Funded! This project was successfully funded on August 17, 2011.

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A video web-series about the cultural and historical importance of breadfruit and its relevance to food security today.

Ka ‘ai nānā i luna
The food that requires looking up to

Everyone remembers Mutiny on the Bounty, but do you remember why Captain Bligh was sailing to Tahiti in the first place? It was all about breadfruit. In Hawai‘i, breadfruit was one of the “canoe plants” that were originally brought to Hawai‘i in Polynesian voyaging canoes.

Why all this sailing around with breadfruit? Because breadfruit was recognized by the Polynesians and Europeans as an excellent food source.

regarding food, if a man plants 10 (breadfruit) trees in his life he would completely fulfill his duty to his own as well as future generations…”  Sir Joseph Banks, 1769

Today, Hawai‘i imports 85% of its food from outside the state. Concerns over food security have aroused new interest in the highly nutritious, delicious and abundant breadfruit.

Breadfruit, or ‘ulu in Hawaiian, may have been brought here in sailing canoes, but its mythic origins explain its importance in Hawaiian culture.  

     Kū stood on his head and sank into the ground. Watered by the tears of his wife, a    beautiful breadfruit tree grew and saved his family from famine. The root shoots were spread to others so that they could have food.

     Kaha‘i sailed to Kahiki and brought the breadfruit back from ‘Upolu.

     Two fishermen who were blown out to sea brought the ‘ulu back from the food abundant cloud island off the coast of Maui called Kane-huna-moku.

These are just a few of the Hawaiian mythological stories that depict the origin of ‘ulu. Other stories of Haumea and Pele teach us important lessons about life, love and survival.  

The image of the ‘ulu leaf and fruit is iconic in Hawai‘i. They are obviously beautiful—but what else does the tree, leaf and fruit symbolize to the people of Hawai‘i? What is the meaning of the word ‘ulu? Remember Mutiny on the Bounty? Why was Captain Bligh sailing to Tahiti anyway? Why did the Polynesians carefully pack breadfruit plants and transport them thousands of miles to Hawai‘i in voyaging canoes? How do native Hawaiians prepare breadfruit for eating? What new ways is breadfruit being used to suit modern tastes? What is the role of breadfruit as a food source in Hawai‘i today?

Learn the answers to these questions and more in our video web-series!

Your contribution to our kickstarter campaign will help us to edit and distribute a web-series of video interviews with Hawaiian cultural experts on the culture and history of breadfruit and what breadfruit means for the future of Hawai‘i. 

These videos are a part of the Ho‘oulu ka ‘Ulu project public outreach efforts which include: Two Breadfruit Festivals (Amy B.H. Greenwell Ethnobotanical Garden in South Kona on Saturday, September 24, 2011 and March 2-3, 2012 at Kua O Ka Lā Public Charter School in Puna), an Art Contest, Youth Art Contest, Cooking Contest, Tree Sales, and the distribution of information about how to cook and eat breadfruit in traditional and modern ways. 

Why Breadfruit?

The beautiful ‘ulu tree once played a major role in the spiritual and cultural life of Hawaiians and it was a key staple food and a source of wood, craft materials and medicine. ‘Ulu is easily grown and Hawaiians had large field systems that integrated ‘ulu with other crops including kalo (taro), ‘uala (sweet potato), mai‘a (banana), kō (sugarcane) and other important crops. It is estimated that Hawaiian ‘ulu trees were at one time capable of feeding at least 75,000 people, perhaps several times that many. In a mauka region of Kona there was a band of ‘ulu trees ½ mile wide and 18 miles long called kalu ‘ulu that produced as much as 36,000 tons of ‘ulu fruit per year. Other important ‘ulu groves were located in North Kohala, Hilo, and Puna. ‘Ulu is also nutritionally and culturally important throughout the Pacific (including for the thousands of non-Hawaiian Pacific islanders who make Hawai‘i their home). Modern nutritional analysis shows ‘ulu to be a highly nutritious food that can be prepared in a variety of ways compatible with both traditional and modern tastes.

Hawai‘i has a long history with ‘ulu, and yet most people today think that it was of little importance. It has fallen out of common use as a food and material.

‘Ulu is currently underutilized as a resource and is not respected as it once was. The trees are sometimes cut down to make way for more “valuable” cash crops and are even considered a “mess” by people who don’t value and know how to use the fruit. Many ‘ulu trees in kalu ‘ulu in particular have been cut down for coffee cultivation.

The ‘ulu tree must be preserved and perpetuated as a key to long-term food self-sufficiency in Hawai‘i. The tree grows vertically, therefore being very productive even in small areas on ever smaller home lots and farms, requires very little input (fertilizer and irrigation), and produced abundant food for a family and community.

The visual aesthetic of the tree in Hawai‘i’s landscape cannot be overstated. The various ‘ulu leaf patterns in quilt making are iconic, while working with the ‘ulu wood, making ‘ulu chewing gum and using parts of the leaf and flower for lei making are lesser known.

The Ho‘oulu ka ‘Ulu project seeks to help breadfruit climb back to its rightful place in Hawai‘i s food and cultural landscape through the production of the video web-series and other initiatives.

It is our hope that the sharing of the culture of ‘ulu in Hawai‘i—the mythology, ‘Ōlelo No‘eau, uses, history, and traditional and modern ways to prepare it—will help restore the ‘ulu to its rightful place as one of the most important crops in Hawai‘i. 

Ho‘oulu ka ‘Ulu is a project of the Hawaii Homegrown Food Network and the Breadfruit Institute of the National Tropical Botanical Garden.

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  • Pledge $25 or more
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    24 backers

    A mahalo (thank you) on our website and we hope you come join us (free admission to the public) at the Breadfruit Festival on Saturday, September 24th at the Amy Greenwell Ethnobotanical Garden in South Kona so we can say aloha and thank you in person!

  • Pledge $50 or more
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    6 backers

    A Breadfruit Cooking Contest Sample Platter at the Breadfruit Festival and a mahalo on our website.

  • Pledge $100 or more
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    11 backers

    A Breadfruit Festival Collectable Poster (original art by the winner of our Art Contest), Breadfruit Cooking Contest Sample Platter at the Breadfruit Festival and a mahalo on our website.

  • Pledge $200 or more
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    2 backers

    DVD of the web-series videos, Breadfruit Festival Collectable Poster (original art by the winner of our Art Contest), Breadfruit Cooking Contest Sample Platter at the Breadfruit Festival and a mahalo on our website.

  • Pledge $500 or more
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    2 backers

    10 breadfruits delivered to your door (Hawaii Island only), two free gourmet breadfruit lunches at the Breadfruit Festival, DVD of the web-series videos, Breadfruit Festival Collectable Poster (original art by the winner of our Art Contest), Breadfruit Cooking Contest Sample Platter at the Breadfruit Festival and a mahalo on our website.

  • Pledge $1,000 or more
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    1 backer

    Name on all Breadfruit Festival outreach and advertising material including the web-series credits, 10 breadfruits delivered to your door (Hawaii Island only), two free breadfruit lunches at the Breadfruit Festival, DVD of the web-series videos, Breadfruit Festival Collectable Poster (original art by the winner of our Art Contest), Breadfruit Cooking Contest Sample Platter at the Breadfruit Festival and a mahalo on our website.

  • Pledge $5,000 or more
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    0 backers

    Logo and name on all Breadfruit Festival outreach and advertising material including the web-series credits, public recognition from the stage at the Breadfruit Festival, 10 breadfruits delivered to your door (Hawaii Island only), two free breadfruit lunches at the Breadfruit Festival, DVD of the web-series videos, Breadfruit Festival Collectable Poster (original art by the winner of our Art Contest), Breadfruit Cooking Contest Sample Platter at the Breadfruit Festival and a mahalo on our website.

Funding period

- (30 days)