Thursday, January 29, 2009

Understanding the Origins of the Breadfruit and its Relatives

I was prompted to research and account the genus Artocarpus because I passed by the Subic Clark expressway. The route reminded me of scenes unlike any here in the Philippines. But every time I was hoisted back to Philippine reality because of view interruptions - they were interrupted by tall specimens of rimas (or the breadfruit tree) and antipolo. I have always equated the leaf shape of these Artocarpus trees as a distinct character in Philippine landscapes (unlike the plain and fine foliage of subtropical trees).

Literary and history freaks may know of the breadfruit tree as the important fruit in 'Mutiny on the Bounty'. The novel accounts the great mutiny that happened on the ship retrieving the breadfruit from the Pacific island of Tahiti to bring to Jamaica in the West Indies (to solve the problem of slave hunger then). The breadfruit was famed to have flesh with the taste of bread thus forming a great source of starch before taro (Colocasia esculenta or gabi) became popular. Now the breadfruit has spread all through out the islands in the Caribbean.

As a landscape plant I have mixed opinions regarding its use. Obviously the breadfruit has an attractive and familiar tropical leaf shape, color and texture, but most plants I see all around Manila are improperly grown and trimmed. Thus I never imagined the potential of breadfruit as a garden specimen till I saw nicely manicured and young specimens in the American War Memorial. Breadfruit is indeed an exceptional landscape tree.

Breadfruit is Artocarpus altilis which belongs to the family of mulberries (Morus) and figs (Ficus or baletes). The genus Artocarpus is composed of a few more species that are either endemic or native to our country (or at least suspected or claimed to be). Some are familiar and bear the biggest and tastiest fruits there are.

The langka or jackfruit (Artocarpus heterophyllus) is native to a few Southeast Asian nations but is not native to the Philippines. Langka is however among the favorite of Filipino popular fruits. The plant has a regular compact silhouette and has shiny and good colored leaves. The fruit is very much edible, serving as a vegetable (cooked with coconut milk) when unripe. Ripe fruits are sweet and could be eaten raw or cooked in sugar or syrup. The numerous large seeds could be boiled and eaten like nuts.

The marang (Artocarpus odoratissimus - tastiest fruit in my book) on the other hand is a native of Mindanao and Borneo. Marang is famous in Davao along with the durian especially on the Kadayawan month of August when the ripe fruits abound.

The antipolo or tipolo is a tree in which the Rizal Town was named after. Tipolo, the tree, is Artocarpus blancoi. It was said that the town where our Lady of Good Voyage is a patron was abounded by a lot of tipolo trees. Tipolo trees are still common in Antipolo and a few adult trees still stand in the compound of the Antipolo church, but i would assume they are much less than they were before the town was named after the namesake. The leaves of Tipolo are dried and boiled to a tea concoction for people having stomach aches.

A friend, Pinky Gendrano, told me of a another fruit called dalungyan in Quezon Province used cooking nilaga. She said that it usually would taste special whenever they use the fruit in the nilaga. I asked if it was same as rimas (local name of the breadfruit) but said they also know of rimas and was sure that dalungyan was different. I suspect that what she was describing is kamansi (Artocarpus camansi), a native of new guinea and probably the Philippines. The difference between kamansi and rimas is that the former has seeds and the latter does not.

The breadfruit is also suspected to have its roots in the Philippines and other Pacific islands. It has long been cultivated by Indonesians, Micronesians and Polynesians thus resulting to the emergence of good varieties through out history. It was also believed that the plant is a cross of artocarpus blancoi and another species from the Marianas. The rimas has also figured as an edible fruit among Filipinos.

Both Artocarpus camansi and altilis are now spread in the Americas with kamansi common in Mexico and Central America. A. altilis is more common in the Carribean because of the events that unfolded after the Bounty mutiny of the novel and of history. But it is believed that kamansi has reached the New World long before the bread fruit via the galleon trade from the Philippines to Mexico. Thus the breadfruit and its native relatives has long figured in our culture as well as our indigenous and colonial history.


wendy said...

Thanks for this informative article. I am a resident of Antipolo and I would like to promote the propagation of the Antipolo tree for our City's identity. Its leaf is used in the City's logo. The Antipolo tree is not that common around here and it would be great to find it in most of our public areas-- not only in the Cathedral. I understand that this is seedless so it is propagated by root cuttings. I will start by trying to find out who has it in their property. I don't have it in mine.

metscaper said...

hi, miss wendy. a few years back i saw a subdivision in antipolo that used antipolo in its landscape. sadly i could not remeber its name and the directions going back but is definitely in that road that goes towards teresa. i also found some interesting trees they used in their plant palette, trees that i could not identify then.

i have seen full grown antipolos to as far as bohol in the south. It sure would be nice to see antipolo become known to antipolo residents at least.

Apicio said...

The stage play that was made into the movie Mutiny on the Bounty was actually largely based on historical fact with the infamous Captain Bligh as the principal protagonist. Along with introducing breadfruit to the West Indies, he also took a plant called ackee from Africa and planted them in Jamaica where it became a staple and a great accompaniment to saltcold. You are right on camansè (seeded breadfruit), my Jamaican colleagues all seem to be unfamiliar with it.

Apicio said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

You can really use this tree in PI to end starvation. I'm going to start that project one day when i get the capital.

Love and equality for all.

Fabafruit said...

Your pics are looking nice. Keep it up buddy. Thanks for sharing these all with us and keep posting all the good stuff. cavendish banana

Theodore Solang said...

nice to know this info. i just tasted rimas in boracay and was able to bring home one fruit due to baggage limitation. tastes like fried camote, so delicious... where can i get rimas here in luzon..i want to propagate it also.

Theodore Solang said...

anyone knows where can i get a fresh branch of rimas tree? yung dito lang sa luzon sana...salamat

hou said...

You can really use this tree in PI to end starvation. I'm going to start that project one day when i get the capital.
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