Almost two millennia ago, canoes built of foreign forest sailed onto Hawaiian shores. It is the contents of these canoes that we now associate with Hawaiian culture: Polynesian voyagers, their symbolic art, and the plant allies they brought along with them. Little is known of Hawaii before this point in time. And so, in a way, Hawaiian history has its roots in the contents of these canoes.
The Polynesian voyagers brought with them everything they needed to survive on foreign soil. An estimated 27 plants provided essential ingredients for food, shelter, tools and medicine. Arriving in the form of seeds, cuttings, fruit and roots, these plants are now referred to as Canoe Plants. While the exact origin of the setters is unknown, their plants took to the rich volcanic soil eagerly.
Deeply woven into the lifestyle, culture and essence of Hawaii, the Canoe Plants are now considered native to the Hawaiian Archipelago. Tracing these plants back in time provides a window for us to understand the evolution of this mysterious and remote island chain.
Here are three ways to meet Kauai’s Canoe Plants:
1) Take a Tour
The Hawaiian Life Canoe Plant Garden at McBryde National Tropical Botanical Garden
Located in Lawa’i Valley, this NTBG has created a special section in honor of Hawaii’s Canoe Plants. Meander along the well-marked path for a self-guided tour or join an in-depth guided tour of Kauai’s botanical history.
More information at: https://ntbg.org/gardens/mcbryde
Focusing on plants as medicine, the Kauai Farmacy is a permaculture-based sanctuary featuring over 70 medicinal herbs. You can take a tour and learn about the medicinal benefits of Canoe Plants, as well as the island-inspired sustainable system intended for ultimate healing.
More information at: http://kauaifarmacy.com
Ho`opulapula Haraguchi Rice Mill & Taro Farm
“The only way to see Hanalei Valley up close,” this tour focus on the cultural influence, historical relevance and profound impact of Taro, one of the most significant Canoe Plants. Meet Taro up close and personal, along with local families that have tended to it’s growth for centuries. Then, you get to taste it’s many forms.
More information at: http://www.haraguchiricemill.org
2) Self Study
During your visit to Kauai, you will find yourself surrounded by the Canoe Plants. Growing from garden to jungle, it is not hard to identify them with even an untrained eye. These books, however, can help you learn along the way…
Medicine At Your Feet: Healing Plants of the Hawaiian Kingdom by David Bruce Leonard L.Ac.
Hawaiian Herbal Medicine: Kahuna La’au Lapa’au by June Gutmanis
Hawaiian Heritage Plants by Angela Kay Kepler
3) Food as Thy Medicine
That’s right. Eat plants and get to know them. Kauai has off-the-charts options for both traditional and novel forms of culinary culture.
Holey Grail Donuts
Featuring: Taro (Kalo in Hawaiian)
Hands-down, the most delicious way to eat Taro, this pop-up donut shop offers locally-made-from-scratch, gourmet donuts once a week. Every Sunday, join locals and visitors over this mouth-watering approach to guilt-free indulgence.
Open Sunday ONLY from 7am-noon
5-5100 Kuhio Hwy, Hanalei, HI 96714
Juice Stands Across Kauai
Featuring: Turmeric (Olena in Hawaiian)
Kauai is strewn with local juice stands. Stop by a order yourself Turmeric shot. This is one of the best ways to experience the golden herb of longevity. Feel Turmeric work it’s magic as it increases circulation, relieves tension and energizes your body.
Pau Hana Bakery (Kilauea Bakery & Pizza)
Featuring: Noni (same) and Breadfruit (Ulu in Hawaiian)
Amidst the pastry puffs and muffins, you will find a rare gem in this display case. Pau Hana Bakery is one of the only places on island you can find Ulu bagels and bread. Test your tastebuds and see if you can tell the difference between wheat bread and breadfruit bread! While this local bakery offers a beautiful display of fresh-made goodies, they also provide an avenue for the adventurous. Order yourself a Noni shot and prepare to be dazzled! Noni, the “Polynesian Panacea,” is renowned for its incredible healing abilities and also its unique flavor.
Historic Kong Lung Market Center
2484 Keneke St, Kilauea, HI 96754