Breadfruit could easily qualify as a Hawaii superfood. It’s packed with fiber, magnesium, potassium, calcium and vitamins A and C; not to mention, it sustained Hawaii’s ancient culture for centuries. A superfood with superhero powers?

Perhaps. Known as ulu in Hawaiian, the favorite staple of the islands has a long and colorful history as one of the earliest canoe plants brought by voyaging Polynesians. But unlike kalo (taro) and uala (sweet potato), ulu often doesn’t get the recognition it deserves. That’s why there’ll be a festival dedicated entirely to the starch (as well as bananas) in Kona next month.

Adults and kids can try their hand at a breadfruit cooking contest (ulu hummus, anyone?), as well as enjoy a demo by celebrity chef Sam Choy. But what I’m most happy about is the day’s agenda of cultural activities – from preparing ulu poi to making tapa cloth from the bark of ulu. The reason it’s called a canoe plant is because its trunk, leaves, flowers and sap provide timber, medicine, fiber and sandpaper; ancient Hawaiians shaped its trunk into a surfboard and, of course, a canoe.

This is the second year of the Big Island event, which happens to take place at an area once abundant with sustainable food crops. Breadfruit tree groves were so productive at one time that it produced more than 35,000 tons of breadfruit every year to support a flourishing Hawaiian population. Today, you’ll find the world’s largest collection of breadfruit at Kahanu Garden, just outside of Hana, Maui.

BREADFRUIT FESTIVAL GOES BANANAS • Sat., Sept. 29, 2012 9am-3pm (Free) • Amy Greenwell Garden, Captain Cook, HI 96704 • www.breadfruit.info

Photo Credit: Hawaii Homegrown Food Network

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