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, they grow easily and fast and require very little labor or fertilizer. The fruit of ʻulu trees 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.