Monday, September 17, 2012

Hawaii - Week three

We foraged some new food this week, saw some new wildlife, checked out a bunch of library books with our new library cards, and started doing work trade with our land host "Dale" who returned to town. We spent a lot of time working on our spreadsheet of plants, to help us learn and organize0 potential species we might want to grow: fruits, nuts, roots, vegetables, and so on.


We started eating plantains from farmer Clive, cooking one green (starchy and bland like a potato) but mostly eating them yellow and ripe (delicious dessert, especially cooked). I ate a mango from a grafted tree at Clive's; the fruit had an orange rather than yellow or green skin, and very low stringiness to the flesh. We foraged with Dale in a couple of places he knows well, finding pili nuts (Canarium ovatum; we haven't eaten them yet), a large patch of water spinach (Ipomoea aquatica) growing adjacent to a pond, edible hibiscus, mountain apples (crisp and refreshingly juicy, but only mild sweetness and flavor), avocados, guavas, papayas, one starfruit, yellow lilikoi, and chayote (Sechium edule, a squash-like fruit.)

Dale brought home a huge cassava root from another site, which Jasmine and I both enjoyed a lot; it has a nice flavor and texture and we can readily envision growing this as a staple. (I'd especially like to experiment with it as a cyanide-laced, pig-proof crop to plant out in forest areas.) He also gathered some different greens from another site, including sissoo spinach, vietnamese coriander, basil, katuk, and curry tree leaf. We ate all the greens mixed together so didn't really taste the individual species, but it all turned out nicely. We helped Dale harvest coconuts from two trees; he climbed up using special equipment, cut off fronds as needed to access the racks of coconuts, and tied each rack to a rope run up and over a remaining frond, with me and Jasmine on the ground holding the rope and slowly allowing each rack to drop down to the ground. We got dozens of drinking coconuts, with nice sweet water and "spoon meat" - jelly-like coconut meat.

We ate ice cream beans (probably Inga edulis) from two different trees;. The first tree didn't impress me (apparently we harvested a little too late, mostly shaking over-ripe beans from the tree), but we found low-hanging, perfectly ripe beans on the second tree, which tasted very sweet with a nice flavor, and plenty of yield per pod and plenty of pods on the tree. I definitely want to plant a couple of these nitrogen fixing treats on our future land. We harvested a small amount of sugar cane (very nice to chew on; the woody fibers should help clean my teeth while I enjoy the sugary goodness) and naranjillas (haven't tasted them yet.)


I got a big stack of exciting books from the library, all on tropical plants. I finished reading Introduction to Permaculture, read a short book on growing fruits, nuts, herbs, and spices in Hawaii, and started reading Traditional Trees of Pacific Islands: Their Culture, Environment, and Uses, a lovely book edited by Craig Elevitch with detailed chapters on 80+ multipurpose trees.

We helped Dale maintain a young orchard area by clearing weeds, sheet mulching, and planting comfrey and perennial peanut starts. We also worked with him to clear an area on the land for a temporary structure for us. It amazes me how quickly a chainsaw can totally alter an area by taking down small and big trees fast. I learned a bit about clearing brush and weeds with hand tools - machete, sickle, and scythe. I can see that much of the work involved in tropical systems is keeping unwanted growth at bay; the permaculture principle of immediately planting any cleared areas with desired species applies doubly here, where everything grows so much more quickly than in temperate areas! I want to use chickens and goats very intelligently in our future clearing and weeding work; with good animal integration we can save a lot of human labor.


We saw Java sparrows, Red-crested cardinals, and a yellow bird Jasmine thinks may have been Yellow-fronted canary. We finally saw the Island Blind Snake, the only snake in Hawaii; an earthworm-sized, shiny metallic snake that lives in soil and thrashes around in a slithering sort of way when disturbed.

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