A Brief History of Breadfruit

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Originating from New Guinea, breadfruit has been cultivated for over 3,000 years and spread throughout the Pacific by voyaging islanders [1]. When first discovered by Europeans in the 1500s, they were delighted with the fact that the taste of these starchy fruits resembled bake bread when roasted [2]. It was not until 1769 that British explorers came across breadfruit in Tahiti, and wished to exploit it by transporting the trees to the Caribbean [1]. It was proposed that King George III commission a special expedition for that very purpose [1,2]. The HMS Bounty set sail from Tahiti to the Caribbean with one thousand breadfruit trees to provide British slaves with a high-energy, nutrient-rich food source [1]. However, the ship was attacked by mutineers and all of the plants were thrown overboard [1].

Five years later, a second trip was commissioned and this time proved to be successful, which lead to introduction of breadfruit to the West Indies [1]. Remarkably, you can find the original trees that were planted in Jamaica over 200 years ago that still produce fruit to this day [1]. Across the South Pacific, breadfruit remains a vital cultural and dietary resource for many of its inhabitants [1].

 

 

(1) Baba, Shigeyuki, Hung Tuck Chung, Mio Kezuka, Tomomi Inoue, and Eric Wei Chiang Chan. “Artocarpus altilis and Pandanus tectorius: Two important fruits of Oceania with medical values.” Emirates Journal of Food and  Agriculture, vol. 28, no. 8, 2016, pp. 531-539.

(2) “Breadfruit History” National Tropical Botanical Garden, 2017, https://ntbg.org/breadfruit/about/history