‘Ulu, A Staple Of Oceania
Wootens Produce of Kaua’i grows on 20 acres using organic techniques.
What’s growing: Avocados, jackfruit, soursop, breadfruit, Meyer lemons, cilantro, basil, parsley, Indian curry leaf, spring onions, lettuce, kale, collard greens, carrots, eggplant, beets and fennel.
‘Ulu, breadfruit’s Hawaiian name, is a member of the fig family. It’s so named because after it has been fire-roasted, it smells like fresh baked bread. According to the National Tropical Botanical Garden’s website, “Breadfruit has been an important staple crop and component of traditional agroforestry systems in the Pacific for more than 3,000 years.”
Season: The Breadfruit Institute at the NTBG has 94 varieties that mature throughout the year. Wootens Produce of Kaua’i has approximately 30 varieties, and John tells me he has breadfruit available year-round.
What to look for: Breadfruit is circular, and the skin ranges from smooth to spiny. The color is light green, yellowish-green or yellow when mature. The flesh is creamy white to pale yellow. Ripe fruit have yellow or yellow-brown skin and soft, sweet, creamy flesh that can be eaten raw or cooked.
Storage: Refrigeration slows the ripening process, but turns the skin black. Cooked ‘ulu lasts a week to 10 days refrigerated.
Tip: There is a sticky sap that permeates ‘ulu. To make cleanup and preparation easier, coat cooking vessels and knives with cooking spray. Boil unpeeled whole ‘ulu in a large stock pot until tender, about an hour. Peel when cool.
Preparation: Breadfruit can be boiled, steamed, baked or fried. There are three edible stages for breadfruit. The taste and texture of cooked, immature fruit is similar to an artichoke. A milky sap comes through the mature ‘ulu, but the fruit remains firm. Ripening occurs over three days from the mature stage, where the fruit will become soft and sweet.
Health benefits: Breadfruit is very filling and, at an average of 13 pounds, it will serve a large family. A detailed nutritional analysis is being conducted for the Breadfruit Institute, but ‘ulu is primarily a starchy complex carbohydrate with an average of 2.5 percent protein. It is a good source of fiber, calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, potassium, thiamine and niacin.
Wootens Produce of Kaua’i can be found at: Grocery: Vim and Vigor, Papaya’s Natural Foods and Cafe, Hoku Foods Natural Market, Harvest Market. Farmers Market: Kapa’a Wednesdays at 3 p.m. Restaurants: BarAcuda, Kintaro, Kaua’i Grill, Postcards Cafe, The Tavern, Lilikoi Lunch Wagon, Moloa’a Fruit Stand, Coconut Cup, Oasis on the
Beach, Red Salt, 22 North, Merriman’s, Roy’s, Josselin’s and local produce distributor, Cultivate Kaua’i. The Wootens offer custom orders, call 823-6807 for details.
BREADFRUIT HUMMUS AND FALAFEL
The Breadfruit Institute at the National Tropical Botanical Garden lists many award-winning recipes on its website. Diane Ragone, Ph.D. and director of the Breadfruit Institute, allowed me to share the 2009 Kaua’i Breadfruit Bounty Cookoff Grand Prize winner created by team Waipa.
* 4 cups immature (green) breadfruit, cooked and cleaned
* juice of 2 lemons
* 6-8 cloves garlic
* 2 tablespoons soy sauce
* 2 tablespoons Bragg’s liquid aminos
* 2 tablespoons sesame oil
* 2 tablespoons olive oil
* 4 tablespoons cumin
* 4 tablespoons parsley
* 4 tablespoons sesame butter (tahini)
* salt, pepper and chili flakes, to taste
Combine all ingredients in a food processor. Blend until creamy. Refrigerate until serving. For falafel, roll hummus into bite-sized balls. Dust in flour and deep-fry until golden brown. Serve with Greek side dishes such as dolmas, tabouli, marinated tomatoes, olives and pita bread.