We are fortunate enough to have dear friends who have the passion and drive to produce their own food. It started with a simple plot of vacant land in Waihe’e, Maui, where kalo (taro) keiki were planted. The plan was to produce enough poi to feed their family, yet it grew into something so much more.
After many months of watering, using organic fertilizer and pest control, the fully grown kalo was ready to be harvested.
Mature underground corms and visible kalo leaves
Friends and family flew in from different islands and many of us gathered from Maui to participate in the First Harvest of the kalo corms for poi and the kalo leaves for laulau.
The produce was bountiful with some corms reaching a size of over 10 pounds!
Truck laden with kalo (taro) corms from the First Harvest
The kalo was cooked for hours to render it edible. Raw kalo contains calcium oxalate, so thorough cooking of the leaves and corms was required to break down the crystals to prevent oral itching. Cooking also allowed for easy skinning and removal of any blemishes. Many hands made for light work and soon we had an efficient assembly line in place.
Cooked and cleaned kalo (taro) corms
Now came the fun part of learning how to pound poi by hand. We used handmade boards (papa ku’i’ai) of monkeypod and handcrafted poi pounders from lava rock (ku’i’ai pohaku). It’s definitely an acquired skill as my first attempt turned into a sticky gum-like mess. My second attempt produced a much improved pile of silly-putty-like consistency. Pounding in a group setting makes for a very educational and spiritual experience. We felt honored to be included in such a traditional practice.
Traditional poi pounders and poi pounding board
Group poi pounding
The First Harvest Pa’ina was honored with a luau made from locally resourced food. Aunties made squid luau with the kalo leaves and squid caught by a family friend. Seaweed salad was made with limu brought in from Oahu. And of course we had fresh poi.
Milling the poi
The next day was spent milling the kalo and packaging about 300 lbs of poi. All who participated took home fresh poi and the surplus was donated to local nursing homes and preschools. If you wish to order fresh organic poi in the future, please contact Lani Eckart-Dodd at Ola Mau Farms, (808) 282-1635.
The finished product
Ola Mau Farms
Since its conception, Ola Mau Farms has produced organic ku’i’ai (a very thick form of poi) for an exclusive Whole Foods dinner hosted by Chef Sheldon Simeon. Ola Mau poi is also featured in Donut Dynamite’s Brioche Poi Donuts.
Donut Dynamite’s Poi Donuts
If growing your own food peaks your interest, I would be happy to help you find a vacant lot to fulfill your agricultural aspirations and/or help you build your dream home. Please don’t hesitate to contact me.