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The ‘Ulu’s Never Ending Journey


October 11, 2016

The journey of the ‘Ulu (breadfruit) to the Hawaiian Islands began as early as 300 A.D. Polynesian people traveled the Pacific by way of their mighty canoes, and the ‘Ulu was the perfect staple food to keep them company during these long sea voyages. An old double-hulled canoe boasted great storage rooms where pigs, dogs and even fowl were the guests onboard. And this was also the perfect place to store the ‘Ulu. Experienced Polynesian seafarers sailed thousands of miles with a solid stash of cut, dried, and fermented ‘Ulu that could last up to three months! It’s no wonder that it was also known as a “canoe plant”.

Originally from Papua New Guinea, the ‘Ulu traveled greatly beyond the Pacific on the ships of the Western explorers as well. Their voyages traced over the strands of precious little Pacific islands where Polynesians had been traveling for thousands of years, and then reached as far as the Caribbean and Africa.

Ulu

From starchy as a potato to fully-ripened as a fruit, the ‘Ulu can be enjoyed in every stage of its life. Not only does it give us a variety of cooking and snack options, it is also an incredibly eco-friendly produce from the inside out. Its sap is applied over canoe surfaces as a water-proof coating or used as a cream over sea-breezed cracked skin of voyagers, and its bark is shredded and pounded into a sturdy Kapa/Tapa (bark-cloth). Thanks to its male flower, it also works as a powerful mosquito repellant which is sure welcomed by today’s mosquito-sensitive world or tropical residents in general. Simply standing as a tree, its thick layered canopy becomes an important refuge and a food source for native species, such as the endangered Hawaiian hoary bat, honeybees and also birds.

The more our modern food culture gets diverse and health-conscious, the harder, it seems to find a perfect fit to our individually-unique diet. Nowadays, the list of substances to be avoided from certain food products seems to get longer and longer—gluten-free, lactose-free, GMO-free, sugar-free, trans-fat-free… And the more complicated and challenging our lives get, the more we seem to look for a solution from the traditional lives of the past. Such a solution for today is the ‘Ulu, the ancient voyager of the Pacific.

Because of its excellent nutritional values, high yield and easy to grow nature, this bright green low-fat, high protein, high fiber super food is now entering into the limelight for a bigger cause. The ‘Ulu is high in antioxidants, potassium, protein, and full of good oils like Omega 3 and 6, and filled with essential vitamins such as Vitamin A and Vitamin C. And did you know that a single tree can yield more than 200 ‘Ulus over a span of 50 years?

Ulu

After more than seventeen centuries since it reached the Hawaiian Islands, today, tens of thousands of modern-day ‘Ulu saplings are traveling by air reaching out to poverty-stricken regions. A group of scholars, scientists and high-minded people from the Breadfruit Institute at the National Tropical Botanical Garden of Hawai'i, Global Breadfruit and alike, are involved in a mission to deliver this green jewel of the tropic to fight the global food shortage and hunger.  
The wings of this great cause have been spreading wider ever within the past decade, and over 90,000 young ‘Ulu trees have found a new home in more than 40 countries so far.

The ‘Ulu’s journey has never ended and, probably, it never will.



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