Pua kenikeni Original tree

By Heidi Bornhorst

Q: Is pua kenikeni native to Hawaii? Or did the ancient Polynesians bring it? I LOVE that pua and the leis we can make. Please share more about this favorite fragrant garden and lei plant.

​Aunty D, 

Kane`ohe

A: Puakenikeni is not native to Hawaii, nor did the ancient voyagers bring it on their great sea travelling canoes. It only got to Hawaii in the late 1800s and became widely popular in about 1920. It was given the name pua keni keni (10 cents flower) because the flowers were so highly prized that they sold for 10 cents each!

The scientific name is Fagraea berteriana and it is in the Loganiaceae plant family.

The first pua tree in Hawaii was planted in Maunawili and it was propagated and shared on the windward side of Oahu where it grows well, given some good horticultural TLC.  It became known as the flower of Kane`ohe in the early days.

My Mom Marilyn Bornhorst and I got to visit what is probably the original tree.  It was quite a sight to see!  My calabash Uncle, Ben Lum could be called ‘Mr. Puakenikeni’. 

He has nurtured this tree and made hundreds of not thousands of air layered trees to share over the years. He gives them away and also sells them at Ko`olau farmers. We find that sometimes people appreciate a plant more and will plant it in the ground and malama (cherish and care for) if they paid for it.

Free plants can languish in pots, whereas if you paid hard earned money for it, you are more likely to plant it and water it daily to get it established.

Pua kenikeni do best in the ground, in fertile soil with regular water. They do better in red dirt or rich brown forest type soils than in sandy or beach kind of soils.

The tree is mentioned in the classic book NA LEI by Marie McDonald.  McDonald writes that it was brought to Hawaii from other south pacific islandsby Jarrett P. Wilder.

You can grow it from seeds but that will take a while.  Some people can grow it from cuttings but the most popular way to propagate pua kenikeni is from air layers.  The sooner you plant it in the ground, the quicker it will bloom.  Regular water and compost, from leaves or tree chips will build healthy fertile soil for your tree.  Cheap chemical fertilizer, especially lawn fertilizer with heavy nitrogen (the first number on the fertilizer bag) will not promote blooming.  You can even burn or kill pua kenikeni with harsh chemical fertilizers, so use the old-fashioned Hawaiian soil building techniques of re-using your garden “opala” or green wastes, mulch and compost, to build up your soil and save water too.

Keep your tree pruned low and wide spreading so you can pick the flowers.  You can use a bonsai technique and bend the branches low while they are young and flexible.  I’ve seen some Akamai lei flower growers use pretty Pohaku (rocks) on a rope, to weigh the branches down and train them to be in pickable range.

Pua kenikeni flowers first open and bloom creamy white and turn to a subtle light orange on the second day.  You can pick mature buds or flowers and keep them fresh and firm in a vase of water. Or sprinkle water into the plastic bag with the flowers

The flowers are somewhat fragile and lei makers need to handle them carefully.  Uncle Ben told me a neat technique that one of his friends uses.  He takes a big leaf, makes some pukas and inserts the pua into the pukas.  He then carries the flower adorned leaf and gives away the fragrant blossoms to folks who admire them.  Isn’t that an awesome way to share some aloha?

Lei makers usually clip off the bottom green part of the flower and then string the lei.  The lei is pretty with fresh white flowers or second day light orange.  To refresh a lei puakenikeni, put it in a clear plastic bag, blow some air in the bag and seal it.  Float this in a bowl of cool water.  NEVER put puakenikeni in the refrigerator the lei will not last. It will turn black and then to mush (we had an inexperienced florist that did put them in the fridge and Auwe!  The next morning those lovely carefully plucked and strung blossoms were all black and yucky.

To promote flowers on your tree, clip or pinch off the developing fruit which look like green balls and then turn orange when ripe. If you cut open a ripe one you will see hundreds of small black seeds inside.  It kind of looks like the insides of a cut papaya – orange flesh and black seeds. 

I sometimes clip off bunches of the green or orange fruit with their stems and use them for a long-lasting flower arrangement.  I love them for Fall arrangements, and they are pretty at Christmas time too. 

Developing fruit takes energy from the tree. If you clip off the fruits that tree energy will go into producing more flowers. Akamai lei flower growers pinch off every green fruit and then have an abundance of the fragrant pretty flowers.

Singapore Pua kenikeni

Tuberoses for our friendship garden

By Heidi Bornhorst

The fragrance of tuberose! One of my Mother’s favorites, as a lei of tuberose and yellow roses are what my dad got her for their simple wedding ceremony. She also loved the smell of pineapple, because my dad gifted her with those too!

I like them in a lei, combined with other flowers like roses, carnations or orchids.

Florists carry this fragrant lei and if you grow your own, imagine what flowers from your garden you can combine with tuberose?

It’s an old-fashioned flower.

We used to grow a lot of them here in Hawaii. When I worked at Evergreen nurseries in Waimanalo, in 1978, one of my friends there, was working a second job, harvesting tuberose.

Her name was Estralita, and she was from the PI and recently married.  I think her new family really made her work hard!  At two jobs and at home.  She said they harvested in the dark using headlamps.

She told me that her named meant “star” and how appropriate that she worked at night when the stars came out!

She taught me the saying ‘Mabuhay las Philippinas !!’  Long life to Filipino women!

I wonder what happened to her, as she was kind, nice FUN and hardworking.

Tuberoses remind me of her, and I say a special prayer for her happiness. 

I got some from Estralita back then and grew it in our family garden in Makiki.  It did well for a while and even sent up a flower spike.  But then it got a very bad infestation of mealy bugs.  I treated it but they were too severe, and the plant died. I was sad.

Maybe tuberose does not like Makiki black sand as a potting media? Or it needs cooler conditions. Time to do some research and find out!

​The other day I got an email from my friend Ruth Fujita, another great gardener.

She was offering us, her Budleys, tuberose bulbs. She had a big plant and dug it up, dried out the bulbs a bit and had some to share with da girls.

So, Rachel Morton and I went up there, after a visit to Foster garden to see the Triennial art exhibit.

Ruth shared how she got the tuberose bulbs:

Our niece Tia C. had gone traveling.  She needed omiyage for her epic Aunt Ruth and so in the airport she bought a bulb in a package.

Ruth grew them and was now sharing them with Lynne, Cheryl, Doris Susan Young, Annie, and me and Rachel.

Such an epitome of the Friendship Garden: Grow something with love (and good horticulture!) and then share it with your friends.

With rare plants, this is a Botanic Gardenconcept: Share it and keep good records. If yours dies, you know right where you can get a replacement.

With plants of sentiment like this tuberose, its mainly sharing the wealth and the stories.  But it will be epic for us all to see them grow and Bloom!

People call it a bulb but the roots are actually a rhizome (just like our fragrant gingers)

Fragrant, showy flowers in the late, HOT summertime lead many to plant tuberose bulbs. The scientific name is Polianthes tuberosa, and it also called the Polyanthus lily. It is in the Lily family, LILIACEAE.

Florists and nurseries sometimes “force” tuberose to bloom year round with artificial lighting.  

Tuberose has a strong and enticing fragrance makes it a popular plant in our Hawaii gardens. Clusters of large white blooms form on stalks that can reach 4 feet (1 m.) in height and rise from grass-like clumps.

Tuberose was discovered by explorers in Mexico as early as the 1500’s.  It was one of the first flowers to be imported to Europe, where it was very popular in Spain. 

It likes well drained, compost enriched soil.  It likes FULL SUN especially hot afternoon sun (which not all plants do) 

Plant them 2-3” deep.

In cold regions they dig out the roots in winter.  In Hawaii we can dig them out hand let them rest but not for too long or they will dry out.

There are single and double flowered varieties and now we are seeing them in different colors like yellow and pale pink.

Star Jasmine

By Heidi Bornhorst

A classic old fashioned, fragrant hedge and special plant.  Maybe a LEI plant?  for small fingers and with a delicate lei needle…..

‘What kind of pikake is this?’, asked my friend Joan Takamori as she walked by our front planting strip.

I had propagated some from Mary Osorio’s house when she moved away to Wahiawa, and stuck it out front for others to enjoy too.

Its flowering so nicely in winter and it does have the great pikake perfume!

So tough 

so pretty 

so reminiscent ….

My parents planted a star jasmine hedge and Singapore Plumeria trees outside their bedroom window.

So Akamai my Mom, on Landscape Design!

Our family yard in Makiki was pretty bare at first, except for tons of coconut trees, a date palm, Chinese banyan, giant yellow poinciana tree and more. My folks carefully edited out some of the excess and overly large, big trees as time went by so we could grow more food and more fragrant and fun flowers.

My Dad chiseled out a parking spot by chiseling and sledge hammering out the rock cliff below and he carried up the rocks and made rock walls to keep us kolohe kids contained. (Good cross-training for a Surfer!)

And what a great Landscape Design Concept: Fragrance outside your bedroom window• To waft in on the lovely brisk Tradewinds• To float in gently on warm kona winds•

Star jasmine is an old kama`aina favorite that we don’t see planted so often these days

It’s tough, easy to grow, fragrant and has nice fuzzy leaves. It has a “clean” look with its olive-green leave and clusters of bright white fragrant blossoms. It’s easy to propagate and pretty much pest free.

And the Flowers are fragrant.

As Joan intrinsically knew; it is related to pikake.

Amazingly the fragrance is very similar to our cherished pikake Jasminum sambac.

As true pikake has some bad bud stinging pests now (an alien fly) and growers sometimes overspray insecticide on the buds. Lei making is not FOOD so there are no legal restrictions on how recently it was sprayed with insect poison.

Growers have gotten sick from this, and recently when I wear a pikake lei, though I love the fragrance, my stomach feels a bit sick after a while.)

Maybe we could make a fragrant lei of Star jasmine instead?

Another name for star jasmine is Poet’s jasmine. The Latin name is Jasminum officinale. Star Jasmine is native from the Trans Caucasus to Southern Central China.

It is in the Oleaceae or Olive plant family

You can Grow it from Cuttings.

Star jasmine is Pretty easy to grow from cuttings. Harvest semi-woody branches, about 4-6” inches long, stickthem directly in the ground or in a pot of highquality potting mix and soil. Water daily.

Pandan Wangi

By Heidi Bornhorst

Pandanus amaryllifolius
Working at the Honolulu Zoo, we were helping move and relocate plants for the community gardens from behind the zoo on Paki, to a new garden on Leahi and Paki.  As we were helping the (unhappy) gardeners, I heard Victorino Acorda, one of our best Gardeners and true plantsman exclaim in delight!
‘Pandan wangi!  Makes the rice taste so good Heidi!  I’ve been looking for this plant since I moved here from the PI!’
He was almost crying; he was so happy!
Then the other day I was stuck in morning traffic on Mo`oheau St in Kapahulu.  To amuse myself I looked closely at gardens along the street.  There was a really nice garden with a southeast Asia flavor.  First, I noticed nice clumps of lemon grass and some healthy papaya trees.
What was the clumping bright green plant in front of the lemon grass?  PANDAN WANGI!


So attractive in this landscape design and so useful.
We have it growing in the southeast Asian plant section at Ho’omaluhia Botanic Garden.  One year it was a featured plant at our plant sale, and we hope to feature it again once we can open up our gardens safely once again.
It is fairly easy to grow.  You can divide the clump and make new plants.  
 

Those who know this plant usually just call it pandan. There are many ways you can cook with it.
Some call Pandan, the Vanilla of the east, or the vanilla of Southeast Asia.
You can boil with whole leaves and combine them with other ingredients.  You can wrap foods in them and then cook them (like we do with Ti leaves).
If you’re handy with your blender, grind some fresh leaves with water and then freeze the juice in a mold or ice cube tray and use it for drinking or cooking later.
You could also add it to GREEN SMOOTHIES
Some just buy a bottle of pandan paste.  Lexi had some from Singapore, she had it quite a while I smelled it and then read the label.  It smelled really ono. The ingredients not so much.
How do we make it from the fresh leaves that we can grow in our Gardens?
You can just chop it up and add to the rice pot as you cook your rice.
You can make tea with the leaves. You can add your favorite tea like jasmine to the pot.  Pour hot water over both and let steep for Five minutes.
I made some with just hot water, poured over and steeped over leaves. it tasted ok
On 9 28 21 trying strip leaves lengthwise in 3s, add Olena and ginger powders, and three mamaki leaves, bring to a boil, then simmer for 30 minutes or so. It Smells really good!
There are lots of Creative and Foodie things you can do with pandan:
• Twist the leaves into Roses like we do with Ti leaves
• Little cups for deserts
• You can make green smoothies with it
• Pandan Chicken and Pandan Rice
• Grilled Fish stuffed with Pandan are just a few recipes that are popular.
And many desserts, variously featuring coconut milk, and various sugars like palm sugar.
If you look online there are lots of recipes, some quite layered and complex.  Some really pretty drinks and you insert a leaf tip to give it that final Flare of Gourmet Drink décor.
It gives the dish a lovely green color and subtle flavor.
I took some in mixed arrangement as a hostess gift for Lexi Hada and Barney Robinson.  One of their guests, Teua from the Cook Islands admired it, drew it out of the arrangement and sniffed it.
As he ran his hands over the glossy thornless leaves, we talked about it.  He recognized it as a Pandanus, or HALA relative but NO THORNS! We all wondered how it would be for weaving.
The Latin name, Pandanus amaryllifolius refers to this. The growth is much like a hala, but the leaves are soft and shiny with no thorns.
Besides being ONO, it’s a very attractive garden accent or spotlight plant in your garden.
I also like it as an exciting and exotic foliage element in a Tropical Flower arrangement.
We plan to feature it at a Future Covid 19 safe FOHBG plant sale.
 

Nutrition of Mountain Apples

By Heidi Bornhorst

Local Hawaii people are so Funny!

Nowadays people go nuts for Mangos and lychee and `ULU.

Even to far as buying them in the store!

Don’t you all think we should have some fruit trees in our gardens? And share with friends and neighbors? Let’s plant and grow some fruits today!

As kids, mangoes were like stray kittens, people would beg you to take them! We got jobs raking up the fallen smashed ones from super tall trees for elderly neighbors.

I could never get enough lychee even tho the trees were abundant in Makiki where I grew up. Lychee enticed me to move to Wahiawa where we had two lychee trees and then planted a third.

When you offer people mountain apples or `ohi`a `ai some are enthusiastic, some will help you pick and rake up and some meet the offer with distain.

Funny.

Nutritionally they are great; lots of hydration for your body, and rich in vitamins C, Calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and super rich in potassium.

Also known as `Ohi`a `ai, the `ohi`a that you eat (`Ai) they were carried here by ancient Polynesians in their sailing canoes, an important part of our “imported” landscapes and gardens.

What a gorgeous gift to find when hiking the low moist forests. This fruit will keep you hydrated on your hike!

And you can bring home a seed and grow it to commemorate that special hike. Surprise and share with your hiking buddies at the next festive occasion.

They are nice to grow in our gardens too. A small to medium tree with pretty leaves and bark most of the year and then BOOM! in flower so pretty magenta pom poms

A month or two later you will have that juicy ono fruit. Like jewels up in the tree canopy.

Besides eating them straight off the tree, you can slice and add to fruit salads.

Or as my niece Jalene found out for us, you can make pickles from them to savor for another day. 

My friend and akamai farmer Deborah Ward makes a mean mountain apple pie and you can also make mountain apple sauce.

Add some slices to your favorite cold beverage.

You can make a lei with the smaller green and white fruit.  Store the lei in the fridge and when you wear it “Fruit cooling air conditioning” !  I made one for my then boss, Sydney Iaukea at a Kupuna Hawaiian studies training session and the lei kept her cool all day.

It’s an unusual lei today.   But easy to make and fun and unusual to wear.

​The scientific name is Eugenia mallaccensis and they are in the MYRTACEAE plant family along with `Ohi`a lehua, guavas, rose apples, Eucalyptus, and more.

Some call them Malay apple as they are native to the Malay peninsula and southeast Asia.

We have different varieties in Hawaii, a pure white one, a seedless one, squat plump Hawaiian variety and long and big Tahitian variety.

Many grew naturally in the wet lowland tropics of Ho`omaluhia Botanic Garden and then we planted more in the “Kahua Kukui” Polynesian plants section of this amazing and FREE botanic garden in Kane`ohe.

They are easy and fun to grow from seeds.  Save a seed from an ono one and plant it right away.

Besides the ono fruit and attractive flowers and tree, bringing shade and birds to yoru garden, mountain apples have medicinal uses.

The bark is a sore throat cure.   If you feel a sore throat coming on or are getting a cold, scrape off some young bark, rinse it and chew it.  It has lots of tannins and this truly can help ward off a cold.

The nutritious fruit will also help keep you healthy !

Finger limes, a fun pretty, newish fruit for Hawaii gardens

By Heidi Bornhorst

Citrus grow well in our Hawaii gardens, trees come in all shapes and sizes. Many people ask me for smaller fruit trees, or even shrubs and finger lime fits this to a T!

 One fun one that I first heard about and got to sample while visiting gardens on Hawaii island (a few years ago) with fellow horticulturist Erin Lee is the finger lime.

It is so Fun to eat! Cut open a ripe one and just squeeze it out like wasabi paste !  Fun for keiki to learn about, grow and eat more healthy fruit.

The little fruitlets inside can be white, green, or pink. The skin of the fruit as well as the insides, comes in different colors.

 So pretty and decorative for your Holiday table, whatever the Holiday is!  Let’s celebrate being alive and learning to grow and eat new things from our own gardens !

And sharing with friends and neighbors!

Amazing at your next gourmet potluck!  (when it safe to have a pa`ina). Imagine pairing it with home made sushi ! or on fish, or in drinks

Lee suggests growing it in a large decorative ceramic pot in full sun.  Once it’s growing vigorously, you can shape it as a standard or into a topiary on your sunny lanai or party patio !

It came to us from Australia, a land of many wonderful and unusual plants.

Scientists call it Citrus australasica and it is in the Rutaceae or Citrus Family. It is also sometimes called “caviar lime”.

 It is a rambling, very thorny, under-story shrub or small tree, from lowland, subtropical rain-forests, and dry rain-forests in the coastal border region of Queensland and New South Wales, Australia.

Happily, we are now growing finger limes in Hawai’i. We need to grow more of them and test varieties and find out which are best for our micro-climates.

The shrub is variable in height and its leaves and mixed in with thorns. Buds are purple, petals are white . The flowers are tiny . The fruit is cylindrical, 4–8 inches long, sometimes slightly curved, and shaped like a fat finger. Finger limes come in a range of colors, both inside and out

HOW DO YOU EAT IT?

One fun way to prepare eat this fruit is to cut the ends off and use a  rolling pin and roll out the small, caviar-shaped vesicles. The fruit caviar can be used wherever you would like a squeeze of citrus.  Or just cut and squeeze out the fruitlets like a tube of wasabi paste.

For a fun family pa`ina, have your keiki help you prepare your gourmet fruit platter and let them open and squeeze out the tart juicy insides.

In France they call it “lemon Caviar’ and it commands a very high price in Gourmet restaurants.  They must grow them in greenhouses there.

This could be a model for us in Hawaii. A rare, pretty and flavorful gourmet treat sold for a good price.  We could develop our own varieties that do thrive here.

This is true Horticulture and why the U.H. could sure use a Tropical fruit specialist to help grow our farms and support farmers.

I spoke with amazing ex UH extension agent Jari Sugano.  She was growing finger limes as a hedge crop at Waimanalo experimental station.  She mentioned how thorny they are.

Clients do ask me for thorny plants to help secure their homes and gardens. This could be a plus for farm security but does make harvesting tricky.

Tree crops are good for the land as they are perennials and you don’t have to work over the soil like with veg crops.  This is the concept of permaculture,

Frank Sekiya and Lynn Tsuruda of Frankie’s Fruit Tree Nursery in Waimanalo are growing finger limes. I talked to them about their experience with this interesting citrus fruit.  

Douglas Himmelfarb was living at the Marks estate in Nu’uanu and he gave Sekiya some varieties.   The California varieties do fruit well in California but not always here in Hawaii.

Some in the field that Sekiya planted got huge, and never bore fruit. Some only a few fruits; Sekiya relates that there is so much variability. 

Ken Love, a major Fruit advocate on Hawaii island, gave Sekiya some cuttings, and he say it fruits all year,  and it’s the slightly pink one. The outside of the fruit is kind of purple and  matures to green, if it gives a little, that’s how you tell its ripe enough to pick, the fruit will have sort of a spongy feel.

We have so many micro-climates and soil types in Hawaii, that we all can experiment with which ones grow and fruit best in our own ecosystem. People have had them in their yards for a while, says Sekiya and some grew well, and yet barely fruited,

They graft finger limes and can also start them from cuttings.  Grafting is quicker, but it’s a practice and skill that not many have today.  (Something to learn and practice, while we stay safely at home ?!)

Root stocks (the bottom part of the graft) are important.  As many people prefer smaller trees, for semi dwarf  trees ‘Rubidoux trifoliate’ were advised at one time for their dwarfing effects, but as Tsuruda says,  ‘We don’t use the Rubidoux trifoliate anymore since citrus  trees grow fairly slowly in Hawaii and are easily pruned’. 

  ‘Heen naran’ is a good root stock.  It’s from India,  U.H. highly recommends it.  It’s Good for most citrus here in Hawaii. The Botanical name for Heen Naran is Citrus lycopersicaeformis.  (The fruits of this root stock are small, round, super seedy inside,  and look something like a tomato, Lyco is a Latin name referring to tomatoes, as in the healthy lycopene, we’re encouraged to eat more of)

‘Some people like it it for New year’s décor, as the size and shape fits very well on the mochi stack since it’s an inch in diameter. It’s very productive and very seedy’, says Sekiya. 

The U.H. has had Trees at Poamoho Experimental Station for 30 years, all grafted with the Heen Naran root stock, which seemed to survive over 30 years while some others were grafted to different root stocks.

Most Citrus of the good, preferred varieties are sweet all year not only summer.  Only the pummelo seems to be sweeter in summer than in winter. 

Sekiya says that Tristeza virus is what can weaken and  kill Citrus trees, the root stock helps them be stronger and more resistant and vigorous.   Life of a citrus is 20-30 years here in general, and with heen naran maintains good growth. 

Sekiya as Chef, says he just put some finger limes on fish the other night, ‘on salmon and saba, and says that it tastes really good and adds some crunch!’.

Some people put it in beer, and it doesn’t dissolve like limes so at end you have these fish egg like things to chew on’.

Growing Cashew Trees for Hawaii

 Growing Cashew Trees for Hawaii

By Heidi Bornhorst

I found out writing this that you can eat the fruit of cashews and its high in vitamin C and good for your teeth and gums.

Linda Neumann who has a farm on Kaua’i helped me learn more.

It would be a pretty, and fun fruit tree to add to our gardens. Lots of other useful and yummy things come from Cashew trees.

For years we had a Cashew tree growing at Foster Botanic Garden. It’s in the Economic section of the garden. In this section we grow plants with various economic value or potential such as herbs, spices, medicines, food, and even poisons.

The main thing we were taught about cashews, is “Handle with extreme care”. If it is not ripe enough, or too ripe Abunai! (Danger in Japanese) It is hard, and possibly toxic to harvest and process the hard-shelled seeds (nuts). You need to harvest at just the right time, and then extract the seed carefully. Juice from the shell around the fruit may burn your skin.

That is why I’m happy to buy this heart healthy nut at the store!

Interestingly the toxic principles in the shell may make a good insecticide! Research continues.

The Latin name is Anacardium occidentale, (“Ana’ means upward, and “Cardium” refers to the heart). Cashew is in the Mango family, Anacardiaceae. Cashews are native to Brazil and Tropical America

Relatives include Fruit trees like Mango, Wi or Otaheite apple, Hog plum (my Honey’s favorite, one grows and Fruits in Foster Garden). Christmas berry tree is related. Poisonous relatives are poison ivy and sumac, and the Marking nut tree.

Flowers are greenish yellow, fragrant and grow in panicles. Bees like to visit and pollinate the flowers. The trees can grow up to 40 feet in ideal conditions, we usually find shorter, wider trees here in Hawaii.

The fruit and nut are very interesting to see. The “fruit” that catches our eye is actually a “false fruit” or pseudocarp. Some call this a “cashew apple” Being Eurocentric they called all kinds of tropical fruits “apples”!

The actual fruit (botanically speaking) of the cashew tree is a yellow or red kidney shaped drupe that grows at the end of the cashew apple. The drupe develops first on the tree, and then the pedicel expands to become the cashew apple. The true fruit contains a single seed, which is generally considered to be a nut.

Aren’t plants wonderful and Complex?!

The attractive colorful and juicy fruit is an adaptation to attract fruit eating animals to aid in seed dispersal.

Although it is perishable, we can eat the fruit and make value added products like wine and fruit roll ups.

Cashew trees favor well drained soils and regular watering to get established. The flowers like it dry, just like mangoes. They benefit from leafy mulch. Keep turf grass well away from the root zone.

Today it is mainly grown commercially in Brazil and India. We do have some intrepid farmers in Hawaii who are growing trees and even selling products. I salute their courage. Farming and marketing etc., is not easy!

Recently my friend Kaui Lucas, who is a Trained Permaculturist, was talking to me about her Cashew keiki trees. She showed me these cute and vigorous keiki, that she is growing on her sunny lanai, protected with chicken wire.

Lucas got an email from the Department of Agriculture about a seed giveaway from Hinshaw Farms. She said “Frank Hinshaw is the cashew guy. He invited me to go visit, we could make a holoholo day out of that ! Super sweet guy and he was so helpful. The farm is at “Poamoho”.

A few years ago, My Friend Elizabeth Reigels and I went on a kalo and farm kokua, Gourmet Foodie and Educational event and on the Reppun farm. We visited a gorgeous tree that was loaded with ripe fruit. The fruit are very pretty and interesting to see.

This tree was so attractive and productive that it got me thinking cashew might be a viable crop for backyard growers and even for diverse mixed Fruit tree farms.

This would maybe be a good crop to grow more of in Hawaii. Especially if we grew it like old-time Hawaii farmers did, and like Permaculture and Regenerative Agroforestry plant scientists do now.

That is, grow a diversity of tree species, not a single Monoculture or plantation style. Layers of tall and short trees, shrubs, and groundcovers all grown together. Leave the leaves and let them naturally decompose and enliven the soil.

This diversity keeps the plants and soil health and helps capture rainwater and let it percolate down to our aquifer. It’s also more enjoyable to work in the Diverse cool shady spaces, cultivate and harvest than in a Monoculture, plantation, chemical using style of tree farming.

Besides eating cashews raw, roasted or salted, have you ever had cashew cheese? It is a bit labor and time intensive to make but it is so creamy and delicious. And it has less of some of the less healthy parts of yummy cheese: no cholesterol (since it is from a plant) and only healthy nut fats.

There is a farm in Moloa`a on Kauai with more than 200 Cashew trees. Linda and Scott Neuman started in 2002, are learning about which varieties grow best and how to harvest, dry and roast. Check them out online and buy some of their locally grown products. The Farm is called Neu Mana Hui farm.

They have an abundance of other crops too, including figs. Interestingly they used a ‘chicken tractor’, a mobile coop that lets the chicken’s control, and eat weedy grass and fertilize trees and crops too. Akamai, no?!

The oil around the nut is toxic and needs to be handled with care.

As Neumann says: “Our farm has 2 employees: my husband and myself. We do all the planting maintenance and production of our product. I have spent a lot of time trying to educate on the “toxic” product….

People get confused. Old school way is to throw the nuts into a fire and then crack to get inside. That smoke is toxic.

The cashew is fruit where the seed grows outside the fruit. The nut is the seed. The seed itself is covered by testa a covering like you see on a peanut. That protects it from CSL fluid which is in between the exterior shell and the testa. (cashew seed liquid)

That substance is used for many products in paint, brake fluid and other products. Some methods of processing capture the CSL we do not. The CSL will peel the skin on your hands.

We use gloves when handling the shells. A lot of people ask about growing cashew, cashew grow well in most areas of Hawaii, but the equipment is costly and difficult to obtain.”

The CSL fluid, or cashew seed liquid, and it has insecticidal properties (Makes sense no, since it would protect the seed from insects and grazing munching herbivores).

Traditionally the nuts would be thrown on a fire and smoked open. This smoke extremely toxic.

There is now an expensive machine to open the nuts safely. The Neumann’s do this and don’t bother with the seed oil

BUT what a diverse and useful crop for Hawaii’s future as we wean ourselves off toxic tourism. 30,000 visitors a day is way too many. Let us grow some nuts instead, and support local farmers, chefs, and True value-added businesses.

Keiki Cashew trees grown by Kaui Lucas. Wire protects them from pests. And they enjoy an ocean view.

Cashew nuts photo mahalo to Linda Neumann

Pretty fruit on Cashew trees Mahalo Linda Neumann

Garden Gifts for the Season

By Heidi Bornhorst

One of the best gifts to others is our time.  Time helping or encouraging someone in their garden.

So many Kupuna love to garden but may have a hard time with tasks like lawn mowing and weeding or Pruning and debris removal.  Why not offer this loving kokua to someone in your Ohana, or an elderly neighbor who is getting to an age, or state of fragility that some hana Hau`oli, happy work, would give them a lift !?

We have a neighbor who is a widow who loves her home and garden, but I hear her concerns. She is so happy and relieved when the weed eater crew shows up.  Her family is large, but they don’t seem to know how to run the lawn mower.  Hint hint

Sharing produce from our gardens is another free and generous gift to share.  Just pick it, wash it and maybe wrap it up in a basket with some colorful ribbons, and garden greenery.  Awesome gift and Holiday décor too.

If you’re still OK financially, support one of our local garden shops and go shopping!   Buy some pretty flowering plants, orchids, herbs or vege starters. Seeds or Bulbs like Narcissus, or Amaryllis or Caladiums  an exciting gift for gardeners !

Potting mix (I always look for the locally crafted ones) is always welcome, and even offer a little muscle if some plant of theirs needs re-potting into a larger or decorative (or heavy) pot. Cinder to mix with the potting soil makes a great soil for plants or to top dress and beautify their garden. (Cinder repels slugs too)

High quality garden clippers, a new sharp handsaw, or an extendable grip pruner, great gifts ! a decent pair of gloves, a bit waterproof or with finger grips. 

The Electric battery-operated lawn mowers and string trimmers are an improved technology that is quite epic!  We tested one for my Father in law’s lawn and it had so many plusses!  It was QUIET! So, we could mow early while its cool and not disturb the neighbors.  The battery was a bit heavy, but it held a charge for at least three mowings (and he a had a big yard with St. Augustine grass, so that was a good test !)  Not having to mess with or purchase gas and oil is another major plus.  Its also great for our environment !

String trimmers are next on my list, battery operated, quiet and again no smelly, spillable gas and oil to deal with. 

The electric lawn mowers are also easy to start; just the push of a button.  Amazing ! and what a thoughtful and akamai gift !

Locally grown Christmas trees :

I love the smell of the mainland trees BUT so many pests!  Nasty insects, wasps, slugs, murder hornets and even snakes can hide and ride aboard a tree and get established in Hawaii.  

Give a growing plant, like a Cook pine in a pot.  These grow well and even make good houseplants.

Buy a tree from a local tree nursery like Helemano farms.  They have Cook pines, and some of the more fragrant trees like Murray and Leland Cypress and Carolina Sapphire trees.   My sister Mimi Bornhorst Gaddis Loved the Norfolk pine wreath. She reminded me to tell folks to go up, enjoy the day and give a nice tip to the tree cutters and loaders, all hired from the community for the holidays.

Mimi loves the open branch structure of a Norfolk,  as she says ‘they so nicely showcase my precious heritage ornaments’.  Plus, it’s what we grew up with.

Our neighbors the Osorio ohana recently moved up to Wahiawa, and Mary is finding all the kewl things about that lovely upland town.  They went to Helemano Farms too as a family, for a  fun and safe Covid outing and this is what she said:

‘Absolutely in love with our big and beautiful tree. The first fresh one we’ve had in a while and it’s Super Fresh because it was grown right here in our town of Wahiawa. Who knew there was a Christmas tree farm here?! Last week the girls and I had fun picking it out and today it came into the house. We’re trying to figure out how to mitigate the risk of the (newly adopted) destructive dog. Really looking forward to decorating it.’

Just love supporting local family businesses!

The Osorios got a Cypress tree; they chose the greener one says Osorio. (One type has more greyish needles, and one is greener and Brighter)

`A young Hawaiian man helped us get the tree secured to the van, they were so Delightful and Eager to help us.  They come and cut it exactly the size you want and make sure its safely loaded.  There were lots of young local boys, happy and eager to kokua.’

More farms are growing Christmas trees on the Neighbor islands too.  This is a great thing for us to support and perpetuate. Grow and buy local, support each other and keep alien pest species OUT.

You can check the website for Helemano Farms in advance to see what various sizes and varieties will cost.

As Mary Osorio said, ‘The cost was comparable to the shipped in kind.  We’ve paid $120 in the past for a big, imported one.  This tree that we love so much cost $90.  Just so folks know….. ‘



Pic by Mary Osorio:
Lehuanani and Hali`a Osorio with kolohe rescue Dog, Ho`aka, in a field of home-grown holiday trees. An Anuenue or rainbow points to the most Golden of Local grown trees !