There are more than one hundred major species of fruits in the tropics, which make a very interesting contribution to the appetite as well as to good nutrition. These species vary in ecological requirements, in season of production, in yields, uses and, of course, in many other characteristics. The three fruits that are the subject here are outstanding fruits that are particularly important in feeding people. These fruits also produce a lot of food for a minimum of effort. In fact, they are practically staple fruits of the tropics. In contrast, mangoes are very important in the tropics, but are seldom a staple. Citrus fruits are varied, widely produced and enjoyed, but never a staple. These comments can be extended to many other fruits as well.
Probably the most important fruit in the tropics in terms of distribution, use and contribution as food is the banana (for purposes of this discussion, bananas and plantains will be considered together). The many ways these fruits can be eaten makes them a popular everyday food. Its primary nutritional contribution is calories (as starch and sugar).
The coconut is common and a daily food in some but not all parts of the tropics. It is well adapted and can be grown almost anywhere. The tree itself is versatile in its application and may be the most useful tree of the tropics. The fruit is used at all stages in unique ways, and is a significant source of protein and a major source of fat in the diet.
The breadfruit, aptly named, a staff of life in the Pacific. Its nature as a staple is the reason that it has been so widely introduced throughout the tropics. Normally seasoned, primitive and modern methods of processing have been developed, and native cooks find diverse uses for the fruit. Its contribution to the diet is principally starch, and ripe fruits are rich in sugar as well.
Cite this article as:
Martin, F.W. 1998. Banana, Coconut & Breadfruit. ECHO Technical Note no. 34.