The African Breadfruit Meal (Ukwa)

The African Breadfruit is scientifically known as Treculia africana. Now let’s know what’s up with this nutritious food.

African Breadfruit
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It is also called afon in Yoruba; ize in Benin, Jekri and Sobo; izea in Ijaw; and ediang in Efik. Ukwa as is known by the Igbo speaking tribe of Nigeria is the seed of the African Breadfruit “Treculia Africana“, though it’s similar to the Breadfruit eaten in the Caribbean and South Pacific, but still quite different. The African counter part is much larger growing as large as watermelons and weighing 10 pounds or more. Also it is not sought after for its “meat” i.e the fleshy bulk but rather for its seeds.

Rotting African Breadfruit
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To extract the seeds from the fruit, the fruits are allowed to ripen and fall from the large trees in which they grow on. Surprisingly, the fruits are then allowed to rot, and machetes are used to crack open the fruit or sometimes the fruit is even thrown on large rocks (if patience is a problem LOL). There is a long lengthy process before the seeds that are eaten are fully extracted. The seeds are typically roasted and eaten or can be boiled to soften them making a sort of porridge.

As a food:

It has several preparatory methods for consumption whether as a roasted snack commonly eaten with coconut or palm kernel or as a porridge. I have taken time to detail the porridge preparation and recipe here from my friend’s at AllNigerianRecipes. But for now, let’s read further.

Health benefits:

Breadfruit is a very healthy food which has been touted as “Food To End The World’s Hunger”. Below are the health benefits of this super food.

Good for Diabetics: According to researchers at the Departments of Physiology and Biochemistry, College of Medical Sciences, University of Calabar, who conducted a study using an African Breadfruit seed diet on rats, the African Breadfruit diet significantly lowered blood lipid levels and blood glucose levels in these rats compared to rats fed a normal diet. It was hypothesized that breadfruit seeds probably contain an agent that reduces blood glucose, total cholesterol, VLDLs.

Cardiovascular health: Breadfruit is an excellent source of potassium. This heart-friendly nutrient reduces blood pressure in the body and regulates the heart rate by minimizing the effects of sodium. Dietary fiber helps reduce cholesterol by preventing its absorption in the gut. It lowers bad cholesterol (LDL), while elevating good cholesterol (HDL) in the body. It decreases the triglyceride levels, which is one of the main causes of heart attacks.

Collagen Production: Drinking breadfruit juice helps to even out the skin tone and firm the skin by rejuvenating its appearance. The high amount of Vitamin C in breadfruit helps in the production of collagen, a protein which provides elasticity to the skin.

Treats Dandruff, Itchiness & Hair Breakage: Breadfruit is a good source of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids, which naturally condition the hair, reducing hair breakage. The fatty acids present in breadfruit regulate the sebum production in the scalp, reducing dandruff and itchiness. It also inhibits scalp inflammation and cell death, preventing hair loss even while it works on your brain health. You will agree with me that the brain requires adequate amounts of omega 3 and 6 fatty acids for nervous health.

Source of Energy: Though it is a popular opinion that this amazing food has “great” amounts of protein, it is an excellent energy-giving food also. In a 100g serving or 3.5oz, the African breadfruit is composed of about 10% fat primarily unsaturated fat (the good fat), 12-15% protein, 25% carbohydrates with 2% fiber. It is a good source of vitamins and minerals like beta-carotene, vitamin c, and folic acid (folate). With only about 240 kcal in this serving amount, It is very beneficial for athletes and gym goers as a pre or post-workout meal.

How to make the African Breadfruit porridge (Igbo style):

One of our favorite and expert food blogger, Flo says to cook up this super delicious meal, you will need the following ingredients –

  • 700g African Breadfruit
  • 2 medium dry fish
  • 2 small stock cubes
  • 7g edible potash
  • Palm oil (enough to give needed colour)
  • 5-6 fresh bitter leaves (optional)
  • Pepper and salt (to taste)

You may also want to add some sweet corn or white puna yam (it’s a common addition).

Before you cook the breadfruit:

  • If using dry ukwa, soak it overnight in plenty of cold water. If using fresh ukwa, skip this step.
  • The next day, soak, remove the bones and wash the dry fish or stock fish, then break into pieces.
  • Wash the ukwa thoroughly in cold water. Stones and sand usually settle at the bottom so watch out for those.
  • Pound the pepper.
  • Rinse the bitter leaves and set aside.

Cooking directions:

  • Put the thoroughly washed ukwa in a size-able pot. The use of a pressure pot cooks the ukwa much faster.
  • Pour enough water to cover the ukwa. The level of water should be about 1 inch above the level of the ukwa.
  • Add the edible potash. Add the dry fish or stock fish, cover the pot and cook till well done. The ukwa is done when the seeds melt when pressed. You may need to top up the water while cooking so watch it closely. If using a pressure pot, top ups will not be necessary.
  • Add enough palm oil to the well done ukwa, add pepper, stock cubes and salt to taste.
  • Stir. Cover and cook on medium heat till the palm oil changes colour from red to yellow. This should take about 5 minutes.
  • Stir and add the bitter leaves.
  • Cover and leave to simmer or till the leaves wilt but still green and the ukwa is ready to be served.

This food, though pricy, is highly nutritious and it’s sweet o no be small,…so by all means, give it a try!

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