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Brosimum alicastrum

Brosimum alicastrum

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Brosimum alicastrum, the breadnut or Maya nut, is a Brosimum
Brosimum
Brosimum is a genus of plants in the mulberry family, Moraceae, native to tropical regions of the Americas.The Breadnut was used by the Maya civilization for its edible nut. The dense vividly colored scarlet wood of Satine Bloodwood is used for decorative woodworking...

 tree species under the Moraceae
Moraceae
Moraceae — often called the mulberry family or fig family — are a family of flowering plants comprising about 40 genera and over 1000 species. Most are widespread in tropical and subtropical regions, less so in temperate climates...

 family of flowering plant
Flowering plant
The flowering plants , also known as Angiospermae or Magnoliophyta, are the most diverse group of land plants. Angiosperms are seed-producing plants like the gymnosperms and can be distinguished from the gymnosperms by a series of synapomorphies...

s, whose other genera include fig
Ficus
Ficus is a genus of about 850 species of woody trees, shrubs, vines, epiphytes, and hemiepiphyte in the family Moraceae. Collectively known as fig trees or figs, they are native throughout the tropics with a few species extending into the semi-warm temperate zone. The Common Fig Ficus is a genus of...

 and mulberries
Mulberry
Morus is a genus of flowering plants in the family Moraceae. The 10–16 species of deciduous trees it contains are commonly known as Mulberries....

 The plant is known by a range of names in indigenous Mesoamerican
Mesoamerican languages
Mesoamerican languages are the languages indigenous to the Mesoamerican cultural area, which covers southern Mexico, all of Guatemala and Belize and parts of Honduras and El Salvador. The area is characterized by extensive linguistic diversity containing several hundred different languages and...

 and other languages, including but not limited to: ramon,ojoche, ojite, ojushte, ujushte, ujuxte, capomo, mojo, ox, iximche
Iximche
Iximche is a Pre-Columbian Mesoamerican archaeological site in the western highlands of Guatemala. Iximche was the capital of the Late Postclassic Kaqchikel Maya kingdom from 1470 until its abandonment in 1524. The architecture of the site included a number of pyramid-temples, palaces and two...

 , masica' in Honduras 'and uje in Michoacan Mexico.

Two subspecies
Subspecies
Subspecies in biological classification, is either a taxonomic rank subordinate to species, ora taxonomic unit in that rank . A subspecies cannot be recognized in isolation: a species will either be recognized as having no subspecies at all or two or more, never just one...

 are commonly recognized:
  • Brosimum alicastrum ssp. alicastrum
  • Brosimum alicastrum ssp. bolivarense (Pittier) C.C.Berg


Distribution and habitat: Southern Mexico-Guatemala-El Salvador, Caribbean, Amazon. Large stands in moist lowland tropical forests 300-2000 m elevation (especially 125-800 m), in humid areas where rainfall of 600-2000 mm, and avgerage temperature 24 C / 75 F.

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 important, 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
Porridge
Porridge is a dish made by boiling oats or other cereal meals in water, milk, or both. It is usually served hot in a bowl or dish...

 or flatbread
Flatbread
A flatbread is a simple bread made with flour, water, and salt and then thoroughly rolled into flattened dough. Many flatbreads are unleavened: made without yeast or sourdough culture: although some flatbread is made with yeast, such as pita bread....

. Breadnut is nutritious and has value as a food source, and formed a part of the diet of the pre-Columbian
Pre-Columbian
The pre-Columbian era incorporates all period subdivisions in the history and prehistory of the Americas before the appearance of significant European influences on the American continents, spanning the time of the original settlement in the Upper Paleolithic period to European colonization during...

 Maya
Maya civilization
The Maya is a Mesoamerican civilization, noted for the only known fully developed written language of the pre-Columbian Americas, as well as for its art, architecture, and mathematical and astronomical systems. Initially established during the Pre-Classic period The Maya is a Mesoamerican...

 of the lowlands region in Mesoamerica
Mesoamerica
Mesoamerica is a region and culture area in the Americas, extending approximately from central Mexico to Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica, within which a number of pre-Columbian societies flourished before the Spanish colonization of the Americas in the 15th and...

 , although to what extent has been a matter of some debate among Maya historians and archaeologists.

It was planted by the Maya civilization
Maya civilization
The Maya is a Mesoamerican civilization, noted for the only known fully developed written language of the pre-Columbian Americas, as well as for its art, architecture, and mathematical and astronomical systems. Initially established during the Pre-Classic period The Maya is a Mesoamerican...

 two thousand years ago and it has been claimed in several articles by Dennis E. Puleston
Dennis E. Puleston
Dennis E. Puleston Ph.D was an American archaeologist and ecologist. Dr. Puleston took archaeology, biology, and ecology and developed an approach to understanding human interactions with nature that is an example of interdisciplinarity more than thirty years after his passing...

 to have been a staple food
Staple food
A staple food is one that is eaten regularly and in such quantities that it constitutes a dominant portion of a diet, and that supplies a high proportion of energy and nutrient needs. Most people live on a diet based on one or more staples...

 in the Maya diet, 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
Famine food
A famine food or poverty food is any inexpensive or readily-available foodstuff used to nourish people in times of extreme poverty or starvation, as during a war or famine...

.

Erika Vohman of the Maya Nut Institute has been promoting its use in Central America
Central America
Central America is the central geographic region of the Americas. It is the southernmost, isthmian portion of the North American continent, which connects with South America on the southeast. When considered part of the unified continental model, it is considered a subcontinent...

 and is campaigning to save the rainforests where Maya Nut grows. For this work Vohman won the 2006 St Andrews Prize for the Environment
St Andrews Prize for the Environment
The St Andrews Prize for the Environment is a prize awarded by Scotland's University of St Andrews and the American integrated energy company, ConocoPhillips for recognises significant contributions to environmental conservation. The prize has been running since 1998...

 worth $50,000. She has been working with rural and indigenous women teaching them to use Maya Nut to improve tropical rainforest conservation
Tropical rainforest conservation
-Conservation:Right now, people are conserving the Tropical Rain Forests by ecotourism and rehabilitation. Ecotourism is giving people tours of the forest and showing them what we are losing by cutting them down...

, reforestation
Reforestation
Reforestation is the natural or intentional restocking of existing forests and woodlands that have been depleted, usually through deforestation....

, health and nutrition
Nutrition
Nutrition is the provision, to cells and organisms, of the materials necessary to support life. Many common health problems can be prevented or alleviated with a healthy diet....

, food security
Food security
Food security refers to the availability of food and one's access to it. A household is considered food-secure when its occupants do not live in hunger or fear of starvation. According to the World Resources Institute, global per capita food production has been increasing substantially for the past...

, women’s income, self-esteem and status, maternal health and infant birth weights. Since 2001 the Maya Nut Institute has trained over 16,000 women from 1100 villages in Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala, El Salvador, Cuba, Jamaica, Peru, Haiti and Mexico. The St. Andrews Prize money is earmarked for expansion of the Maya Nut program to new regions in these countries.

The breadnut is extremely high in fiber
Fiber
Fiber is a class of materials that are continuous filaments or are in discrete elongated pieces, similar to lengths of thread.They are very important in the biology of both plants and animals, for holding tissues together....

, calcium
Calcium
Calcium is the chemical element with the symbol Ca and atomic number 20. It has an atomic mass of 40.078 amu. Calcium is a soft gray alkaline earth metal, and is the fifth-most-abundant element by mass in the Earth's crust...

, potassium
Potassium
Potassium is the chemical element with the symbol K and atomic number 19. Elemental potassium is a soft silvery-white alkali metal that oxidizes rapidly in air and is very reactive with water, generating sufficient heat to ignite the hydrogen emitted in the reaction.Potassium and sodium are...

, folic acid
Folic acid
Folic acid and folate , as well as pteroyl-L-glutamic acid, pteroyl-L-glutamate, and pteroylmonoglutamic acid are forms of the water-soluble vitamin B9...

, iron
Iron
Iron is a chemical element with the symbol Fe and atomic number 26. It is a metal in the first transition series. It is the most common element forming the planet Earth as a whole, forming much of Earth's outer and inner core. It is the fourth most common element in the Earth's crust...

, zinc
Zinc
Zinc , or spelter , is a metallic chemical element; it has the symbol Zn and atomic number 30. It is the first element in group 12 of the periodic table. Zinc is, in some respects, chemically similar to magnesium, because its ion is of similar size and its only common oxidation state is +2...

, protein
Protein
Proteins are biochemical compounds consisting of one or more polypeptides typically folded into a globular or fibrous form, facilitating a biological function. A polypeptide is a single linear polymer chain of amino acids bonded together by peptide bonds between the carboxyl and amino groups of...

 and B vitamins. 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 to roast and eaten later. Stewed the nut tastes like mashed potato, roasted it tastes like chocolate or coffee and can be prepared in numerous other dishes. In Petén
Petén (department)
Petén is a department of the nation of Guatemala. It is geographically the northernmost department of Guatemala, as well as the largest in size — at it accounts for about one third of Guatemala's area. The capital is Flores...

, Guatemala
Guatemala
Guatemala is a country in Central America bordered by Mexico to the north and west, the Pacific Ocean to the southwest, Belize to the northeast, the Caribbean to the east, and Honduras and El Salvador to the southeast...

, the breadnut is being cultivated for exportation and local consumption as powder, for hot beverages, and bread.
The tree can reach up to 45 meters (130 feet).

The tree lends its name to the Maya archaeological sites of Iximché
Iximche
Iximche is a Pre-Columbian Mesoamerican archaeological site in the western highlands of Guatemala. Iximche was the capital of the Late Postclassic Kaqchikel Maya kingdom from 1470 until its abandonment in 1524. The architecture of the site included a number of pyramid-temples, palaces and two...

 and Topoxte
Topoxte
Topoxte is a pre-Columbian Maya archaeological site in the Petén Basin in northern Guatemala with a long occupational history dating as far back as the Middle Preclassic. As the capital of the Ko’woj Maya, it was the largest of the few Postclassic Mesoamerican sites in the area...

, both in Guatemala
Guatemala
Guatemala is a country in Central America bordered by Mexico to the north and west, the Pacific Ocean to the southwest, Belize to the northeast, the Caribbean to the east, and Honduras and El Salvador to the southeast...

 and also of Tamuin
Tamuín
Tamuín is a municipio in the Mexican state of San Luis Potosí. Tamuín is internationally renowned for three archaeological sites representative of the precolonial Huastec culture.-Toponymy:...

(reflecting the Maya origin of the Huastec peoples). It is one of the twenty dominant species of the Maya forest. Of the dominant species, it is the only one that is wind-pollinated. It is also found in traditional Maya forest gardens.

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