Breadfruit trees grow to a height of about 20 meters (66 ft). The leaves are large, thick and are deeply cut into pinnate lobes. All parts of the tree, including the unripe fruit, are rich in milky juice, gummy latex, which is useful for boat caulking.
The breadfruit is closely related to the breadnut and the jackfruit. Breadfruit can be eaten at all stages of maturity when they are roasted, baked, fried, or boiled. They are rich in startch and when cooked the taste is very similar to potato-like, or fresh baked bread. One of the fermentation technique is to bury peeled and washed fruits in a leaf-lined pit over several weeks and produce a sour, sticky paste. Fermented stored breadfruit may last a year or more.
Fully ripe fruits that have harvested from the tree can be wrapped in polyethylene, or put into polyethylene bags, and can be kept for upto 10 days in storage at a temperature of 53.6'F (12'C). At lower temperature, the fruit may be damaged by chilling injury. Slightly unripe fruits that have been caught by hand when knocked down can be maintained for 15 days under the same conditions. The thickness of the polyethylene used to keep the fruit should be atleast equal or greater than 38 or even 50 micrometer.
A common product is a mixture of cooked or fermented breadfruit mash mixed with coconut milk and baked in banana leaves.
Whole fruits can be cooked in an open fire, then cored and filled with coconut milk, sugar and butter, cooked meats, or other fruits. The filled fruit can be then cooked so that the flavor of the filling permeates the flesh of the breadfruit.
The pulp scraped from soft, ripe breadfruits is combined with coconut milk, salt and sugar and baked to make a pudding. A more elaborate dessert is concocted of mashed ripe breadfruit, with butter, 2 beaten eggs, sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon and rosewater, a dash of sherry or brandy, blended and boiled. Breadfruit is also candied, or sometimes prepared as a sweet pickle.
The original method of making POI involved peeling, washing and halving the breadfruit, discarding the core, placing the fruits in stone pits lined with leaves of Cordylme terminalis Kunth, alternating the layers of fruit with old fermented pod, covering the upper layer with leaves, topping the pit with soil and rocks and leaving the contents to ferment, which acidifies and preserves the breadfruit for several years.
In Barbados and Brazil there is a way to substituting breadfruit in part for wheat flour in breadmaking, and it called Breadfruit flour. Breadfruit flour is much richer than wheat flour in lysine and other essential amino acids. This new combination has been found more nutritious than wheat flour alone.
The seeds from the breadfruit are boiled, steamed, roasted over a fire or in hot coals and eaten with salt.
It's lightweight wood is highly resistant to termites and shipworms. Its wood pulp can also be used to make paper. The wood pulp is also used in traditional medicine to treat illnesses that range from sore eyes to sciatica.
Fiber from the bark is highly durable but difficult to extract. Malaysians fashioned it into clothing. Material for tape cloth is obtained from the inner bark of young trees and branches.
Breadfruit is a relatively good source of iron, calcium, potassium, riboflavin, and niacin. The mature fruit is high in carbohydrates, low in fat and protein, and a good source of minerals and vitamins, especially B vitamins. The nutritional composition of breadfruit varies depending on the ripeness of the fruit as ripe breadfruit is more nutritious.
Decoction of the breadfruit leaf is believed to lower blood pressure, and is also said to relieve asthma. Crushed leaves are applied on the tongue as a treatment for thrush. Ashes from burned leaves are used on skin infections. A powder of roasted leaves is employed as a home remedy for enlarged spleen.
Toasted flowers are rubbed on the gums around an aching tooth.
The latex is used on skin diseases and is bandaged on the spine to relieve sciatica. Diluted latex is taken internally to overcome diarrhea.