Friday, April 25, 2014

Ulu (Hawaiian for Breadfruit, the Tree of Plenty)

If the robot apocalypse ever happens in Hawaii, breadfruit is our friend. 
Even if the apocalypse never happens, breadfruit is still our friend.

Breadfruit on a tree. There is some sticky sap on the fruit. 

'Ulu (breadfruit in Hawaiian) is a very giving tree. Prolific and easy to grow, it requires hardly any work and attracts few diseases or pests. It produces and produces and produces. It’s a fruit that I think everyone who owns land should grow. Breadfruit is the tree for the lazy gardener.

According to Maui farmer Evan Ryan, a breadfruit tree can live for decades and produce a minimum of 100-200 fruits/year, averaging at least 3-4 lbs per fruit. That’s a lot of food! If it’s happier than that, it can produce even more (and bigger) fruits each year.

Breadfruit can be prepared in at least two ways: wait until it’s ripe and soft and then it is creamy and sweet or pick it while it’s still hard and cook it as a starch.

Unripe breadfruit roasted as a starch. The inner part (pith) has to be removed.

Unripe 'ulu can be roasted, boiled, steamed, fried and tastes like an unusual type of potato. It’s not sweet at all. Ripe, soft breadfruit can be roasted with butter and coconut milk as a dessert. There are many innovative and creative ways to cook with breadfruit, even 'ulu hummus! The Breadfruit Institute of the National Tropical Botanical Gardens on Maui organizes a breadfruit recipe contest every fall.

Breadfruit hummus. No chickpeas. 

The ancient Hawaiians also valued breadfruit although they preferred to eat taro, a starchy root vegetable. But breadfruit was so much easier to grow and didn’t require as much maintenance. 

A few uses of breadfruit by the native Hawaiians:
  • The sticky sap could be used as glue in building canoes, or to catch small birds for their feathers. 
  • The small leaf growing by the breadfruit flower could be used like sandpaper to sand  canoes and bowls.  
  • The inner bark could sometimes be used to make kapa, Hawaiian barkcloth.
  • The wood could be used for drums, surf boards, or boards to pound poi (a smooth edible paste made from the taro plant).
'Ulu is also the first pattern most Hawaiian quilters learn.

For more tips on breadfruit, visit this post: Maui Farmers Union Breadfruit Talk
Or read this excellent article about breadfruit by a friend of mine. 

P.S. If you are blog hopping from the A to Z challenge, please include your link if you comment! I try to reciprocate comments as quickly as I can, though I did lag behind last year, especially towards the end.

P.P.S. I am running two mini-contests during the A-Z Challenge (and into part of May). Here's how to enter


  1. Ulu looks great, and so many uses for it. Ulu hummus sounds real good.
    Silvia @

  2. It is good! Also if you're on a paleo diet, it's perfect.

  3. It's not commonly found in most markets. It has a horribly short shelf life.

  4. I must've eaten ulu before, but I can't recall. Guess I better go find me some so I know that I have. :-)

  5. Hmmm. Not sure where you'd get it in CA! Maybe a really good ethnic market that gets it green.


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