Singapore Infopedia


Breadfruit (Artocarpus altilis) is believed to have been originated in Polynesia and then spread to Micronesia, New Guinea and Southeast Asia.1 Although not as well known as the jackfruit or cempedak trees,2 the breadfruit tree is represented at the Gardens by the Bay. Breadfruit is also known as sukun in Malay.

The breadfruit belongs to the mulberry family, Moraceae.3 The evergreen tree grows to an average height of 13 m,4 though it could also grow to 20 to 30 m high.5 The breadfruit tree has many spreading branches bearing thick foliage. A seeded variety of breadfruit is known as the breadnut (Artocarpus camansi) whose seeds are served as a snack or vegetable after boiling it in salted water.6 The breadfruit weighs about 2 kg and is generally spherical with a smooth green skin that turns a pale yellow when ripe.7 The moist flesh, which is of solid mass, is boiled or baked before consumption.8 Baked breadfruit resembles the crumb of a new loaf of bread, hence its name, although the fruit is said to taste more like roasted potatoes.9

Captain James Cook mentioned in accounts of his journey to Polynesia that cooked breadfruit “is hardly distinguishable from an excellent batter pudding”.10

In Asia, breadfruit is usually treated as a vegetable and picked before it is ripe to be used in cooking. The flesh is often cut into chunks and parboiled before being added to coconut milk and other seasonings to make a curry-like dish. Breadfruit can also cut into very thin slices for deep frying and flavoured with salt, chilli powder or sugar syrup.11

The breadfruit tree was found to have some medicinal properties. The leaves are prepared as tea to lower blood pressure and control diabetes. The bark is used to treat headaches, while the latex improves skin problems and helps in the recovery of sprains and backaches.12

Breadfruit trees in Singapore
The Primary Production Department (now known as Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority) grew breadfruit trees at its Fruit Tree Centre in Lim Chu Kang, selling saplings to garden enthusiasts.13 The breadfruit is one of the fruit trees grown by the Community In Bloom groups.14 It is also featured during the Singapore Garden Festival15 and grown at Gardens by the Bay.16

Breadfruit and its seeded type, the breadnut, are cooked in various ways. Some recipes for roasted breadfruit and breadfruit curry can be found in Guides to Gardens by the Bay: Heritage garden plants and recipes.17

Variant names18
Malay and Indonesian: sukun
Tagalog: rimas
Tamil: erapillakai
Thai: sa-ke


Gabriel Tan

1. Jacqueline M. Piper, Fruits of South-east Asia: Facts and Folklore (Singapore: Oxford University Press, 1989), 28. (Call no. RSING 634.60959 PIP)
2. Betty Molesworth Allen, Malayan Fruits: An Introduction to the Cultivated Species (Singapore: D. Moore, 1967), 195 (Call no. RCLOS 634:09595 ALL); Rolf Blancke, Tropical Fruits and Other Edible Plants of the World: An Illustrated Guide (NY: Comstock Publishing Associates, 2016), 27–29 (Call no. RSING 634.6 BLA); Desmond Tate, Tropical Fruit (Singapore: Archipelago Press, 2007), 28–31. (Call no. RSING 634.6 TAT)
3. Piper, Fruits of South-east Asia, 28.
4. S. Ching Ji, “The Breadfruit’s a Stout, Bold Tree,” New Nation, 18 October 1981, 17. (From NewspaperSG)
5. Blancke, Tropical Fruits and Other Edible Plants, 25.
6. Blancke, Tropical Fruits and Other Edible Plants, 26; Wendy Hutton, Tropical Fruits of Malaysia & Singapore (Hong Kong: Periplus Editions, 1996), 12. (Call no. YRSING 634.6 HUT)
7. Hutton, Tropical Fruits of Malaysia & Singapore, 12.
8. Piper, Fruits of South-east Asia, 28.
9. Piper, Fruits of South-east Asia, 28; Tate, Tropical Fruit, 26.
10. Piper, Fruits of South-east Asia, 28.
11. Hutton, Tropical Fruits of Malaysia & Singapore, 12.
12. Daniela C. Zappi, Guides to Gardens By the Bay: Heritage Garden Plants and Recipes (Singapore: Gardens by the Bay, 2013), 44. (Call no. RSING 581.63209595 ZAP)
13. “Centre Has Rich Variety of Trees,” Straits Times, 19 July 1996, 2. (From NewspaperSG)
14. Ng Cheow Kheng, oral history interview by Kiang-Koh Lai Lin, 17 June 2014, transcript and MP3 audio, 35:41, National Archives of Singapore (accession no. 003879), 107–20.
15. “Rooting for Plant Health,” AVA Vision 3 (2012), 8–9.
16. Zappi, Guides to Gardens By the Bay, 44.
17. Zappi, Guides to Gardens By the Bay, 45–47.
18. Allen, Malayan Fruits, 199; Hutton, Tropical Fruits of Malaysia & Singapore, 12.

Further resources
Francis S. P. Ng, Tropical Horticulture and Gardening (Kuala Lumpur: MPH, 2010), 248, 249. (Call no. RSEA 635.9523 NG)

Ivan Polunin, Plants and Flowers of Singapore (Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, 2010), 148–9. (Call no. RSING 581.95957 POL)

The information in this article is valid as of 2016 and correct as far as we can ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic. 


Breadfruit Artocarpus



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