Hawaii: Two Plants and A Mammal

Name a plant that has been a staple in Hawaii since the Polynesians brought it here by canoe. Hawaii produces 6 million pounds each year. If you guessed Taro you’re right. On July 1, Taro becomes the official state plant of Hawaii.

TARO is believed to have the greatest life force of all foods. It’s also called Kalo in Hawaiian which means, “everlasting breath.”

All parts of this sturdy plant are eaten. Just make sure to cook Taro first and never eat it raw. The leaves are cooked as greens and the tubers are cooked and mashed with water to make poi. In modern times it’s been added to pancakes and fried or baked into chips and bread.

In ancient Hawaii, poi brought people together in a ceremony of life that supported the relationship of ohana (family). There’s more to learn about this historical plant by reading Canoe Plants of Ancient Hawaii. If you’re ever on Maui during the month of April, consider going to the Taro Festival in Hana.

Next up is the mysterious and prehistoric HAWAIIAN MONK SEAL. On July 1 it joins our state fish, the humuhumunukunukuapuaa, as the new official state mammal. We hope this will create public awareness and critical funding to help save the Hawaiian Monk Seal from extinction. If you’re fortunate to see one, leave it alone as fines for disturbing a Hawaiian Monk Seal can reach as high as $25,000.

Finally, there’s a new controversy over STRAWBERRY GUAVA. Love it or hate it, you decide. They are plentiful when walking around the hills in Hawaii, and very delicious. We grow Strawberry Guava intentionally in our yard.

In the wild, however, they represent a threat to native species, and provide food for unwanted fruit flies and pigs. This summer, the U.S. Forest Service plans to release a scale insect from Brazil to attack strawberry guava and reduce its fruit production. Since they are cultivated as well as wild, all guava production will be hurt. Many feel that the plan is ill-advised.

Strawberry guavas have been present in Hawaii for 200 years, and are well liked for eating and in cooking.

If you’ve had experience with our “two plants and a mammal,” please be sure to comment.

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