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Maui on my Mind, Part 7

After I left Ironwood Ranch and was driving back to Napili, a sign along the road caught my eye. I am used to community gardens in urban areas of the mainland but I had never seen one in Hawai‘i. I had to investigate — so I pulled off into a cleared area where several other cars had parked.

There were several people there tending their gardens — they seemed quite happy to interrupt their work for a brief chat with a stranger. The conversation seemed to center on a lack of water for their crops. I don't know what the arrangements are normally but somehow the normal process had broken down.

As I continued to wander about, I encountered something I had never seen before — this tree with beautiful white flowers at the center where the leaves attached to the trunk. After studying it for a few moments, I realized that this was a papaya tree (note the fruit). It's odd that in all my visits to Hawai‘i, I had never before noticed a papaya tree with flowers. How cool!

This is what comes to my mind when one says, "papaya tree".

Another surprise which took an additional moment of contemplation to recognize — it's an eggplant. I believe the variety is Filipino Eggplant. According to the reference I found online, "This type of eggplant has a delicate flavor and very few seeds and is commonly used for roasting, frying, or in stews." I like eggplant but it has such a mild taste that it needs a good sauce to add flavor to it.

And one of the gardeners had a few flowers in their garden. This, I discovered, is Thai purple cockscomb. Quite beautiful — I would enjoy them in any tropical garden.

Any person who has lived in Hawai‘i or visited frequently will recognize taro. This is the leafy part of the plant — the corm was a staple food for the ancient Hawaiians. Then, as today, it was generally ground up into a paste (and optionally allowed to forment a bit) where it is known as poi. I like it but most mainlanders claim it tastes like wallpaper paste. Why people are tasting wallpaper paste, I have no idea.

One of the other popular uses for taro now is in the form of chips — like potato chips but using thin slices of the taro corm instead of potato. I love 'em but unfortunately, there is a shortage of taro with the result that the chips have become quite expensive. For example, you can order them online — the one website I found offers four bags (4 oz. per bag) for $33 (includes shipping). In case you don't have your calculator, that's more than $8 per bag — $2 per ounce. The prices in the stores on Maui (if you could find them) were similar, i.e. stratospherically high.

Here someone had planted beets. I originally mistook them for rhubarb. However, I happened to exchange email with the person who planted this part of the garden and he straightened me out.

For those of you who have not spent time in tropical areas, this is the flower of a banana tree. Interestingly, they can be eaten raw in a salad or cooked lightly and added to soups, stews or stir-fry. Of course, you could just leave them on the tree and eat the bananas once they ripen.

And this is, of course, a bunch of bananas well past the flower stage shown in the previous photo. BTW, there are many types of bananas but if you go to Hawai‘i I highly recommend you try the apple bananas. They are delicious and don't turn brown as quickly as the stuff we have to endure on the mainland.

Two years ago, commercial sugar cultivation was shut down on Maui, the last island to keep that old agricultural product growing. Now, there are many stalks of wild sugar cane growing all over the Valley Isle. Generally, it will not get as tall as the cultivated cane that had the benefit of sufficient water and fertilizer.

Every garden needs a scarecrow and I guess this is the Menehune version. (Menehune are a mythological dwarf people in Hawaiian tradition who live in the deep forests and remote valleys of the Hawaiian Islands, hidden and far away from human settlements. The Menehune are described as superb craftspeople. They built temples (heiau), walls, fishponds, roads, canoes, and houses.)

On one hand, you might think there is no need for a scarecrow — there are no crows in Hawai‘i, right? Wrong — sort of. In fact, there is a Hawaiian Crow but it is extinct in the wild. The state is working to breed the birds in captivity and gradually release them in the wild. So far the efforts have not met with a great deal of success. I guess the scarecrows are doing too good of a job.

To be continued...

Life is good.

B. David

P. S., All photos and text © B. David Cathell Photography, Inc. — www.bdavidcathell.com