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In The Family
What Is Breadfruit?

This spiky tropical fruit is a staple across Polynesia and the Caribbean, and it might just wipe out world hunger.

Breadfruit has an image problem. The name is hardly appealing. It is an unwieldy piece of produce that can grow larger than a basketball. And its outer skin, a shade of neon green, is covered with bumps and spikes that suggest the egg of an alien predator more than something delicious to eat. But if you cut past that rind you’re rewarded with fistfuls of firm, starchy flesh you can cook just like a potato or plantain.

And for millions across the Polynesian islands, Caribbean, and Latin America, breadfruit is a staple food eaten daily—not just for its versatility, but because it’s jam packed with nutrients. The fruits have fed Polynesians for thousands of years, boiled in chunks, mashed into porridge, pounded into flours, sliced and sizzled into chips, and roasted over open flame. Which is why researchers at the National Tropical Breadfruit Institute argue that the fruit could be a major part of the solution to world hunger.

A single breadfruit can feed a family of four, and breadfruit trees are famous for high yields and low-effort growth. They grow well in a wide range of tropical regions, where the majority of the world’s food-insecure live, and their wood is useful to boot. Outside of Hawaii, finding breadfruit in the United States can be tricky, but any town or city with a substantial Caribbean population is sure to have some kicking around.

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Max Falkowitz

Max Falkowitz is a food and travel writer for The New York Times, Saveur, GQ, New York magazine’s Grub Street, and other outlets. He’s also the coauthor of The Dumpling Galaxy Cookbook with Helen You.