What is breadfruit and why should you include it in your next meal?

Ulu, or breadfruit, is something you may have never heard of -- we know we hadn't until we came across friend and free diving phenom Kimi Werner‘s Instagram-worthy take on the mysterious food.

In a video she posted, Werner was grilling up the fruit -- or is it a vegetable? -- that looked like nothing we’d ever seen before. Intrigued to know more, we googled “Ulu” and were pleasantly surprised to learn that breadfruit is actually more common than you think, especially in tropical regions like Hawaii and many parts of the South Pacific.

But more on that in a moment. First and foremost, we wanted to know: how does breadfruit taste? Is it starchy like a potato? Or sweet like a pineapple or mango? The orb-shaped breadfruit somewhat resembles all of these things, so we were curious to get to the bottom of it.

According to a report by NPR, breadfruit has a couple different flavors depending on the maturity level of the plant when you decide to eat it.

“You can eat breadfruit at any stage,” says Diane Ragone, an ethnobotanist on Kauai's south coast. “When it’s small and green, it tastes like an artichoke, and when it’s starchy and mature, it’s the equivalent of a potato. When it’s soft and ripe, it’s dessert.”

Breadfruit is technically considered a fruit because most varieties bear seeds and contain a fleshy, fruit-like pulp.

But in the culinary sense, breadfruit can be classified as both a fruit and a vegetable because of its diverse tastes throughout the ripening process: “Ripe fruits impart fragrant-rich freshly baked sourdough bread flavor and have sour-sweet custard apple taste. The ripening process indeed converts its starch to sugar giving pleasant and intensified fruity smell.”

Breadfruit also lends itself well to vegan and gluten-free recipes, since it absorbs the flavors of whatever it’s marinated in or cooked alongside. It’s a close relative of the jackfruit, and is noted as a rich source of fiber, protein and Omega essential fats, or healthy fats, like those found in fish or avocado. Breadfruit is also a solid source of Vitamin C.

This crop grows natively in the most tropical regions of the world and was once considered a staple in many of these areas. It has since been re-introduced in many of these communities to help feed the masses, and the efforts are taking off in many of these regions including Haiti, Jamaica, Costa Rica and Vietnam.

It’s hard to not love the diversity of the breadfruit. Judging by Werner’s recipe (which called for butter) cinnamon and honey, hers was definitely prepared as a dessert.

A quick Google search uncovered many other ways to prepare this tropical treat, ranging from breadfruit nachos and shrimp cakes, to just simply throwing it on the grill with minimal prep.

While you might have to tap into some light research to track down a local market or grocery store that carries breadfruit, this ultra-versatile option could be the perfect addition to your next meal.

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