Breadfruit, known as ‘ulu, has been grown in the Hawaiian Islands for close to 1,000 years. It was one of six important subsistence crops brought by the Polynesians. This tree was once extensively grown throughout the islands, either individually, in small groups around homesteads, or in large groves or orchards. Breadfruit was an important component of indigenous Hawaiian integrated agroforestry systems.
Increasing urbanization and changing lifestyles have decreased the cultivation and use of breadfruit over the past century. Today, many residents don’t know when or how to harvest the fruit, nor how to prepare it. Ironically, there is a compelling need for agricultural self-sufficiency as Hawaii imports about 85% of its food, making it one of the most food insecure states in the United States of America.
The Ho‘oulu ka ‘Ulu project led by the Hawaii Homegrown Food Network and the Breadfruit Institute of the National Tropical Botanical Garden seeks to increase knowledge, cultivation, use, and appreciation of breadfruit in Hawaii. Our goal is to revitalize breadfruit as an attractive, delicious, nutritious, abundant, affordable, and culturally appropriate food that helps address Hawaii’s food security issues. Since 2010, the attention of thousands of residents has been engaged through festivals, workshops for chefs, growers, and consumers, cooking contests and demonstrations, tree giveaways, public awareness campaigns, and the creation of print and web-based resources such as a cookbook, a breadfruit production guide, and variety fact sheets. We are seeing a major shift in attitudes to and interest in planting more trees in communities and farms for food sustainability, in using more breadfruit by home consumers and chefs, and in developing value-added products for local and export markets.