American Samoa Breadfruit Flour Prototype Mill Showing Good Progress

Researcher happy with freight container dehydrating process

By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (The Samoa News, Nov. 19, 2016) – A small locally based mill operation producing gluten free breadfruit flour using a retrofitted freight container dehydrator prototype has “made really good stride” and pancakes and cookies in which breadfruit flour was used tasted “very good,” says Dr. Jeff Gwirtz, Kansas State University’s Professor of Food Engineering, milling and flour.

Gwirtz was in the territory last week accompanied by Papali’i Dr. Failautusi Avegalio, who heads the University of Hawaii Pacific Business Center Program, which launched more than two years ago the ‘Pacific Regional Breadfruit Initiative’ (PRBI) projects.

Among the areas covered in the visit, was Gwirtz assessment of the local mill operation, owned by Swains Rep. Su’a Alexander Eli Jennings, as well as the retrofitted freight container dehydrator, an innovation designed and built by Su’a, for drying breadfruit for flour.

“The project has made really good strides,” Gwirtz said in a Samoa News interview this week following his assessment of Su’a’s operation. Gwirtz has been engaged in the breadfruit project since 2012 and his initial trip to the territory a while back looked at some of the drying methods and variation of the breadfruit.

Following his assessment last week, Gwirtz said the breadfruit flour sample from Su’a’s dehydrator “was clean or cleaner in terms of the color and the aroma.”

“It was very good. The prototype, it’s a work in progress, but Su’a has learned by trial and error what works to make the machine [operational]... he learned the basic components,” Gwirtz said.

“I think the nice thing about it is, the kind of product that is being able to be made from the [dehydrator] machine, is the kind of thing there’s a high probability that people will like, enjoy and be able to embrace it and it will have the nutritional benefit,” he said.

Additionally, “My overall assessment is taking his prototype and moving it to a design that will be a compliant to, like food and drug practices, for the production of food,” he explained.

“We want to make sure, if the breadfruit has the opportunity to enter markets on the mainland or other regions of the world, it’s going to be a high quality food product and it will be uniform,” he added.

The “compliant” referred to by Gwirtz, deals with approval and food grade certification by the US Department of Agriculture, which is the goal of Su’a’s dehydrator, once processing for commercialization begins.

“It is imperative that continuous testing be engaged for the next several harvests toward greater efficiency and reliability of processes, temperature control and flour quality,” according to a PRBI project report update sent to the Bank of Hawaii Foundation, which provided a $5,000 grant, early this month. “Needs include an upgrade to food grade materials, whether stainless steel or food grade plastic.”

“The significance of the dehydrator is that it can also serve to dry bananas, coffee beans, mangoes, papayas and other tropical fruits and tubers for commercial and local community purposes,” it says.

Gwirtz said in the Samoa News interview that he would put together an update report on his update assessment to be provided to Papali’i and UH.

TASTING

Last week Tuesday, Gwirtz, Papali’i and others were treated to an “ulu pancake breakfast and related assortments.”

“We were treated very well and we had pancakes. The flour was very good, had a nice hardy texture,” he said but declined to comment further on Su’a’s recipe used, “but the pancakes were very good.”

“What I really enjoyed was the hash brown product that [Su’a] was able to make,” he said adding that Su’a used a technique to grind the ulu and had it shred to come up with long strands like potatoes. “It wasn’t oily like the usual harsh browns.”

And Su’a also used breadfruit flour to make cookies for the breakfast and “some of them were like short bread” and some cookies included Koko Samoa. “Love the texture, it was a very, very good product,” he said.

Su’a, who attended the interview and wanted to keep the “secret” of his recipes used for pancake, cookie and short bread, said he was looking at a later time to hold a media gathering to showcase his goodies.

The Samoa News
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