I was raised in my grandmother’s house which is located in a large parcel where we had a diversity of fruits and vegetables. One peculiar goodie that we still have is a starchy fruit call Breadfruit or better known in Spanish Pana. I choose this ingredient because is very common in Puerto Rico and you can find it anywhere, Pana is one of the reasons of my culinary needs, one day I decided to live by myself and I didn’t have anything to eat, but I had a big tree that its branches with the fruit ended at the front of my door which I could reach with my hands and pick them. After I grabbed such bread of god, I immediately peeled it and fried it like the same way we cook green plantains and I made fried breadfruit that was unforgettable! I still remember that delicious and fresh tasty like bread flavor, crunchy like chips.
Pana was the favorite starchy fruit in my house, the tree was very high, it cannot be climbed up, because Pana’s branches are very fragile and most of the fruits was so high that we needed a stick about 15 feet long which had a chef knife attached at the end so the pana branch can be sliced from the ground and the fruit can be picked up.
One of the principal dishes in my grandma’s house was pana with bacalao topped with a drizzle of olive oil, that’s really fulfill any hunger, especially mine. Now I live in Florida, the weather is quite similar to Puerto Rico, but today, I cannot pick pana from any branches or even found them at the market, and if I find pana, it does not taste the same as the one I use to eat at my Grandmother’s house, even my Grandmother does not exist anymore, all stayed in the past, so I have to go back to my Puerto Rico’s island.
History: Breadfruit or Pana has been an important staple crop in Oceania for more than 3,000 years. It is believed to have originated in new guinea and the Indo-Malay region and was spread throughout the vast Pacific by voyaging islanders Europeans discovered breadfruits in the 1500’s and were amazed and delighted by a tree that produced prolific and starchy fruits, that, when roasted, resembled freshly baked bread. The ancestors of the Polynesians found the trees growing in the northwest New Guinea. They gave up the rice cultivation they had brought with them from ancient Taiwan, and raised breadfruit wherever they went in the Pacific. Their ancient eastern Indonesian cousins spread the plant west and north through Insular and coastal Southeast Asia. It has, in historic times, also been widely planted in tropical and Caribbean’s regions elsewhere.
Breadfruit trees grow to a height of 85 feet (26 m). The large and thick leaves are deeply cut into pinnate lobes. All parts of the tree yield latex, a milky juice, which is useful for boat caulking. Breadfruit is one of the highest-yielding food plants, with a single tree producing up to 200 or more fruits per season. In the South Pacific, the trees yield 50 to 150 fruits per year. In southern India, normal production is 150 to 200 fruits annually. Productivity varies between wet and dry areas. In the Caribbean, a conservative estimate is 25 fruits per tree. Studies in Barbados indicate a reasonable potential of 6.7 to 13.4 tons per acre.
Because breadfruit trees usually produce large crops at certain times of the year, preservation of the harvested fruit is an issue. One traditional preservation technique is to bury peeled and washed fruits in a leaf-lined pit where they ferment over several weeks and produce a sour, sticky paste. So stored, the product may last a year or more and some pits are reported to have produced edible contents more than 20 years later.
Fruits throughout the year, so fresh breadfruit are always available, but somewhat rare when not in season.
Breadfruit can be eaten once cooked, or can be further processed into a variety of other foods. A common product is a mixture of cooked or fermented breadfruit mash mixed with coconut milk and baked in banana leaves. Whole fruits can be cooked in an open fire, then cored and filled with other foods such as coconut milk, sugar and butter, cooked meats, or other fruits. The filled fruit can be further cooked so that the flavor of the filling permeates the flesh of the breadfruit.
In Puerto Rico, it is called “panapen” or “pana”, for short. Pana is often served boiled with a mixture of sautéed bacalao (salted cod fish), olive oil and onions. It is also served as tostones or mofongo. In Dominican Republic, it is known by the name “buen pan” or “good bread”.
The inner bark of the breadfruit tree is fibrous and used for making cloth. These trees yield wood that is fine-grained and white. One of the intriguing facts is that bread fruits have several organization whose protect and promote its growing in areas of plenty population suffering from hunger in tropical regions.