By Heidi Bornhorst
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.
In my experience, people visiting Hawaii are truly interested in our unique plants and wonderful Hawaii gardens. Visitors vote and share with their cameras, with the questions they ask and the notes they take. Did you know that gardens and trees do not depreciate? They just keep on growing. The same cannot be said for buildings, sewers, sidewalks, pools and all the other accoutrements that make up Hawaii’s hotels.
At the Hale Koa Hotel, I researched and planted many new things in its 72 acres of gardens for the enjoyment and benefit of visitors, especially those who returned every year (or twice a year). Gardeners can be valuable customer service representatives and serve as front-line ambassadors. A nice gardener who can answer guests’ questions is more likely to bring new business and happier repeat customers.
Some people may or may not believe we have seasons in Hawaii, but professional Hawaii landscapers know we do.
For me, learning how to properly care for all the amazing plants here in Hawaii is a continual process, so I thought I would share with you some helpful landscape tips.
Tips and suggestions for a beautiful and professional Hawaii landscape
1. Create a highly visual and unique visitor experience by using native Hawaiian plants and well-adapted beautiful exotics in hotel gardens, interiorscapes, and landscapes.
2. Plant plants where they belong (salty soil, dry or wet area, shady or sunny).
3. Plant in layers — low, medium, high.
4. Plant shrubs + ground-covers around trees like a “lei,” to protect the trunk and highlight the tree.
5. Group plants that require the same conditions.
6. Understand how big a plant will become and how quickly it will grow.
7. Create and retain shade trees and shady walkways.
8. Understand how hard or easy a plant is to prune.
9. Use ground-covers as much as possible. They save on water, weeding, mowing and edging.
10. Hire a professional from the start and do the job right the first time.
Caring for landscapes using good Hawaii based horticultural and Arboriculture science principles and akamai maintenance practices will save money and beautify Hawaii. That is a great thing for all of us and our visitors
Heidi Leianuenue Bornhorst is a landscaping consultant, gardener trainer, and specialty VIP garden guide. She has been a professional horticulturist for more than 33 years. She is also a Certified Arborist. You can contact her via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 739-5594.