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Popular Vegetables of Hawaii

Maui Food

vegetables of hawaii

Hawaiian tourist are mesmerized by the unique natural treasures each island has. The tropical landscapes are filled with dense rainforests, bamboo jungles and unique tropical flowers. Along with the wild vegetation, are manicured fruits and vegetable farms. The countless parcels of cultivated land, dotting the Hawaiian landscapes, are not indigenous to the Aloha State.

There are very few native Hawaiian food source plants. The majority of the traditional plant based foods, were brought into the state by the early migrating Marquesans and Tahitians. As far back as 300 to 500 AD, the food staples of taro, kava, sugarcane, breadfruit, bananas, sweet potatoes and coconuts were brought in by the canoeing Polynesians. The early immigrants introduced and planted over 30 food based items in Hawaii.

Other food imports were brought in by the English, Portuguese, Chinese, Filipino, and Japanese. Whaling ships, Christian missionaries and sea voyages, carrying European immigrants, brought in large amounts citrus, fruit trees, seedlings and nutritional staples to sustain long journeys. They were planted and thrived.

The year round climate and rich volcanic soil were ideal growing conditions for endemic and transplanted agricultural items. Most cultivated fruits and vegetables directly reflects the varied Hawaiian cultures.

Hawaiian Tree Fern

The indigenous Hawaiian tree fern or Hāpuʻu ʻiʻi, is a large native plant found in the dense jungles throughout Hawaii. It’s edible young fronds and trunk were boiled or cooked in an imu, an underground cooking method. Ancient Hawaiians often paired the cooked Hāpuʻu ʻiʻi fronds with fish, taro and poi. The fern was also used for its medicinal benefits.

The tree ferns medicinal qualities were released when the cooked fronds and trunk were combined with ginger, kava, turmeric and other herbs to create a medicinal elixir. It’s analgesic benefits were used for rheumatoid stiffness, chest pain, muscle aches and other maladies.


The Hawaiian term for taro is, “kalo.” The arrowleaf taro is a tuberous plant that grows well in swampy and well irrigated environments. When harvested, the entire plant is consumed. Many Hawaiian inspired entrees feature the leaves, stem and bulbs.

The taro’s bulb is known as the “corm”. Poi, a primary food source for Hawaiians, is produced from the cooked corms. The bulbs turn purple once they are cooked. The kalo is pounded and blended with water to form a thick light purple porridge. The consistency depends on the ability to consume the poi with one, two or three fingers. Poi is accompanied as a side dish with fish and pork. Its often included at luau’s and with many local entrees.

Ancient Hawaiians believed poi was filled with, “mana,” an energy life force. Poi was known as “the food of life.” Therefore, the consumption of taro, especially as poi, is a communal and spiritual experience. The poi bowl was placed as the sacred centerpiece of the family dining ritual.

Kalo can be roasted, baked, steamed and boiled into amazing sides, salads, breads and desserts. The large arrow or heart shaped leaf, is also prepared into stews and lau lau. Lau lau is a ti leaf wrapped parcel stuffed with chopped taro leaves, pork and butterfish. The preparation of the traditional entree is time intensive and served at most Hawaiian celebrations.

Taro requires careful preparation. The plant contains oxalic acid which develops sharp crystals of calcium oxalate. The raphides or sharp crystals are toxic and can injure the kidneys. The leaves and corm are cooked twice to reduce the amount of raphides.

The cleaning and cooking methods, of the complete plant, are important to the success of the recipe. The first cooking methods requires the cleaned leaves and bulbs to be soaked and boiled. After the boil, the water is discarded. The corm and taro leaves are thoroughly rinsed before the completion of the second cooking.

Fermented poi has medicinal qualities that aid in digestion and gastrointestinal diseases. The nutritional benefits of poi include probiotics, high dietary fiber, calcium, potassium, vitamins, enzymes and minerals.

Daily consumption of fermented poi stabilizes blood sugar in diabetics. Individuals recovering from surgical procedures, lactose sensitivities, celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome and colon cancer benefit from poi’s hypoallergenic, gluten free and digestible proteins. The ease of digestion and quality proteins are ideal for baby food and soothing colicky babies.

Okinawan Yam

The Okinawan yam is a deep purple root vegetable. The yam also known as, “ube,” was transported to Hawaii by ancient Polynesians between 300 to 500 AD. Over centuries of thriving in the nutrient rich volcanic soil, the yam has evolved as a Hawaiian food staple.

The versatile Okinawan yam is boiled, roasted, fried and baked. It’s also added as a natural sweetener and coloring to ice cream, custards and pudding. The violet purple yam adds a beautiful presentation to mashes, breads, chips and pastries. It’s versatility extends beyond the dining table.

The Okinawan yam is a quality source of Vitamin A, iron, manganese, dietary fiber, potassium and Vitamin C. It’s considered a superfood with superior antioxidant, antibacterial and antifungal qualities.

It’s benefits include lowering cholesterol, stabilizing blood sugar, prevent cardiovascular diseases, reduced inflamed hemorrhoids, fevers and cancer. The Okinawan yam has been used to rid intestinal parasites and as a laxative. It’s vibrant color is used as a natural food coloring and pigment.


The Hawaiian eggplant is a long and slender vegetable. More commonly known as, “Asian or Japanese” eggplants. The color ranges from soft lavender to rich purple. Some eggplant varieties are striated. The length, of the virtually seedless eggplant, is over a foot long. It’s thickness is up to two inches.

It’s believed that the eggplant came from India and China. The eggplant was later introduced, by the Arabs, to the European countries in the 13th century. Due to a close relationship to poisonous plants, early Europeans were fearful of consuming the eggplant.

The eggplant comes from the Nightshade Solanaceae species. Due to its relationships with the toxic Belladonna and Devil’s Snare, was once known as, “mad apple.” Although mature eggplants are deemed safe, the young unripe vegetable is poisonous. Today, the ripe eggplant is cultivated and enjoyed throughout the world.

The eggplants are a daily food staple in the Hawaiian, Filipino and Chinese communities. Many home cooks have infused the eggplant into their favorite recipes. Cooking methods include grilling, baking, sautéeing and stir frying.

The Asian eggplant does not require peeling, but many recipes call for this preparation process. The skin is thin and the spongy flesh is mild to sweet. It’s prepared with tofu, chicken, fish, beef or pork. The flavors of fresh herbs, garlic, ginger, curry, sesame, patis and soy sauce are added to enhance the entrees.

The nutritional benefits of the Japanese eggplant is high in Vitamin A, low calorie, high dietary fiber, rich in niacin, potassium, iron, folate, and Vitamins B and C. It’s has antioxidant qualities of reducing cholesterol, supporting brain health, cardiac health and guarding against cancers. Eggplants also have phytochemical benefits of reducing cell damage.

Farmers Market

Vacationers will experience cornucopia of unusual vegetables, brought in by the immigrants that made Hawaii home. A trip to the local farmers market brings together the unusual range of edible vegetation. Along with sampling, vendors are happy to share recipes and cooking methods.

Favorite plant starters are often sold for local home gardens. Due to possible contamination of plant diseases and pests, out of state visitors are restricted from transporting germinated plants into the United States and other parts of world.

Agricultural Limits

Visitors to the Aloha State must declare plants, fruits, vegetables and flowers before leaving the islands. In fear of introducing damaging pests and diseases to agricultural communities. The USDA and the Animal and Plant Inspection Services prohibits the movement of restricted items into the 48 contiguous states, Alaska, Guam and neighboring islands. They inspect every piece of luggage before issuing flight boarding passes.

Undeclared items can lead to imprisonment and/or fines. Visitors can inquire more about agricultural limits with their resort concierge and airlines. The USDA and island specific websites provide in depth information and export guidelines.

Lasting Memories

Enjoy the tastes of Aloha through a multicultural culinary experience. Savor traditional entrees and exciting flavors presented and prepared using locally grown vegetables and ingredients. Embracing the agricultural history, highlights Hawaii’s cultural melting pot. Their culinary influences, have etched the food memories of your Hawaiian journey, with every flavorful morsel.

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Exploring Maui

Sight Seeing on Maui

Haleakala crater

While you are here on the island of Maui, don’t forget to visit the beautiful, volcanic mountain called Haleakala. This majestic mountain is home to the endangered Silversword plant, as well as the rare and endangered Nene bird. Though these birds are very cute, they can be very aggressive if you get too close to their nest or mate. So, if I where you, I would keep my distance.

A Nene bird on Haleakala

A beautiful flowering Silversword on the summit of Haleakala












There are many things to do for fun on the summit of Haleakala. The sunrise and sunset from the summit are breathtaking. Just be sure to bring jackets and blankets because even though it is nice and warm on Maui, the summit can be extremely cold. In the winter, it can snow up at the summit. Sometimes there are local residents at the summit honoring the House of the Sun with a chant.

You could also hike down into the crater. It is a beautiful hike and it is worth the trip.

Another thing you could do is ride down into the crater on horseback. It is a beautiful ride and the horses are sure-footed, experienced and adorable. Be sure to bring a jacket and water because it can be cold and dry.

There is a visitors’ center on the way to the summit that has stories about the crater. There is even an exhibit of ‘cursed rocks’; rocks that people took back home with them and had bad luck until they sent the rocks back to Haleakala.

Whatever you do just remember to use low gear when driving back down in your Kihei Rent A Car vehicle.

Enjoy your stay 🙂


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Packing Your Bags For Maui

Maui Facts

packing for maui

So, you’ve booked your flight and you’re now dreaming of basking in the Maui sun with sand between your toes, and the warm ocean waves beckoning you to dive in for a swim. Ahh yesss…. let’s dwell in this picture of paradise for a moment more. Sighhhh…..

Vacationing in Maui means you can pack light. No need for a heavy jacket, thick sweaters, or closed shoes. Instead, bring your shorts and light clothing since the temperatures will be a balmy 80 degrees or more, especially as we head into the summer months.

For the majority of the time, you will be out in the sun, so we recommend that you bring suntan lotion. Try to stick with a high level of protection such as 30. I hear you groaning, “But how will I get a suntan using 30?” Trust us, you will achieve Bronzed God or Goddess status even at SPF 30. The sun is strong, so protect that skin of yours. There’s a great suntan lotion company here on Maui that makes some of the best stuff on the planet. They’re called Maui Babe. They have a good SPF 30 lotion, plus a fast bronzing lotion which we use all the time. And, you can say we are definitely sporting a nice Maui tan!

Another good item to bring along on your trip to protect you from the sun is a hat. The sun gets very hot out there and you want to be sure to protect your head from the strong rays. It’ll help prevent sunburn and it’ll keep you a bit cooler…. not to mention prevent a headache.

Don’t forget your sunglasses. Heck, maybe this one should be at the top of your list. You don’t want to be squinting the whole time you’re here. Squinting on the beach, squinting while kayaking, or even squinting while surfing…. ummm…. okay…. maybe not while you’re surfing! Haa! Sunglasses can be a great way to protect your eyes from the harmful effects of the rays and it’ll help you take in the beauty of Maui that will surround you.

Okay… easy one. Don’t forget your bathing suit. Bring two! You’re probably going to be in the water a lot while here on Maui doing your water activities. In fact, you should even wear your bathing suit while hiking, since chances are you’ll find a nice cool waterfall pool that you’ll want to swim in.

As for shoes, you may need a pair of flip-flops… or what we call rubbah slippahs… and perhaps a pair of tennis shoes for going hiking. You will find that the dress code here on Maui is pretty relaxed and casual. No need to bring your fancy clothes and spiked high heeled shoes.

If you take a trip Upcountry, on the slopes of Haleakala, you will need a light jacket since it could get a little chilly in the higher elevations once the sun goes down.

Mosquito repellant is another good thing to bring. You won’t find many of the blood-suckers up in the higher elevations of Maui, but for hiking through Hana or any of the other lower elevations, you’ll need to bring some repellant so that you can really enjoy the scenery.

And…. don’t forget to bring your camera! You’ll be snapping photos left and right, trust us! Maui is such a beautiful island. You may even want to get a disposable underwater camera to take some photos while snorkeling. You’ll want to take as many pictures as you can, which make great treasures to share with family and friends back home.

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Hawaiian Poke – Ahi Tuna Recipe

Maui Food

Last week we told you about Hawaiian poi, and this week we bring you a tasty recipe that would go along really well with your poi. Give this one a try…
ahi poke recipe

Hawaiian Poke – Ahi Tuna Recipe
From Chef Jason Hill

Here is a version of Hawaiian poke which comes out pretty tasty. It’s not your traditional Hawaiian poke recipe, but it’s a tasty version.

1 1/2 lb. of fresh ahi tuna (sushi grade). Rinse the fish with cool water. Pat dry with a paper towel. Dice the tuna going against the grain of the fish. Put in a bowl. Mince up one red chili to add a little heat. This is optional if you don’t like it spicy. Be sure to remove the seeds and dice into tiny pieces. Be careful not to rub your eye! Put in 1/4 cup of Maui sweet onion diced, 1 teaspoon of grated fresh ginger, teaspoon of garlic/shallot puree (see recipe below), three diced green onion, 1/3 cup shoyu (soy sauce), 1 tablespoon of toasted sesame oil, 2 tablespoons of sesame oil, and 2 Tbsp . finely chopped macadamia nuts (or kukui nuts).

Garlic/Shallot Puree

10 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 of a large shallot, peeled
1 tablespoon olive oil

Mix the garlic, shallot and olive oil in a mini food processor or blender about 30 seconds. Scrape down and blend until creamy.

Pureed garlic keeps up to ten days covered in the refrigerator, and keeps frozen for up to six months in the freezer. I use this every time a recipe calls for fresh garlic, and I use about 1 teaspoon of the puree per clove of fresh garlic.

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Hawaiian Poi Goodness

Maui Food

PoiAnyone who has been to a lu’au has probably had the chance to try some Hawaiian poi. For many newcomers, they find it to be rather “interesting” and many describe the taste as subtle or even a little bland. Everyone has their own set of taste buds, but most kama’aina will agree that poi is both yummy and very nutritious.

It can be eaten by itself, or you can eat it with poke or kalua pig, or even lomi lomi salad. It takes the place of rice, potatoes, or bread. Many Hawaiian mothers feed their infants poi because of its nutritional value. Poi is good for everyone, young and old. It’s a great source of fiber and vitamins and minerals such as vitamin C and B-1, iron, magnesium and potassium. Another good thing is that poi won’t make you fat, with fewer calories than rice (one cup of ready-to-eat poi has 120 calories; one cup of cooked rice has 250 calories).

But… just what is this gooey purple pudding-like paste? The ancient Hawaiians revered poi, and today Hawaiians continue to praise the benefits of poi. It is made from the popular taro plant. The corm of the plant is mashed down methodically while slowly adding water until it turns into a nice gooey paste. Fresh poi has an almost sweet flavor to it, while 3 or 4 day old poi tastes a little more sour because of the fermentation process.

If you’re new to poi, give it a try. Traditionally, it was eaten with two or three fingers. These days, go ahead and use your fork or chop sticks. Try it by itself, then try it with a piece of poke or kalua pork. The flavor of the other foods will bring out the flavor of the poi, and most likely you like be hooked.

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