Chaya, Togan, Marungay Interesting, Health Boosting Perennials to Grow

By Heidi Bornhorst

It’s amazing to see our Quarantined Community excited about growing vegetables.  I wish everyone success!  Neighbors engaging Keiki, and sharing.

Every day I’m grateful for my ohana, neighborhood and Community.  Mahalo Hawai’i folks !

Who thinks we need more Community gardens, for those with no land? 

Three generations of my neighbors; Sarah, Avery and Alina Rosier, went shopping together and reported 3 stores were out of potting mix!  Some nice big expensive potted plants followed them home !  They did endeavor to persevere and found the potting mix.  They are growing `uala or sweet potato in pots in the back yard.  And sharing rooted slips with our neighbors.

I reminded them gently that vegetables, herbs and most flowering plants grow most productively in full sun and with daily gentle watering.  Morning is the best time to water and now many of us can do that because we’re not rushing off to work or taking kids to school in the morning.

So, get up early enjoy the sunrise and give your plants a drink.

As you water, LOOK and observe your plants.  Turn over the leaves as you water and search for incipient pests.  Rub them off the undersides, shoot with water.  If the insect pests are bad, spray with soapy water (one tablespoon per gallon of liquid Dish soap) this smothers and kills sap-sucking insects like aphids, scale, and whiteflies.

Do a slug and snail patrol :

Don’t touch them!  Teach your Keiki. 

My kolohe neighbor Li’i Pat likes to gleefully salt them or stomp on them and watch their colorful guts come out.  BUT this still exposes him and everyone else to Rat lung worm disease (spread by those yucky aliens: slugs, snails and rats)

Not to be mean, but every one of these pests eliminated, and Cleanly disposed of,  is good for us and our Hawaiian environment.

My landscape architect and Natural Gardener friend, Brenda Lam has the tools and techniques down, and I add a bit of plastic recycling (if you have plastic, use it more than once and then properly dispose):

  1. Small bucket or jar of salt
  2. Tongs
  3. Chopsticks
  4. Plastic bags
  5. Plastic forks (recycled from your plate lunch)
  6. Sluggo Plus
  7. Sanitation – dispose of them, bagged in the rubbish can.
  8. Patrol early or late and after it rains
  9. Capture, salt, and bag
  10. Trash the salted, jarred slugs, in a plastic bag.

I worry that many will have limited success and give up on food gardening.  I have some tricks and hacks to help:

  • Grow perennials
  • Grow plants adapted to Hawaii and to Your micro-climate
  • Buy Keiki starter plants
  • Full sun
  • Hose nearby
  • Daily tending
  • Observation
  • Perennial vs Annuals for Hawaii gardens
  • Daily Slug patrol

What is a perennial

A Long-Lived plant, vs. an annual.   Annual plants grow for just one season or one year.

Here in Hawaii some of them don’t follow those rules !  we could just call them “fairly short-lived plants”.  But we might as well learn the right Horticultural terminology as we educate ourselves and our ever inquisitive and Akamai keiki!

My friend Ben Kam shared Chaya with me.  This must be cooked, boiled for 20 minutes first.  It has milky sap, which is a caution for us, but it is super ONO!  Before cooking it is high in hydrocyanic acid.  Some say you can safely eat up to five leaves raw a day but cooking works for me!

 I made an `ulu lasagna, with Chaya “spinach” the other day.  Lasagna is my husband Clark’s favorite but HO! Lots of work and dishes!  But with Covid 19 quarantine, it is good to practice long slow cooking skills, rather than getting depressed watching TV or online news.

Chaya is also called Tree spinach and scientists call it Cnidoscolus aconitifolius and place it in the Euphorbiaceae plant family.

 It is easy to grow stick a big cutting (1/2” wide by 6-12” long into the ground or a big pot and water daily.

Togan or Green long squash.   Retired Fire Captain, John Drake grew one and was excitedly asking when to harvest it? You want it not too big or it will be junk, too tough and woody  for eating.  

One name is Tabugnao according to Gourmet chef and gardener Carol Hasegawa

The Smooth one is Hyotan and the Fuzzy one is Togan  according to  Corliss Yamasaki

Long green squash

Recipes from Carol Hasegawa  5/28/2020: 

Filipino style

Tabugnao Carol Hasegawa

  1. Brown pork (or use roast pork – I like this better) in garlic and little oil till caramelized
  2. Add sliced squash w/a  half-cup water
  3. Let steam till squash slightly cooked
  4. Add sliced tomato (gives flavor to dish)
  5. add some shoyu for final flavoring
  6. Simmer till soft to your liking 

Japanese style: 

Add dried ebi (dry shrimp) in water ( not sure how much you are making but maybe 1 c of water)

Add sliced squash – cook till slightly cooked

Add ¼ c shoyu and 1/8 c sugar

Simmer

Marungay, Kalamungay or Moringa, the Ben tree native to India but now a “new” superfood for all

You can grow it from Seeds, I did this for my Dad when he mentioned that all the great native Hawaiian plants, I was growing were not much good for human food and that Food plants were important to him.

Generally, we grow Kalamungay from Cuttings,   Jimmy Lorenzo, my  Epic Waianae farmer mentor recommends one-inch cuttings about two feet long.  Poke them directly into the ground and water daily.

Once it is growing well, harvest regularly and keep the plants in pick-able reach.

Traditionally we eat this in stews, in soups and so on.  As Robin Sunio taught me, add the leaves to your soup at the end.  Just a gentle simmer for a minute and they won’t be bitter, and this preserves more nutrients.

The Green juicers discovered Moringa and add it to juices and smoothies.  I thought, Yikes!  You can’t eat that raw!  But you can, the young tender leaves are fine.  Ono and nutritious.

You can eat the flowers, leaves, and young seed pods.  The root is also edible and tastes like horseradish.

Nobody that I know of in Hawaii has eaten the root, we are too busy growing and eating the other good parts !  But we do love horseradish, so one day I plan to sample some of the roots.

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