The Ministry of Agriculture’s Breadfruit & Mango Festival opened on Wednesday evening with informative and inspiring presenters encouraging the propagation and processing of the crops.
Held in the Ferry Terminal in Little Bay, the seminar was also live streamed so that the knowledge could be shared.
Both breadfruits and mangoes are in abundance in Montserrat. The presenters encouraged the farming, preservation, and processing of the crops so that they can be used outside of the traditional seasons.
Trees that Feed
Despite the opening virtual presentation by Mike McLaughlin of Trees that Feed being cut short due to technical difficulties, the speaker shared that he and his wife Mary are originally from Jamaica and the charity began from their concern for the environment and they focused on fruit trees because of their positive environmental contributions but also the nutritional benefits for humans.
While fruit trees such as breadfruit and mango take more care, the rewards are most amazing, said McLaughlin. Anyone can live off breadfruit, he added. It has a long shelf life when processed and it is rich in vitamin C and minerals. It is an underutilised with enormous potential and taken for granted because it is too common.
Trees that Feed offers free of cost breadfruit, mango, ackee, avocado, jackfruit, soursop, and some other varieties of trees. They encourage breadfruit for its nutrition and calories and can provide technical support for anyone wishing to develop their capacity to use it in agro-processing. They also offer plans on their website for building your own solar dryer to use the sun for dehydrating the fruits.
Melvin Lindsey, Principal Agricultural Officer in the Ministry of Agriculture presented on the management of breadfruit and mango trees. Local varieties are Yellow Heart and Local White breadfruits. The yield per tree annually is 600 pounds with a harvest period of February to September. It takes two to three and a half years before a tree bears fruit.
Lindsey said when considering breadfruit for commercial farming use stem cuttings. The Ministry of Agriculture’s nursery provides cuttings for growing. When choosing a location for setting up a breadfruit farm, flat areas would be beneficial when it is time to harvest. He recommends that soil tests are done. Farmers could be looking for free drainage soil. The agricultural expert also said that planting is best at the beginning of the rainy season, or you will have to put in irrigation systems.
MALHE’s Agro-processing Technologist and Quality Officer Carmencita Duberry presented on the stages of picking to harvesting and processing the fruits for market. She said the breadfruit in its mature green stage is best for drying to make flour as it would have more starch content. She said agro-processors should learn the various stages of maturity for the different varieties to ensure they are able to acquire them at the appropriate stage for the product they wish to make.
For harvesters, when picking, Duberry recommends leaving stem on the fruits. They should also be turned up so the sap can drip off the fruit without bruising, discolouring, or scarring the fruit. “We shop with our eyes and would prefer fruits that are more appealing,” she explained.
A picker with a sharp cutting tool and something to catch fruit so they do not fall to the ground is also essential. Placing the fruits in crates rather than crocus bags is preferred to avoid injuries. Any discoloration and moisture on the fruit will further deteriorate and impact the quality of the final product, the technologist added.
Agro-processors should use younger breadfruits for blanching and for soups. Mature fruits are best for turning into flour. Mixing fruits at various stages will impact the texture of the flour, Duberry explained.
Breadfruit offers a neutral taste that can take on the taste of whatever spices or seasonings are added to it. It can be used for pies, fries, flour, wine, liqueurs and even vodka.
Mangoes can be turned into dried fruit snacks, juices, preserves, yogurts, chutney, and pickles.
Health Benefits of Breadfruits and Mangoes
Merle Galloway, a healthy living advocate said not only are breadfruit and mangoes good to consume, the leaves and skin also have other health benefits.
She suggested using breadfruit and mango leaves as tea to balance blood sugar levels. With the addition of a little lime to bring out flavors, using the young leaves which have a higher chlorophyll content can help if we have consumed too many mangoes which are extremely high in sugar and can have a negative impact on diabetics. She also recommended consuming mangoes before they are fully ripe for those as the sugar content is less.
Galloway said rather than throwing out the mango skin when eating the fruit, use it as a beauty mask. The skin of the fruit tightens the skin because of its vitamin content. It will also help with diminishing scars and acne.
As breadfruit can be turned into gluten free flour, it can replace wheat flour that many people are now developing allergies to.
Mutiny Vodka, the World’s First and Only Island Vodka
Award-winning chef and creator of Mutiny Vodka, Todd Manley was the final presenter of the evening. He said the creation of the vodka began with a what if question. What if there was a plant that could create food security, mitigate global warming, be exported, and create jobs?
Manley explained that most alcohols are made from corn which have a negative impact on the environment. His vodka began in a five-gallon bucket during Hurricane Irma and Maria in 2017. He fermented the breadfruit and created the vodka which he found to be very smooth. It became his goal to incentivise farmers to plant breadfruit.
“A breadfruit tree can feed a family of four for a lifetime,” the chef said. “It is being used in anti-aging cosmetics and as an anti-cancer treatment.”
The tree can be tapped for latex, much like the maple tree is tapped for syrup.
“Breadfruit gives opportunity for anyone with a creative imagination. The Virgin Islands now has an export,” Manley declared.
It has also opened partnerships for the brand with Applebee’s, the third largest restaurant chain in North America and it is also having an impact on the tourism of the USVI.
Manley said the vodka line has been expanded to include a variety of farm to bottle infusions, such as ginger and lime, and hibiscus and passion fruit.
Mutiny Vodka has won the award for culinary innovation twice. He said the extended shelf life of the breadfruit when dried and turned into flour and other products means it can be used in a variety of ways including pasta and alcohol.
“The opportunities are endless,” added Manley.
The Breadfruit & Mango Festival continues Thursday with a quiz competition between summer camp participants at the Ferry Terminal at 5PM.
Friday will see the breadfruit and mango food competitions and exhibition.