The breadfruit tree has become a candidate for landscaping locally. I first took notice of it when I visited one my lab colleagues’ condominium, The Savanna that is located in the Tampines area, last year. I have also seen some being planted in Lynnette’s relatively new Punngol housing estate.
The tree is large-growing, has spreading branches and can grow up to a height of 20 m! Quite quickly, a breadfruit tree can become a spectacular and majestic specimen where it is planted. Botanically known as Artocarpus altilis, the breadfruit tree belongs to the mulberry family, Moraceae.
Its large, deeply lobed leaves have their own character and are unique because they are quite unlike those found in most other fruit trees. The undersides of leaves are rather rough to feel due to the presence of fine hairs. The new leaves develop in a rather interesting way – each leaf has a sheath covering it until when it is mature where this covering is then shed off and the new leaf unfurls.
The breadfruit is one good example of a tree that can be used for landscaping as well as food uses. It is therefore not one of those “can-see-but-cannot-eat” plants which is the main reason why I bought a 3 m tall tree from a local nursery to plant in my community garden. Many of my residents, upon seeing the tree, told me it reminds them of the good, old days in the kampong where this tree can be commonly found.
I admit I have never taken real notice of my breadfruit tree after it has been planted and got established in its current growing spot. I thought it needs to get bigger before it starts to fruit. To my surprise, I saw a small breadfruit forming on my tree when I tilted my head up a little to look at it recently. This is the first time that the tree is fruiting in the community garden. I wonder has any visitor to my community garden noticed it?
For me, I am one of those who knows the breadfruit by name only but has never tasted it before. I saw them being sold in the Geylang Serai market where the almost spherical fruits are being cut up into smaller cubes and bagged up for sale. It seems to be a fruit that is more popular with the Malay community. We don’t see it available for sale at most other fruit shops in Singapore.
Breadfruit is never eaten raw. I was told that the simplest way to prepare them is to fry the thinly cut slices. The fruit has to be ripe so that it is fragrant and the interior of the fruit reveals a sweet, yellowish flesh. It should not be sappy when it is ripe. The breadfruit commonly sold for consumption are usually seedless. When cooked, the taste of the fruit is said to resemble that of freshly baked bread!
One other thing I noticed about this tree is that when any part of it is injured, the wound exudes a milky, sticky latex! It is quite hard to remove if it gets onto our hands. Interestingly, the set latex can be used to make chewing gum!