edible plants

A Short Story Of Finding Food In Hawai'i-Jade

Hawai'i. Land of sun, surf and getting lei'ed! Also, land of abundant delicious fruits and year round growing seasons! There is much to be foraged on these islands, as I found when I arrived on the Big one. Of course I have been studying tropical fruit books and endemic Hawai'ian plants AND I have been to Hawai'i before, however, there was a lot to learn.

Lets start at the start. What plants are native to the islands? Well, none, technically. You can't eat lava! Which is all that was there at the beginning. Over time a couple lucky plants took root by way of wind, tide, birds and insects. Apparently only one plant each 90,000 years was added to the islands. (I don't know how anyone can estimate this, but, wowo!)

When the First Peoples arrived on the shore, there was many fish, shellfish and seaweed (limu), but of the 1200 or so "endemic" plant species, none were really edible! Luckily they brought some snacks! 'Ulu (Breadfruit), Mai'a (Banana), Kalo (Taro), 'Uala (Sweet Potato) and Uhi (Edible Yam) were the most important of the crops and fed the Canoe Peoples for thousands of years, and still feed Hawai'ians today. You can't really find these walking through the jungle though. They are cultivated crops.

What you can survive off of are a bunch of introduced and invasive species. But don't hate! Even though some of these plants out grow and endanger the natives, they are opportunists and survivors and deserve to be enjoyed! Most of these I identified while hiking or bush whacking through the different climate zones (on a friend's property). What I found were Coconut, Avocado, Citrus, Guava, Bananas, Papaya, New Zealand Spinach, Lilikoi (Passionfruit), Wild Raspberries, Peaches (whaaa? yes, its true) Mountain Apples,  Ohelo Berries, Mulberries, Kumquats, Star Fruit, Macadamia Nuts and

Rambutan and the rare Sausage Tree (not realsausages). Pretty COOL, right?

Most of these are easy to identify with a little smarts and a reliable tropical fruit/nut book. Some advice, get a machete for the coconuts! I've spent way too many hours trying to break one open cave (wo)man style! Hopefully, some of you find yourselves in Hawai'i one day, and if you do, make sure to study up and take advantage of the abundance of free food. Aloha, brah!

-Adventurer Jade

Taraxacum officinale (Dandelion)-Jade

Its SPRING! Well, not yet. But after a long winter of eating pine cones and cattail roots, it is a nice treat when you can finally eat something green. Now, the best motto for this edible is 'if you can't beat 'em, eat 'em'. HA! That is exactly what we'll do. I can't say enough about these plants. I love them. I once thought of getting a tattoo of it on my leg or something. Maybe not. Last time I had this idea, I almost got a Canadian flag tattooed on my derrière.

Uhhh, anyway......Taraxacum officinale! The Common Dandelion. Tidbit: From the old French words Dent-de-lion, which means Lion's tooth. Appropriate because of its long, lance-shaped leaves. And the color. Lion's teeth are green because they can't hold tooth brushes with their paws, right? Riiiiiggggghhhhhtttttt. Lets get serious! I hope you have all seen a Dandelion. The are ubiquitous alright! However, the best place to harvest them is in the wild. And the best time to harvest them is in the spring or fall when they are young and not flowering. The flowers make the leaves much more bitter. Look for rich soils and moist, shady conditions to get the best results. Definitely not on the sidewalks or the grass in front of Tim Horton's. Many-a-gallon of Round-Up and other deadly chemicals have been put in to the earth trying to eradicate these poor things. You will get sick. That is why spreading the word about their medicinal, nutritional and delicious properties is very important.

Spring is a wonderful time of year to collect because the greens are so fresh and tender, perfect for a camp salad, in a chip sandwich, steamed or raw-dawg. And! There are no poisonous look-a-likes, so you're set. There is a list of nutritional values and medicinal properties of the dandelion. They are the most nutritious green you can have. They have more beta-carotene than carrots, and the iron and calcium content is phenomenally greater than spinach!

Medicinally, it stimulates the liver and gallbladder, aids in digestion by promoting the proper levels of hydrochloric acid in your stomach and reduces inflammation in the bile ducts to help get rid of gall stones (an increasing disorder among 25-35 year olds, look out!). You can also do many things with the flowers (such as wine)  and the roots (dandelion coffee, or hippie coffee, I love that stuff!). Amazing! Have I sold you on these yet? Are you going to go pick some right now for dinner? Ok, good! DANDELION RESPECT Y'ALL! 'Til next time.......

-Adventurer Jade