Commonly associated with traditional cooking in Caribbean countries such as Jamaica and Grenada, breadfruit lives up to its name. The green, tree-hanging fruit has a bread-like texture and potato-like taste that make it suitable for use as a starch.
According to the National Tropical Botanical Garden, breadfruit is a gluten-free, energy-rich food as well as a good source of complex carbs, fiber, potassium, and vitamins B and C. So this healthy tropical fruit may seem an odd fit for the fatty, mayonnaise-based salads that are a staple of summer cookouts across the United States. And yet, salad-makers in Jamaica and Trinidad commonly use breadfruit in a dish that closely resembles American potato salad. There are many variations, but the basic Caribbean recipe features boiled, cubed fruit, mayo, mustard, mixed vegetables, and seasonings.
But breadfruit wasn’t always a Caribbean food. It’s native to the South Pacific, and the story of its journey to the West Indies is intertwined with one of history’s most memorable nautical dramas. In 1789, Captain William Bligh was tasked with collecting breadfruit from Tahiti and bringing it to the New World aboard the HMS Bounty. As anyone familiar with the novel Mutiny on the Bounty knows, the mission was not successful. As the ship’s crew mutinied and overthrew their captain, they also threw the breadfruit plants overboard. After being sent adrift in a tiny boat with a handful of loyal men, Bligh not only managed to navigate back to land, but he launched another expedition.
Bligh’s second attempt was successful in transporting breadfruit plants to Jamaica, where many of the trees descended from these plants still stand. Perhaps one of these descendants will end up in your next cookout salad.