Cassava in Hawaii (2006) Slow Food Terra Madre

Rather like other minority foods cassava in Hawaii have been stigmatized by views from outside Hawaii. Efforts are underway to revive interest.

Story of a cassava producer from Hawaii

Poi is a traditional food from Hawaii made by pounding taro (Colocascia esculenta) – it is used like mashed potato in the States. Taro is grown in water. The average taro patch is a quarter of an acre. We try and stagger plant harvesting The first step is to get a good lo’i (wet land taro patch). One obstacle to production is apple snails which stunt the growth of taro. Ducks can be used as a control measure but these are time-consuming. Other methods of control are being looked into. The leaves of taro are used like spinach and the stems can be peeled and steamed like celery. The roots play a similar role to potatoes. The top of the root and base of shoots are used for replanting from one generation to the next.

Taro is processed into Poi in a certified kitchen. After placing the roots in a steam bath the outer skin is removed and cleaned up to remove any residual skin. The roots are scraped to remove any diseased tissue before being ground in a modified corn grinder. The ground root is turned into plastic bags and sold by the pound. It is an acquired taste – but this is what people in Hawaii grow up with and this is part of their culture. I am the fourth generation farmer – hopefully my son will be the next generation continuing the tradition.

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About cornucopiaalchemy

Dr. Andrew Ormerod has 14 years experience working as the Economic Botanist at the Eden Project - researching topical stories, artefacts, ethnobotanical inks, catering and retail links to exhibits. Previously I was involved with plant breeding and plant tissue culture working on a range of crops including winter cauliflowers, agricultural lupins, vining peas, wheat and barley and coconuts. I am now freelance and am interested in opportunities for lecturing; writing articles; consultancy linked to development of botanic gardens for crops based exhibits; supply chain work for unusual food or non-food crops with interesting stories about plants and people attached to them.
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