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 !

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

Fruit + Nut Trees | Hawaii Gardens

By Heidi Bornhorst

  One of our goals for simple sustainability, is a Fruit tree in every yard, even on your apartment lanai.  For years Mark and Candy Suiso and their extensive extended ohana, participated in the epic Fruit sharing event known as Mangoes at the Moana.

This was Mark’s simple message for all the ten years we staged this educational and fun, Ono for Mango fruit, local fun foodie event.  Remember when every yard had at least one fruit tree, lots of vegetables, all kinds of things for the family to eat and to share?

Share with ohana, gifts for the neighbors, take a generous bag to work, etc.

Kupuna Pua Mendonca of Hawaii island shared some simple wisdom with me at an Aquaponics training conference in Hilo: survival trees to grow are avocado, niu or coconut, and `ulu or breadfruit.  Those healthy fats and oils will get you through times of hardship and scarcity.

You’ve heard the scary news that we have one week of food on grocery shelves in Hawaii.  Should we get cut off from imports, its handy to have some degree of self-sufficiency.

So, lets grow some survivor supplies in our gardens.  I was visiting my great gardener neighbor Joan Takamori and admiring her plush and fruitful garden.  She always has something to share and we learn from each other as we talk garden story.

Takamori asked me about a macadamia nut cracker.  She had an abundance of macadamias from her mother’s garden.

I laughed, recounting our nutcracker as kids.  It was a big pohaku in the dry stack rock wall, that was flat on top and had an almost perfectly sized mac nut puka.  We would set in a nut, and hit it “just right” with a small sledge hammer.   Sometimes it cracked open perfect, sometimes we smashed too hard and sometime the nut went flying!

This is how I learned (without knowing it) about scarification, a technique to help tough thick shelled seed to germinate and grow.  The nuts we nicked that flew down the side sloping yard, were able to grow into seedlings.

Once when we had a cousin swap, I took a big paper bag of macadamia nuts to my Aunty Ruth in California (what a hostess gift, such an elegant bountiful paper bag!)

I told them how we cracked mac nuts at home.  But no!  Californians have a better plan!  And my Uncle Merle was an Engineer.  He had a vise in the garage.  It was a big thrill for my cousins’ many friends in their neighborhood, to come over and everyone got a turn cracking a nut. (Sort of like Tom Sawyer getting all his pals to paint the fence, I later thought, with a laugh!)  Akamai uncle Merle!

My Aunty then roasted the nuts in the oven and covered them with chocolate.  Back home we generally just ate them raw.

I told Joan all of this and how my friend Nyna Weisser had researched nut crackers online and found a great one.  Not cheap but perfect cracking.  Nyna would hand us nuts and the cracker at a party.  Fun for all the friends!

Joan Takamori and I also spoke about how macadamia nuts are another tree that more of us should propagate and grow.

They are a pretty tree with deep green ruffly leaves and very pretty and fragrant flower stalks.  If you look closely at the flowers you will see that they look like miniatures of one of our favorite modern-day Florist ornamentals: Proteas.

Mac nuts are in the Proteaceae plant family and they are native to Australia.

 I asked Joan about where her folks got their macadamia tree.  She didn’t remember it being in the yard forever, and She has a theory. 

‘My dad did bonsai  my mom didn’t drive; she knew how to catch bus everywhere. I think she stole that tree from him and set it free in the yard’ says Takamori.

We never had it growing up.   I think mom planted it, maybe about 10-15 years ago.  She wanted to see it flower and fruit, although it would’ve made a kewl bonsai. Its now a very fruitful tree. I want to grow more of them, so I’ve been collecting seedlings, from under her tree to grow and share and plant in my current garden.

Mac nuts need to be scarified to germinate.  The thick hard shell is nicked or filed down a bit so water can penetrate and activate the embryo of the seed to grow.  Plant them in pots with quality potting mix, and water daily, until they get big enough to go into the ground.

You can also buy them already growing.  Ask for them at your favorite garden shop.  Or for even more fun, call ahead and visit a fruit tree specialty nursery.  Buy some mac nut trees to grow  and maybe another fruit tree for a friend or neighbor to grow.

Wasabi Plant

By Heidi Leianuenue Bornhorst

“Here Heidi, try taste this, we call it “Wasabi plant”, said Ecologist John Gilardi, AKA “da bird man o Wake”.   He plucked some leaves from a little plant, on our way sunset walking to the bird meadow on one of the islets of Wake Atoll.  It was near dusk and very hot, no wind, and water barely quenched our thirst.

wasabi plant Lepidium

At first it just tasted a bit green and refreshing and then my mouth got happy, almost exploding with a definite wasabi taste.  I got all excited, asked him more about the plant and took some pictures of it.  It looked like a weed, but with papery transparent seeds.  It looked very cute in my pictures.  It was one of many interesting and intriguing native plants on the very remote Wake Atoll, where I was fortunate to be performing some contract Arborist work.

When I got back home, Happily, to cool green high volcanic lush green Hawaii, I did some research about this plant which scientists call Lepedium.

Another name for it is “Garden cress”.  We have one that is a weed and one that is native to Hawaii.

The non-native one is L. latifolium, and it’s been here a long time.  Its mentioned in the flora by Dr William Hildebrand, the original botanist who grew Foster Botanical garden.

Maca root which is found in health food stores, like our beloved KOKUA Market, and said to be good for wahine and for sleep is L. meyenii. (when I was googling for pictures, to see which species grew here, these adds for tinctures of maca root kept popping up!)

Our native Hawaiian wasabi plant is known to scientists as Lepidium bidentatum var. O-waihiense.

Turns out is has many Hawaiian names: kunana, naunau, `Anaunau and `Anounou; and lots of English ones too: Kunana pepperwort, peppergrass, pepperweed, and scurvy grass.

Wonder if its high in Vitamin C?

It is a good source of vitamin C, A, K, and some of the B-vitamins, as well as calcium, iron and magnesium. It’s also rich in fiber, like most green leafy vegetables or herbs.

It is endemic to all the Hawaiian Islands except Kaho`olawe and Ni`ihau, and it is found in Kure, Midway and some of the other islets of Papahanaumokuakea, or the northwest Hawaiian Islands.

It is in the Brassicaceae plant family, along with turnips or daikon, cabbage, mustard greens and our favorite: Wasabi !

The root was used as medicine in old Hawai`i, and in other parts of Polynesia too.

The scientific plant genus name, Lepedium, has kewl descriptive origins too. Lepis is scale in Greek and refers to the pretty papery, scale like semi-transparent seeds. The species name bidentatum comes from the Latin name for tooth, the leaf edges are serrated or toothlike.

I started looking for it and trying to grow it.  Such a fun taste and we do love wasabi here in Hawaii!  I thought it would be fun to grow and to gift for my fellow gardening gourmets!

So far it hasn’t been easy to grow, but we endeavor to persevere.  I find it in surprising places and have been trying to figure out its ideal habitat.

Sometimes it’s in a lawn like at UH Manoa or Kapiolani park. Sometimes it’s by the beach.  Visiting Sweetland farms with my horticulture buddy Rachel Morton, we found it outside the barn where keiki goats were being nurtured.  I got all excited and had Rachel, and co-owner Mary Bello taste it.

Ono yeh? And isn’t it a cute plant?  Imagine if were grow more and had the goats eat it.  Would their milk then be wasabi flavored?

We collected some to grow and so far, so good.  I think that because it’s a very xeric or drought tolerant plant, it must have a deep root and far spreading roots. When I casually pull it out, I might not be getting all of the roots.

Growing it from seeds is a good option.  Horticulture with native Hawaiian plants is so much fun and a great gardener challenge. We always learn something by growing plants and observing our gardens and nature in general.

Has anyone else tried to grow this?

One reference suggested that it would grow best in an herb garden, as compared to a general landscape.  It really does look like a weed until you get up close and see what a pretty plant it is.  Plus growing healthier and possibly medicinal and ONO plants in our gardens is always a plus!

I potted mine up in a mixture of good potting soil and coarse cinder and put them in pots.  Rachel planted hers directly in the soil in her mother’s herb garden in a sunny spot up Tantalus.  We shall see how it all GROWS!