Poi is the most beloved of Hawaiian foods, perhaps because it was and still is often the first food that is given to a baby. Poi was considered so important and sacred a part of daily Hawaiian life that whenever a bowl of poi was uncovered at the family dinner table, it was believed that the spirit of the ancestor of the Hawaiian people, was present. Because of that, all conflict among family members had to come to an immediate halt.
Kalo is a staple food for the native Hawaiians. You can eat almost every part of the kalo. The corm which grows in the ground can be eaten as poi, kalo which is mashed and mixed with water. You can also eat the whole corm after it has been steamed. You can also use the raw corm as fish bait. The stems of the kalo or the hähäkalo can be cut into pieces and used as a vegetable in any dish. The leaves of the kalo or the lü´au is most commonly found in laulau, a Hawaiian dish that uses beef, pork, fish, uala (sweet potato), and lü´au all wrapped nicely in ti-leaf and steamed. The kalo provides for the native Hawaiians so in turn the people need to mälama the kalo.
The kalo plant in itself represents one´s family. The òha or offspring of the kalo is the root of the word òhana which means family. Every part of the kalo represents a different generation. So instead of having a “family tree” Hawaiians think of their extended families as kalo plants.
Today, you may read about taro in the newspaper for several reasons. One is a proposal to genetically modify taro to make it more resilient to the invasion of insects and other plant diseases. Some native Hawaiians feel that taro should not be genetically modified because of its historical and cultural significance. Taro also makes the news because many groups are trying to bring about its resurgence as a way of teaching children and new-comers about the Hawaiian culture.
Taro is grown and eaten in 65 countries throughout Asia, India and Africa, but Hawaiians are the only people to make poi. Traditionally they cooked the taro root, then pounded it on large flat boards, using heavy stone poi pounders. If you go to any museums while you are here you will see some beautiful poi pounders. Pounding poi is hard work and traditionally is done only be men.
Today poi is still found in grocery stores around the state and is still a staple in Hawaiian food. If you go to a luau you will have an opportunity to eat poi.
The pineapple is native to southern Brazil and Paraguay. Native tribes sailing up through South and Central America to the West Indies are thought to have spread its growth before Columbus arrived. Christopher Columbus is responsible for introducing the pineapple to Europe following his exploration of the Caribbean islands in 1493, when he brought samples to Queen Isabella of Spain. European explorers called the fruit the “Pine of the Indies.” Later, when it was introduced to the English, the word “apple” was added to associate it with another delicious fruit that people enjoyed. However, in those days it was very rare in Europe and so highly prized that it was called “The Royal Fruit” and “The Fruit of Kings.” In the 1600s, King Charles II of England posed for an official portrait in an act then symbolic of royal privilege -- receiving a pineapple as a gift. Pineapple was subsequently spread around the world on sailing ships that carried it for protection a gainst scurvy.
Pineapple was first planted in Hawaiì in 1813 by a Spaniard, but it did not begin to become a cash crop until 70 years later. Captain John Kidwell is credited as being the pioneer of the industry in Hawai´i. He began crop development trials in 1885 when he planted in Mänoa, O´ahu. He sold the first plants to Alexander & Baldwin on Maui in 1890. From the 1900s to the 1950s, pineapple production grew. By the early 1960s, Hawaiì supplied over 80% of the world´s output of canned pineapple. But just 20 years later, in 1983, the last big Hawaiian cannery folded. It was cheaper to grow and can pineapple elsewhere. Today, 75% of the world´s (and Hawaiì´s!) pineapples come from Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines.
Today, Hawaiìs pineapple producers are concentrating on creating new varieties of pineapple to appeal to the gourmet market. There are a number of new pineapple varieties—currently the most popular is often referred to as the Gold variety—which is extra sweet and has golden colored flesh.