During the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the lack of food security for small islands such as Guam became apparent as thousands of families lined up for free commodities and store shelves emptied due to a strained global supply chain.
The University of Guam, and its Triton Farm, continue to show residents how they can farm and feed themselves with a series of workshops. This month's workshop focuses on breadfruit, or lemmai.
"More broadly, the workshops promote self-sufficiency on Guam and sustainability, so that we gradually reduce the amount of imports," said Robert Bevacqua, a UOG horticulturist and one of the facilitators of the workshop. "Breadfruit has a long history on the island of Guam and it's deeply entwined into the CHamoru culture."
The endemic, fruit-bearing tree is an easy option for beginner farmers who don't have the time or energy to invest in more demanding plants. The trees don't usually get attacked by insects or disease, so pesticides don't have to be used, according to Bevacua.
"It grows like gangbusters. You turn your back and it'll have grown a foot," he said. "It's not a challenging one like orchids."
On top of providing food, breadfruit trees also can be used in animal fodder for pigs, karabao and other livestock. The tree has been used in traditional medicine, as well.
This month's workshop will focus on two main areas. Attendees will learn how to safely make and use breadfruit flour. Products made from the gluten-free, wheat flour alternative will be available to sample.
"The dilemma with breadfruit is it has a short shelf life; it's very perishable," Bevacqua said. "You harvest it, and it's only going to be good for three days, four days, and then it turns to mush. So any ideas to turn it into flour or chips or different kinds of preserves, yes those are all valuable."
'A good starter plant'
Organizers also will teach how new trees can be propagated from root shoots of mature ma'afala breadfruit trees.
"These are like little 'suckers' that come up off the roots of a mother tree. And we'll teach the class how to do that. Each person gets to take home a pot with a root shoot planted in it," Bevacqua said. "You can grow it organically; it's a good starter plant."
It will take about two years for the plants that attendees receive to start bearing fruit, according to Bevacqua. Instructors also will give booklets on breadfruit cultivation to use as a reference along the way.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, space is limited for the June 12 workshop. For more information or to register, email Rita Barcinas at email@example.com.