...
Full-text available
Cookies are consumed as a snack, ready-to-eat and convenient food. The utilization of composite flour in the development of cookies is replacing wheat flour thereby enhancing the quality of the product. But, the quality assessment of cookies made with composite flour is greatly influenced by storage conditions. Therefore, the present research was conducted to evaluate the storage stability of wheat-breadfruit incorporated cookies. Cookies were prepared from wheat flour and breadfruit flour in different combinations. Based on the nutritional and sensory properties of freshly prepared cookies, the three best treatments were selected along with the control for the shelf-life evaluation and packed in aluminium laminated foil and stored under the conditions of 30 ± 1 • C temperature and 75-80% RH. Quality evaluation was done at two weeks intervals for 12 weeks of the storage period. Among the treatments, cookies prepared from 40% breadfruit flour contained 4.97% of moisture, 2.62% of ash, 9.46% of protein, 1.51% of fibre and 16.46% of fat content after 12 weeks. According to the sensory analysis, there were significant differences (p<0.05) among the treatments in terms of colour, taste, texture, aroma and overall acceptability. Microbial counts were within the acceptable range up to the entire storage period. Therefore, based on the nutritional, organoleptic and microbial qualities, the cookies produced with 40% of breadfruit flour was the best treatment compared to other combinations at the end of 12 weeks storage period.
... Vitamins such as thiamin and ascorbic acid are commonly used as indicators of water-soluble vitamin losses in fruit and vegetables because they are very sensitive to heat and oxidation. Thiamin level observed in the present study was higher than 0.31mg/100g reported by Meilleur (2004) and Vitamin C was lower than 22.0mg/100g by Dignan et al. (2004). Substantial loss in vitamin C in boiled than roasted sample could be attributed to double loss from heat destruction and leaching into the cooking medium. ...
Full-text available
08035794568 NUTRITIONAL AND ANTINUTRITITIONAL COMPOSITION OF RAW, BOILED AND ROASTED AFRICAN BREADFRUIT (ARTOCARPUS ALTILIS) PULP ABSTRACT New food preparation methods are emerging and their effect on nutritional composition of food is unknown. This study assessed changes in nutrient and anti-nutrient composition of Artocarpus Altilis pulp prepared by boiling and conventional oven roasting. Fresh, matured African breadfruits were peeled, washed and divided into three equal portions; raw, boiled and roasted. The pulp samples were analyzed for moisture and dried at 45°C for two days. All samples were milled into flour of particle size 1mm mesh and analyzed in triplicates for nutritional and anti-nutritional composition using standard methods. Moisture was higher in boiled (78.76±0.21%) than roasted samples (68.26±0.9%). Crude protein was better preserved by boiling (5.91±0.0%) than roasting (5.69±0.0%), roasting (0.67±0.06%) conserves fat better than boiling (0.63±0.06%). Mineral loss was higher in roasted than boiled samples for calcium (-13.51vs-7.7), sodium (-22.7vs-13.5), zinc (-27.6vs-11.8), iron (-46.0vs-6.0) and phosphorus (-11.4vs-3.8). Thiamin content reduced from 1.53±0.03 mg/100g (raw) to 1.29±0.03mg/100g (boiled) and 0.87±0.02mg/100g (roasted). Niacin content reduced by 19.6% with boiling and 43.8% with roasting. There was a significant decrease (P<0.05) in anti-nutritional composition of the samples. Boiling and roasting reduced phytate content from 16.57±0.21mg/100g to 15.73±0.15mg/100g and 13.53±0.25mg/100g in boiled and roasted samples respectively. Tannins reduced from the 4.63±0.15mg/100g to 3.50±0.20mg/100g (boiled) and 1.7±0.20mg/100g (roasted) and oxalates also had similar losses with boiling and roasting. Saponins content reduced from 73.33±2.52mg/100g to 66.33±1.53mg/100g and 29.67±2.52mg/100g, in boiled and roasted samples respectively. Boiling of African breadfruit pulp better preserved all nutrients except fat, but less effective in reducing anti-nutrients compared to conventional oven roasting.
... Traditionally, breadfruit in Hawai'i was cultivated as a major staple [49][50][51] in a range of cropping systems, from massive arboriculture developments, to mixed agroforestry, to individual and backyard trees [52]. Following European colonization, a dramatic shift away from traditional crops occurred [53], although many pockets of traditional agriculture and associated practices remained [54] and remnant trees and production systems persisted [50,Lincoln in press]. ...
Full-text available
Humanity faces significant challenges to agriculture and human nutrition, and changes in climate are predicted to make such challenges greater in the future. Neglected and underuti-lized crops may play a role in mitigating and addressing such challenges. Breadfruit is a long-lived tree crop that is a nutritious, carbohydrate-rich staple, which is a priority crop in this regard. A fuzzy-set modeling approach was applied, refined, and validated for breadfruit to determine its current and future potential productivity. Hawai'i was used as a model system , with over 1,200 naturalized trees utilized to calibrate a habitat suitability model and 56 producer sites used to validate the model. The parameters were then applied globally on 17 global climate models at the RCP 4.5 and RCP 8.5 global climate projections for 2070. Overall , breadfruit suitability increases in area and in quality, with larger increases occurring in the RCP 8.5 projection. Current producing regions largely remain unchanged in both projections , indicating relative stability of production potential in current growing regions. Bread-fruit, and other tropical indigenous food crops present strong opportunities for cultivation and food security risk management strategies moving forward.
... While uncertainty remains as to the exact meaning and/ or landscape referent for these terms, in part because they were written in the mid-nineteenth century in several ways, but also because ulu without the glottal stop has been defined as "grove" in English, and because kaulu has been lexically glossed to several native tree species and places (Pukui and Elbert 1986: 137), Kelly's contention that kaluulu likely refers to a vegetation zone dominated by breadfruit ('ulu) is a reasonable and now generally accepted conclusion. A massive pre-Euro-American upland area of intensive breadfruit arboriculture above Kealakekua Bay is now well substantiated (Allen 2004: 191, 216-20;Kelly 1983;Lincoln and Ladefoged 2014;Meilleur et al. 2004). ...
... The breadfruit tree is a high-yielding, low-input starch crop for tropical and subtropical areas with hundreds of named varieties (Ragone, 1997). Transported in voyaging canoes when the first inhabitants arrived in the Hawaiian Islands, only one variety of breadfruit was known in the Hawaiian archipelago up until the early 20 th Century (Rock, 1974;Meilleur et al., 2004). Traditionally, seedless breadfruit was cultivated from root cuttings. ...