Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Doing It Island Style, Part 4: A Taste of the Tropics

It was my mission to try as many edible plants as possible during our trip.  The house we stayed at had a mango tree:

A banana plant with frustratingly green bananas:

A super sweet and delicious orange tree:

A pomelo tree, which is sort of like a large grapefruit:

And a breadfruit tree.  Breadfruit is starchy like a potato and doesn't have a lot of flavor.  Hawaiian tradition is to plant a breadfruit tree in the backyard when you buy a house because it can sustain your family through a time of famine.

Artocarpus altilis aka Breadfruit tree 
Like potatoes, breadfruit can be eaten at any time during its development and the longer it stays on the tree, the bigger it gets.  Eventually, if left unpicked, the fruit will become sweeter as the starches convert to sugars.

One breadfruit is the equivalent of about eight medium potatoes.

After cutting three breadfruit off the tree, I noticed a white sap started gushing out all over the place.  I looked up on YouTube how to prepare breadfruit and opted to try frying them in coconut oil.  I peeled and sliced the fruit up into strips like fries and soaked them in cold salt water.

Once all sliced, they were dropped into the heated coconut oil.

After sprinkling on a little sea salt we had authentically tropical breadfruit fries:

They were pretty good and picked up the taste of coconut.  You don't see breadfruit in the grocery store here because it has about much flavor as tofu (don't ask me why we see tofu in the grocery store).

We also stopped by a fruit stand and picked up sugar cane and fresh coconut.

I cut the sugar cane into strips which can be chewed on.

Getting the coconut water out of the coconut was a bit more labor-intensive and turned into an hour-long project (I only had a paring knife). Eventually found success...

The coconut meat was very soft.  It was like eating coconut-flavored jello.

Alas, my series on Hawaii has come to an end.  If you've never been to Hawaii, I hope you will be able to visit some day.  There is no place quite like it.  Mahalo!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Doing It Island Style, Part 3: The Nā Pali Coast

The Nā Pali Coast is well known for its sheer cliffs rising high above the vast ocean below.  Incessant rain, wind, and pounding waves have sculpted the land into a ruggedly idealized tropical paradise.  The only way to explore it is on foot.  At the trailhead, we were warned of falling rocks, steep muddy cliffs, and flash floods.  At least there were no jaguars to worry about.

I was hoping to make it to Hanakapi`ai Falls but we ended up just going to Hanakapi`ai beach.

The mountains are very steep, yet still completely covered in vegetation.


The water was pristine blue.

Hey, look!  A rainbow!  

Some plants (such as the screw pines) were absolutely everywhere, and then there would be lone specimens - this was the only agave I saw on the trail.

This is one of a small colony of orchids.


Parts of the trail were of stone laid back in the 1800s.

At Hanakapi`ai beach, I had a rock stacking contest with my brother-in-law's dad.  I'll let you decide who won.

Mine ↑                                                 His ↑        

 What started out as a beautiful day...

 ...turned stormier and stormier

So we headed back and dried off after getting a good soaking.  By the time we got back to the trailhead, it was sunny once again.

On another day we drove to Waimea Canyon which is only a couple miles away distance-wise from the Nā Pali Coast trail but the only way to get there is to drive all the way around to the other side of the island.

Waimea Canyon
The road kept going along a high ridge which eventually let to Hanakoa Valley.

Hanakoa Valley

Monday, March 24, 2014

Doing It Island Style, Part 2: Na 'Āina Ka Botanical Gardens

About five hours before boarding the plane back to Seattle, we made an impromptu decision to tour the gardens of Na 'Āina Kai.  This huge botanical garden and hardwood tree farm, formerly a private estate, spans 240 acres on the northeast coast of Kauai.


To begin our tour, we loaded onto a golf cart and drove to a meadow flanked by various species of acacia, albezia and eucalyptus trees.

Albezia (aka mimosa)
I noticed a popular way to grow orchids in Hawaii is to tie one to the trunk of a tree with green horticultural tape until it anchors its roots around the tree.  In this area however, both orchids and staghorn ferns grow naturally on the trees and rocks.  In the picture below, you can see a group of small orchid seedlings just starting to grow.

Here is a single naturalized staghorn fern growing on the side of a tree.

A growing family of staghorn fern sporelings growing on the side of a rock completely on their own ambition.  No green horticultural tape in sight.

Ficus benjamina, one of the most common houseplants in the US, grows into an enormous tree in the tropics.

Numerous bronze statues blend into the surroundings around the garden, adding an imaginative touch to the garden.

A very rare sight in Hawaii: deciduosity.

A lone starfruit waiting to be eaten.

Averrhoa carambola
This next plant had me drooling.  Our entire tour group walked right past it without giving it a second glance.  I had to stop the tour and ask our guide what it was.  He called it a Hale Koa plant.  I took note, figuring that would be enough to go on to find its real name when I got back home.  After days and days of fruitless internet searches, I had an a-ha moment: I'll just e-mail them and ask what it is!  As it turns out, it's not a Hale Koa plant at all.  I don't even think there is such a thing.

Does this look familiar all you hardy schefflera connoisseurs out there?

Yes, it's indeed some kind of schefflera.  The folks at the garden replied back and said they grew it from seed, but they aren't quite sure what it is either.  It might be a cross between Schefflera taiwaniana (I can definitely see that) and Plerandra elegantissima (formerly Schefflera elegantissima).  If that is the case, it would likely have some hardiness to it since S. taiwaniana can handle subfreezing temperatures.  Whatever it is, it's beautiful.

Considering the wettest place on earth is only about 10 miles away, they had an impressive desert area.

The mansion.

This was pretty funny.  Here is the front entrance to the house.  They must have had some gripe against tall people because this vine (Mucuna bennettii aka Red Jade Vine) is trimmed to about four feet off the ground.  Either that or Willy Wonka lived here.

There were only a few blooms when we were there but apparently this vine can become almost completely covered in flowers when it's at it's peak.

Mucuna bennettii
We weren't allowed to go swimming.

If I were to live in Hawaii and build a swimming pool, it would look something like this.

That does if for Part 2.  I'll be doing a few more posts on Hawaii - there's just so much to cover!!