My love for Seychelles began when I lived here from December 1971 to November 1973. At the end of this time I had to return to a cold and snowy UK in order to analyse all my data on Bird Island’s Sooty Terns and write up the results for publication. But leaving the beautiful islands was a heart-aching wrench. However, before leaving Mahe some friends let me into a secret of the islands!
In my youth I had become interested in India and had read most of John Masters’ intriguing novels about some aspects of life in the sub-continent. It was in these novels that I first encountered the name “breadfruit”, but it really meant nothing to me at the time.
Breadfruit grow on a large tree; this is one of many plants that were introduced to Seychelles by early settlers as a source of food and now occurs commonly on many of the islands, including the two coralline islands of Bird and Denis. The tree has large leaves, deeply divided into lobes. The fruits begin growth as green finger-like structures but these expand into roundish green balls. As growth continued the balls attain a diameter of 20 centimetres or more and as they ripen the skin, now covered in scale-like pentagons, begins to ooze a milky sap. This is when they are best harvested.
The starchy contents can be prepared in many ways – boiled, cut into thin slices or larger wedges and fried as golden crisps or chips.
But my favourite is when the entire fruit is buried, for about half an hour, within a dome of burning coconut husks. Ideally this should be done on a beach and accompanied by chilled wine! When cooked the fruit is removed from the fire and its now hardened charcoal skin is cracked apart, revealing a creamy-coloured hot, almost fluffy, interior. This can be torn away from the blackened shell and eaten as it is, ideally with butter, or used as a vegetable to accompany a fish grilled on a barbecue, or a creole coconut curry, possibly with a little more wine.
In addition to being an utterly delicious food, many Seychellois believe that if you eat breadfruit, you are bound to return to Seychelles. Forty-four years after first stepping on to Seychelles soil I am a firm believer in this folklore and try to eat breadfruit on every visit. For me it has worked splendidly!