First, what is breadfruit?
Breadfruit (Artocarpus altilis) is a species of flowering tree in the mulberry family, growing throughout Southeast Asia and most of the Pacific Ocean islands. Its name is derived from the texture of the cooked fruit, which has a potato-like flavor, similar to freshly baked bread.
|Breadfruit, and cross-section|
Breadfruit can be baked, boiled, steamed, fried, put in soup and prepared in many different ways. Some of these ways utilize the breadfruit when it is fresh, but for Bwiro the fruit is fermented. The fruit is peeled and cored and cut up into pieces. These pieces are then put into a porous cloth bag. The bag is then buried underground in a manner that will allow the liquid to drain out of the bag. These bags can also be stored in coolers, as long as they can have proper drainage. The bags can be stored for as short a time as three days before using, but generally breadfruit preserved in this manner can be stored for 12 or more months before being eaten. Thus it has long served as an important emergency food in times when food is scarce (for example, following disastrous storms or other natural calamities). The breadfruit we used had been stored for three years! Yup, you heard me right, three years!
|Here's our little cooking group: Rosa Loeak, Atrina Katol, young boy - sorry, I don't know his name!, Sister Butler, Sister Becker, and Sister Tafili|
From their homes we walked down to Beach Park which is located at the southern tip of Ebeye. I could smell the fermented fruit as we walked down the street with all our supplies. The odor was quite pungent and had a very distinct and unique smell. You could definitely smell the fermentation. Curiosity was rising as I was wondering just what we were in for! We hauled all our supplies right down to the ocean. The beach is at the southern tip of the land where the water flows through Kwajalein Atoll from the ocean into the lagoon. Big Bustard Island is just south of us and at a very low tide you can actually walk to Big Bustard Island.
|working the fruit with her hands|
|working it; breaking down the pulp|
|working the breadfruit up to their elbows. You can see the cloudy pulp coming through the bag into the ocean water.|
|taking the bag out of the water|
|Rosa squeezing the water out of the bag while Sister Tafili watches|
|Atrina's turn at squeezing the water out of the bag. I think this is why they have such strong arms!|
Once they are satisfied that most of the water has been removed from the pulp, the bag is returned to the salt water and the process is started all over again. They work the bag through and through with their hands and arms until the water coming through the bag no longer looks cloudy. Then they take the bag back to the concrete block and squeeze the water out again.
|Atrina taking a break; isn't she beautiful?|
|Working the fruit in the salty ocean water, Atrina got right down into the water.|
|Sister Tafili enjoying the beach|
|Working the fresh water through the breadfruit|
|Squeezing the water out AGAIN. (don't you love the beautiful colors on their dresses?)|
|Watching them work! :)|
|Voila! The pulp is now a good paste and is ready for the final steps.|
|Atrina showed us the technique. Back and forth, back and forth with the palm of the hand.|
|My turn to work!|
|Sister Butler's turn|
|a little hand action!|
|Sister Butler and Sister Tafili working double time!|
The breadfruit is now ready to be cooked. Coconut milk (yum!), sweetened with sugar, is brought to a boil in a pot. Small pieces are broken off, rolled, and dropped into the boiling milk. The fruit is then boiled and cooked for a few minutes. The milk will boil down and get thick and can be poured over the breadfruit after it has been taken out of the pot. Now all that is left is to eat and enjoy!
|Dropping the fruit into the boiling coconut milk|
|The finished product! Bwiro with the sweetened coconut milk|
|Very dense substance|
|Atrina, Sister Tafili, and Neitab|
|Cooking away on the propane stove!|
|While we were working, Rosa also fixed us some lunch to go with our Bwiro! She cooked up some rice and then made a stew/corned beef hash/corn mixture. It was quite yummy!|
I had a wonderful afternoon with the Sister missionaries and our Marshallese Sisters.
Kommol tata (Thank you very much), Rosa and Atrina!