We are now in Bali, where breadfruit, bananas and coconuts have been part of the culture for hundreds of years. Some say this was the original garden of Eden. Of course scientists and many religious philosophers might disagree.
Nevertheless, these fruits and many others have been carried around the tropical world by early humans for thousands of years. Last year we visited several islands in the South Pacific and were amazed at how much the breadfruit is used as an every day food.
This was especially true in Samoa. No matter if the garden was large or small, everyone seemed to have their own breadfruit tree. There, they grow a small and compact form called Ma‘afala to save space and have fruit more easily harvestable.
Rather than planting shallow-rooted crops that allow for erosion, many residents of mountainous islands plant fruit trees, including ulu, to hold the steep slopes.
Commonly referred to as the Samoan breadfruit, these plants are being propagated and are readily available in many local nurseries. They will also be available at the upcoming Breadfruit Goes Bananas Festival at the Amy Greenwell Ethnobotanical Garden in mauka Kona. Many special banana varieties will be available as well.
The festival celebrates the rich cultural heritage of breadfruit and bananas in the tropical Pacific and Hawaii. The festival is presented by Hawaii Homegrown Food Network, by the Breadfruit Institute of the National Tropical Botanical Garden and Amy Greenwell Ethnobotanical Garden. Other sponsors include the Hawaii Tourism Authority’s Kukulu Ola, Kamehameha Schools, Office of Hawaiian Affairs, and many others too numerous to list. Get more details on the festival by visiting www.breadfruit.info.
The festival on Saturday, Sept. 29, runs from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. and emphasizes the importance of breadfruit, otherwise known in Hawaii as ulu, and the banana. Throughout the tropical Pacific, these foods supply a great food source for food security especially in hard times. The festival organizers will be presenting many delicious ways that ulu can be prepared.
The festival at the new Amy Greenwell Ethnobotanical Garden Visitor Center is free and open to the public. The center is a great resource for residents and visitors alike to learn more about life, culture and foods of old Hawaii.
Presentations include demonstrations by well known chefs such as Sam Choy and Angela Kay Kepler, author of a new book on bananas. Agroforestry experts such as Craig Elevitch, Diane Ragone and Ian Cole will also present information on these valuable crops.
During the last half of the 20th century, the use of breadfruit trees in the landscape fell out fashion due to their size and large fruit that were not being utilized. Potatoes and rice were easier to prepare and readily available.
Now the tide has changed as we recognize the importance of these nutritious and valuable plants that were so important to the Hawaiian culture. They are still important today in most of Polynesia, Micronesia, Melanesia and tropical Asia. Now we have an opportunity to bring them back to prominence here at home.
Although many banana varieties are plagued with diseases, like Panama Wilt, and we have had problems with Banana Bunchytop, we are still relatively free of other serious diseases and pests. Most gardens have a spot for your favorite variety or varieties. All they need are nutrients, water and protection from wind.
Most varieties will grow from sea level to 3,000 feet, but are slow to produce fruit at higher elevations. To learn more, don’t miss this unique opportunity to get in tune with our Hawaiian heritage.