‘Ulu is the most versatile staple food on Earth. Depending on its maturity, breadfruit can be firm and savory likea potato; soft, sweet, and fruity like a ripe banana; or even used like artichoke hearts! Even better, it is rich in vitamins and nutrients, good for the planet, and absolutely delicious!
‘Ulu: Past to Present
In ancient Hawai’i, ‘ulu was not only a core staple food, but every part of the ‘ulu tree was used: the lightweight wood for building wa’a (canoes) and hale (houses); the tree and fruit sap as an adhesive, for wound care, and as a caulking and waterproofing agent; and the tree bark harvested and pounded into kapa (paper and fabrics). Many cultures in the South Pacific carry on these traditional uses today.
A Crop for Climate Resilience
‘Ulu is one of the world’s few perennial staple crops that grows on trees. These large, majestic trees help to sequester carbon, reduce the need to till soil or control weeds, and their heat and drought tolerance make them a favored orchard crop in tropical communities most vulnerable to famine and climate change.
One tree can live for 50 to 100 years or more and produce hundreds, even over a thousand, pounds of fruit annually!
We are Bringing ‘Ulu Back
‘Ulu has always played an important role in sustainable island food and Pacific agroforestry systems. Over the past 100 years, ‘ulu and many of Hawai‘i’s other heritage crops have taken a back seat to imported, highly processed factory foods, which has had negative impacts on our local economy and community health. With revived interest in indigenous rights and local, national, and global food systems in recent years, traditional Hawaiian crops are garnering attention and making a comeback.
Meet one of our farms – Māla Kalu‘ulu
- Ownersʻ names: Noa Lincoln, Dana Shapiro, Eli Ednie, Anissa Lucero and Marcus Woo
- Location: Keʻei, Hawaiʻi Island
- HUC member since 2016
- Farming practices used: Alley and companion cropping, multi-story forest farming, traditional Hawaiian agroforestry