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Feeding the world with Ulu (Breadfruit)

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The seeds of an ʻulu, or breadfruit, crossed 2,000 miles of the Pacific in a Polynesian canoe in about 400 C.E. They, alongside other staples such as taro, coconut, bananas and yams, became known as "canoe crops”, a few dozen vital plant species that were introduced to the islands of Hawaiʻi by its first settlers. It’s of little surprise that ‘ulu was selected to take that journey.

Considered to be one of the highest yielding fruit trees on the planet, ʻulu can produce hundreds or even thousands of pounds of fruit annually and live for decades.

In subtropical climates, 'Ulu grow easily and fast and require very little labor or fertilizer. The ʻulu fruit is green and about the size and shape of a basketball. They are nutrient dense with antioxidants, fiber, iron, Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, and numerous other vitamins and minerals. 

Of course all of that would mean nothing if the fruit was inedible, but it is in fact incredibly versatile and delicious. ʻUlu can be eaten at any stage of ripeness and treated as a fruit or a vegetable. In its underripe state, ʻulu is hard and green and similar in taste to an artichoke. At maturation, it is easily comparable to a potato and can be utilized in various ways as a starch. A bit overripe and ʻulu becomes sweet and can be eaten raw like a custard or added to desserts. ʻUlu can also be roasted, steamed, fried, cooked in an imu—a deep fire pit—pickled, or even ground into gluten-free flour. 

According to Hawaiian mythology, during a time of drought-induced famine, the god Kū told his wife that he could save them from starvation but that he would have to leave the family. He receded into the ground which his family watered with their tears day after day until a sprout appeared. It quickly flourished into a fruitful ʻulu tree which fed Kū’s family and community and saved them from starvation. 

The myth has roots in reality. Scientists suggest that ʻulu could be employed to combat hunger and malnourishment in countries such as Haiti and Jamaica where it would easily grow and produce. Each time an ʻulu tree is planted in a country susceptible to famine and starvation, the possibility of that community’s food sovereignty increases. 

Sure, ʻulu is delicious, but it deserves more credit than that; it just might save the world

Cozy Bowl Noodles are plant-based, grain-free noodles with the primary ingredient of Kauaʻi-made ʻulu flour. By substituting ʻulu for traditional pasta flour, they not only create a larger demand for local ʻulu products, they also produce a far more nutrient-dense pasta.

Beautifully colorful and hand-s-shaped Rainbow Ānuenue noodles are a great addition to sautéed farmer’s market vegetables or as the cornerstone of a pasta dish. 

by Rebecca Remillard (CG writer)

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