Local Food: "Potato" Salad Using Breadfruit
Bruce and Larry remember fondly the Breadfruit Salad made by our mother when she lived on Montserrat. When we came to visit, she always made it if it was in season. It grows wild on the Island, and the trees are easy to recognize with their big, distinctive leaves and large green breadfruits.
Breadfruit comes originally from Polynesia. The Colonial Powers experimented with introducing food crops to the Caribbean, looking for cheap, easy-to-grow plants to provide a source of food for the slave population that worked the sugar and cotton plantations. The British brought Breadfruit. It’s tricky, because it does not form fertile seeds, it only propagates by taking a slip from another plant. The first attempt to bring Breadfruit was the mission of Captain Bligh and the Bounty. One of the scenes of the film with Marlon Brando shows little crates of helpless Breadfruit plants cast adrift, along with Bligh and his loyal crew, after Fletcher Christian’s mutiny.
Bligh and company survived a harrowing voyage in an open ship, and he eventually returned to Tahiti, got another load of Breadfruit, and successfully brought them to the West Indies.
I bought my Breadfruit from a roadside vegetable vendor in November (how do you know it’s ripe? Buy one!!). Following instructions from one of the Caribbean cookbooks at Moonshadow, I twisted the stem and it came off, then I cut an X in the bottom of the breadfruit (not sure why, maybe it helps the sticky sap to move out of the breadfruit when it cooks, or maybe to prevent it from exploding or something). I placed the large, round breadfruit in the biggest pan I had.
(Which was too small to contain enough salted water to cover, so I had to keep turning the breadfruit. I bought a new pot for future use.)
I boiled it for 30 minutes/until tender, then let it cool off the stove for 20 minutes more in the hot water. Removing it at that point, it was easily peeled, and had a slightly fruity fragrance; this may have been an indicator that it was slightly riper than idea. After discarding the peel, I split it into quarters and dug out and discarded the soft center, leaving four starchy pieces similar to a quarter of a muskmelon in shape. These were then cubed by Bruce, as you would do for a potato salad.
The rest is “to taste.” Bruce added some chopped onion, some Italian seasoning, salt and pepper, mayonnaise, and several sliced hard-boiled eggs. Use whatever it is that you like in your potato salad that you can find at Ram’s or from the roadside vegetable sellers. You could add some cherry tomatoes, for example, if any were available.
It turned out well, with a slightly mealier mouth-feel than potatoes and a neutral flavor, again with a slightly perfumey tang. Like potatoes, breadfruit tends to take on the characteristics of what you mix with it, it’s pretty neutral in-and-of itself. We used half of the breadfruit, which was enough for three people with some left over, and, since the two remaining quarters held up without turning brown in the refrigerator, we made another batch for dinner the following night.