The breadfruit tree (Artocarpus altilis (Parkinson) Fosberg) is an evergreen multipurpose and traditional agroforestry species. Its starchy fruits are a staple food in the Pacific Islands. The name breadfruit is due to the flavour of the fruit after being cooked, which is similar to that of freshly cooked bread (Ragone, 2011).
Breadfruit is an evergreen tree that reaches 15-20 m in height. The trunk ranges between 60 and 120 cm in diameter and produces branches above 4 m from its base. The bark is smooth. The crown is conical in shape in the first years of growth and becomes more rounded with maturity. The leaves are alternate, dark green and smooth on their upper side, and lighter green with reddish hairy veins on the underside. They are very variable in shape, ranging from obovate to ovate entire lobs to clear pinnate dissected lobs. They are about 45 cm long but can range from 15 to 90 cm depending on variety. Artocarpus altilis is monoecious and bears male and female flowers on the same tree. Male flowers are borne on club-shaped spikes that can be as long as 45 cm. Female inflorescences are globose clusters of about 1500-2000 small flowers. Once pollinated, the flowers develop into a spherical to cylindrical, honeycombed, smooth to rough-skinned, fruit of 10 to 30 cm in diameter and 0.25 to 6 kg in weight. It has a yellow to green rind and a starchy creamy white to yellow pulp (starch content about 20%). Fruits may or may not contain seeds, depending on the variety (Ragone, 2011; Ragone, 1997).
Artocarpus altilis is a multipurpose tree mainly grown for its fruits. The fruit is nutritious and a valuable staple food in most Pacific Islands. The mature fruits are eaten raw or cooked, steamed, fried, made into flour and baked, roasted or freeze-dried, or traditionally fermented. Breadfruit can be eaten at all stages of growth (Sikarwar et al., 2014; Ragone, 1997). It is canned and sold in the Caribbean and in the USA, Europe and Canada (Ragone, 2011). Young immature fruits can be boiled and are comparable in flavour to artichoke hearts. The seeds of breadfruits are edible. Sometimes referred to as breadnuts, they are eaten boiled or roasted (Duke et al., 1993). Breadfruit trees provide valuable fuelwood and low density, flexible timber, which is resistant to termites (Ragone, 2011). The fibrous parts are used to make traditional clothes, ropes and fishnets. The latex is used as a chewing gum and adhesive and for the caulking of canoes. The burning of dried male flowers repels mosquitoes and other flying insects. The breadfruit tree is used as an ornamental tree in Hawaii. It also provides shade, mulch and can be interplanted with other tropical crops (Ragone, 2011). Breadfruit has many ethnomedicinal uses (Duke et al., 1993).
The parts of the fruits that are discarded can be used to feed animals as a source of energy (due to the presence of carbohydrates) and protein (Ragone, 2011). Leaves are valuable fodder for cattle (Duke et al., 1993).