Brosimum alicastrum

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Breadnut
Brosimum-Alicastrum 02.jpg
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Rosids
Order: Rosales
Family: Moraceae
Tribe: Dorstenieae
Genus: Brosimum
Species: B. alicastrum
Binomial name
Brosimum alicastrum
Sw.
Synonyms

Alicastrum brownei Kuntze
Brosimum uleanum Mildbr.
Helicostylis bolivarensis Pittier
Piratinera alicastrum (Sw.) Baill.

Brosimum alicastrum, the breadnut or Maya nut, is a tree species in the Moraceae family of flowering plants, whose other genera include figs and mulberries The plant is known by a range of names in indigenous Mesoamerican and other languages, including: ramon, ojoche, ojite, ojushte, ujushte, ujuxte, capomo, mojo, ox, iximche, masica in Honduras, uje in Michoacan, and mojote in Jalisco.

Two subspecies are commonly recognized:

  • B. a. alicastrum
  • B. a. bolivarense (Pittier) C.C.Berg

Biology[edit]

The tree can grow up to 45 m (130 ft) in height.

Distribution[edit]

This tree is found on the west coast of central Mexico and in southern Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, the Caribbean, and the Amazon. Large stands occur in moist lowland tropical forests at 300–2000 m elevation (especially 125–800 m), in humid areas with rainfall of 600–2000 mm, and average temperatures of 24°C (75°F).[1]

History and culture[edit]

The breadnut fruit disperses on the ground at different times throughout its range. It has a large seed covered by a thin, citrus-flavored, orange-colored skin favored by a number of forest creatures. More importantly, the large seed which is enveloped by the tasty skin is an edible ‘nut’ that can be boiled or dried and ground into a meal for porridge or flatbread. Breadnut is nutritious and has value as a food source, and formed a part of the diet of the pre-Columbian Maya of the lowlands region in Mesoamerica,[2][3] although to what extent has been a matter of some debate among historians and archaeologists.

Brosimum-alicastrum 4.jpg

It was planted by the Maya civilization two thousand years ago and it has been claimed in several articles by Dennis E. Puleston to have been a staple food in the Maya diet,[3] although other research has downplayed its significance. In the modern era, it has been marginalized as a source of nutrition and has often been characterized as a famine food.

The tree lends its name to the Maya archaeological sites of Iximché and Topoxte, both in Guatemala and Tamuin (reflecting the Maya origin of the Huastec peoples). It is one of the 20 dominant species of the Maya forest.[4] Of the dominant species, it is the only one that is wind-pollinated. It is also found in traditional Maya forest gardens.[5]

Nutritional and culinary value[edit]

The breadnut is high in fiber, calcium, potassium, folic acid, iron, zinc, protein and B vitamins.[6] It has a low glycemic index (<50) and is very high in antioxidants. The fresh seeds can be cooked and eaten or can be set out to dry in the sun and eaten later. Stewed, the nut tastes like mashed potato; roasted, it tastes like chocolate or coffee. It can be prepared in numerous other dishes. In Petén, Guatemala, the breadnut is being cultivated for exportation and local consumption as powder, for hot beverages, and bread.

Ramon nuts 05.jpg

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Melgar in "Utilizacion Integral del Arbol Genero Brosimum" INCAP 1987
  2. ^ Flannery, Kent; Puleston, Dennis E. (1982), "The Role of Ramon in Maya Subsistence", Maya Subsistence: Studies in Memory of Dennis E. Puleston, Academic Press, pp. 353-366
  3. ^ a b Harrison, Peter D.; Turner, B. L.; Puleston, Dennis E. (1978), "Terracing, Raised Fields, and Tree Cropping in the Maya Lowlands: A New Perspective on the Geography of Power", Pre-Hispanic Maya Agriculture, University of New Mexico Press, pp. 225-245
  4. ^ Campbell, D. G., A. Ford, et al. "The Feral Forests of the Eastern Petén" (2006), Time and Complexity in the Neotropical Lowlands New York, Columbia University Press: 21-55.
  5. ^ Ford, A. "Dominant Plants of the Maya Forest and Gardens of El Pilar: Implications for Paleoenvironmental Reconstructions" (2008), Journal of Ethnobiology 28(2): 179-199.
  6. ^ Flannery, Kent; Puleston, Dennis E. (1982), "The Role of Ramon in Maya Subsistence", Maya Subsistence: Studies in Memory of Dennis E. Puleston, Academic Press, pp. 353-366

External links[edit]