Finding Food in Hawaii by Jade Bisson

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!

captain quinn

Promoting the outdoors to save the outdoors through outdoor entertainment. I hope to get people outside doing fun things so they can develop a healthy relationship with the environment.