When we bought our house, we were happy to find a very young Breadfruit tree the previous owner had planted. We quickly realized thought that though Breadfruit IS a beautiful tree, with very large leaves, it gets seriously big, very quickly (we’re talking over 100 feet!).
Baby Breadfruit tree circa 2007
Breadfruit circa 2009 (Note the difference in trunk size…Retaining wall for driveway now in place)
We trimmed the tree a few times but were both a bit concerned about its proximity to the house and to our retaining wall. When it flowered and started fruiting for the first time we were excited, as we figured we’d at least get to try the fruit before the tree has to “go”. Locally, folks use the “Pana” as a vegetable, either frying it as “tostones de Pana” or boiling it as a side “vegetable” (tastes like a bland potato…). I found a few curried breadfruit recipes (good bless Trinidad and Tobago…) and waited for harvest time.
The Breadfruit fruit starts out as a clump of flowers which then turn into one fruit with lots of with nobby little spikes (each formed from a flower!). The fruit eventually “heals” over into a smooth fruit. Not ours…the spikes continued until the fruits ripened, got soft and started falling off the tree (forming big piles of mushy mess).
A few weeks ago, a friend stopped by with his mother-in-law. She looked over the railing to admire our Breadfruit tree (as many people do) and then noted with great delight that we have the “other” type of “Pana” (aka “Pana de pepitas”). Say what? Mystery solved: We have a Breadnut tree, rather than the seedless Breadfruit (those interested can read all about the two types of “breadfruit” and their relative, the Jackfruit, here and everything you’ve ever wanted to know about the Breadnut here). She explained that the Breadnut seeds (or nuts) were harvested out of the fruit and then boiled or roasted like chestnuts. Who knew?
We finally got around to picking one of the fruit (having seen the inside of the fruits post fall, neither of us was overly excited about the prospect of ‘harvesting’ nuts…). Nick then spent a messy hour separating out the bread “nuts” . We then boiled the hell out of ’em.
Digging through the pulp for the “nuts” (there has GOT to be an easier way…).
Close up: Messy work!
Yep, they look like chestnuts and taste just like chestnuts! Good news is that we can now easily propagate our tree (the seedless Breadfruit requires grafting or root propagation) as Nick had the foresight to put a few “nuts” to the side. But what does one do with hundreds of chestnuts???