Breadfruit

(Artocarpus altilis) A Polynesian tree originally, it is cultivated widely throughout Asia, but it is wild in the Andamans, where the islanders roast the fruits in hot ashes till the hard pulp and seeds are eatable (Cipriani), the flesh apparently tasting exactly like freshly baked bread. The tree was first discovered in Tahiti by Captain Cook's expedition, and they introduced it into the West Indies as a cheap diet for slaves (the Bounty voyage was for this purpose, and in fact Bligh actually did take the seedlings later to the Caribbean) (Brouk).

Several Polynesian islands have stories of the origin of breadfruit, all quite similar. The version from Hawaii tells how a man called Ulu died during a famine, and his body was buried near a spring. During the night, his family, who had stayed indoors, could hear the sound of dropping leaves and flowers, and then heavy fruit. In the morning, they found a breadfruit tree growing from his grave, and the famine was over (Poignant). Ulu in fact signifies an upright, i.e., male, breadfruit, which is called ulu-ku. The low, spreading tree whose branches lean over, is ulu-ha-papa, and is regarded as female. There are, of course, perfectly rational stories in Hawaii of the introduction of the breadfruit from other islands, though some of them suggest that it was taken from an island inhabited only by gods, and preserved for human use (Beckwith. 1940).

From the West Indies, where the tree was taken, there are one or two medicinal uses recorded; for example, a leaf decoction is taken in Trinidad to treat diabetes (Laguerre), and from Guyana there is a report of the decoction of yellow leaves being used to treat high blood pressure (Laguerre).

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