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.
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’.
By Heidi Bornhorst
For many, many years I have been a Lei Day Volunteer at the Mayor’s Celebration at Kapi`olani park. It is such an amazing event and I’ve learned and seen so much every year. Since 1984 in fact ! Yikes
I was first asked to kokua with plant ID when I was working right across the street at the Honolulu Zoo as Zoo Horticulturist. I was reluctant to leave work, even for a few hours, as some of my landscape crew were on the kolohe side.
Kupuna Beatrice Krauss, our famed Ethnobotanist, was a fellow lei plant identifier and any time with her was a precious learning experience. As she got older, she would ask me to drive her, and again, more time with someone so akamai and kind, a Hawaii woman Scientist, ahead of her time.
I told myself when Aunty Bea is pau I will be pau too. But over the years I have realized what a gift it is to volunteer with this job. We get to see all the contest lei as they are delivered at 7 a.m. So amazing, creative and so much time and energy to grow, select, clean and prep and then craft the lei. Timing is vital for freshness and for flowers, like ilima buds to be open.
One year there was a City-wide strike and we had to move the contest at the Hilton Hawaiian Village, they also roped me into being a judge. Never again! To me , all of them are winners. Identifying the flowers, ferns, nuts and lei fibers is challenging but way easier for me!
This year there were some stunners, plants with mixed silvery patterns, in the Heliotrope family Boraginaceae. We had native Hawaiian Hinahina, the lei flower of Kaho`olawe, an endemic native Hawaiian plant; combined with Kipukai, an indigenous Hawaiian plant, and Beach Heliotrope Tree or Tahinu, which is an import, that looks and acts like a native coastal and xeric tree.
This twisty silvery lei combo was so amazing! After doing our volunteer ID job in the early morning we sometimes get a chance to talk to the lei makers.
I was talking to an inspiring and creative young lei maker, Mary Moriarty Jones. I asked her where she collected all those lovely plants or if she grew them herself. We talked about them all being in the Boraginaceae plant family.
One characteristic to identify this family is that the flowers are arranged in a helicoid cyme. It twists to open like the fiddlehead of a fern, and the flowers bloom one by one along the curving floral stalk.
They also tend to have silvery hairs on their leaves. These reflect light and give the silvery Hinahina color. As a xeric adaptation to thrive in dry salty climates the silvery leaf hairs reflect light and also trap moisture and conserve it for the plant as it respires.
This silvery beauty to our eyes is how the plants have thrived for the millennia in harsh dry salty environments.
To grow them for the long term it’s good to understand where they came from and adapt your garden methods accordingly. They need well drained soil and full sun. They are more difficult to grow in pots than in the ground as they really need to spread their roots far and wide (not deep). They like daily watering to get established and then less and less water as their roots spread and adapt.
As my old boss and mentor Masa Yamauchi would say, “Observe your plants closely and water only as needed”.
This is a skill we can all learn and cultivate. Just as we can learn to grow our own rare and wonderful lei plants.
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.
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!