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 !

WASH your plants! Uncle Griff amazing Waialua Garden

By Heidi Bornhorst

Interesting to learn something new from my honey Clark, the other day, after all these years, fresh kewl stories! And about plants and gardens, my fave !!

We were out at the Uluniu beach house in Laie.  Colleen and Randy asked Clark and I about growing some plant out there.

We discussed various plants and what would grow in strong salt winds.

Clark mentioned Uncle Griff and how he grew things out in Waialua,  right on the beach. That nobody else could grow.

Or his looked and thrived better than others.

Clark said Griff’s secret was to wash the leaves.  Rinse off the salt water residue on the leaves.  Daily, lovingly.

So interesting! And to think about. Rinsing my leaves more now too. It gets bugs and eggs off

Nothing like a big rainstorm to clean the air and our plants and gardens …..

Why to rinse and bathe our plants with Fresh water (WAI)

  • Salt water has major nutrients
  • Rinsing gets wai in the stomates?
  • Rinsing cools us all
  • Washing off pests
  • And potential incipient pests

What did he grow?  Clark?

I remember a nice big lawn, with a view of the surf and beach, a better pa`ina spot than our sandy front yard with a bit of grass and a big Hau tree.

I think we have pics with Elaine, Clarks mom and Iliahi, our cutie poi dog, maybe at Griff’s house.

Hawaiian wife named …. Aunty Mary, silver hair in a flip, wore mu`u mu`u elegantly.

Last name ? Panker! We both remember at the same time.

Is Butch their son?  Or in-law? Carpenter lived in Wahiawa,  daughter swim team …

Clark would go out there and immediately trim down the Hau tree, and do other heavy yard work to help  out and hopefully get invited again.

The good yard at Crozier loop was out by the street but too hot in the day, perfect for a wedding like Rachel and Peter’s!

Rinse your Gardenias and `ohi`a lehua

We love Gardenias and so do various pests:

  • Sooty mold
  • Aphids and scales
  • Ants which spread and protect the sap suckers
  • Thrips, the little black pests in the blossoms

The “cure” for all of these Gardenia attackers? SOAP and water !  Gardenias are the one plant that I also fertilize with liquid Miracle Gro fertilizer.   (use Miracid, the one in the blue box if your soil tends to be alkaline)

Gardenias are acid loving plants, so they like our red dirt soils and leafy compost too.

When I fertilize them, I add some liquid soap to the sprayer.  Dish soap like Palmolive or Dr Bronner’s peppermint if I’m feeling rich. I spray this on the leaves and let it drip to the roots too. (if you see pests on the stems and leaves, they are probably attacking the roots too.)

After spraying wait an hour or so and you can then wipe the sooty mold off the leaves with a soft rag.  Or you can just let the soap do its job.

Rinse the leaves well the next time you water.  Dead, sap sucking pests like scale, mealy bugs and aphids will slough right off if they have been effectively smothered by the soapy water treatment.

MAY is usually when Gardenias bloom.  I had buds earlier this year, but the cool LOVELY weather of April must have delayed them.  Green buds for a long time.

Now its HOT and they are blooming gloriously.

How to have epic Gardenia blossoms:

  1. Pick them daily. (if you leave them on the plant, the pests will love you, they will have a pa`ina <party with good food> and they will multiply.
  2. Spray them, and the whole plant with water before you pick
  3. Take the buds and pua inside and rinse them
  4. If they have thrips, drip soapy water on them or dunk them in soapy water
  5. Let the bugs get smothered by the soap for a few minutes
  6. Then rinse them off
  7. Cut or pull off lower leaves
  8. Display them in Deep, cool water in a vase
  9. Change the water daily
  10.  Rinse the stems and recut the base
  11.  Put the gardenia flowers back in cool fresh water
  12. Inhale and enjoy!

Since hearing this Uncle Griff rinse your plants and gardens story I have been doing my early morning or evening watering a little differently.

I look at the plant or tree and wonder if it will benefit from a rinse.

If it’s hot I don’t mind getting a rinse myself !  I think like a gentle rainstorm, or sometimes like a rainy windy storm is needed.

I have been rinsing my `Ohi`a lehua which are full of blossoms.  I rinse the flowers and know it will benefit the birds and bees that visit and pollinate the flowers.  Bees get thirsty too! `Ohi`a are from rain-forests so the more wai the better. 

As I rinse and spray off my banana leaves, I visualize the washing away of any leaf hoppers. I also remind friends and neighbors to get rid of their clump thoroughly if it gets this disease.  It’s like getting a measles shot, it protects all of our community of banana growers.

Rinse your mock orange and Bougainvillea after a kona storm.

I learned this one while working as Honolulu Zoo Horticulturist.  I forget from who, maybe my working foreman Seiko Tamashiro, or epic Retiree and Volunteer, Tony Kim?

A nice big fat thick, and very xeric Mock orange hedge surrounded the whole zoo. Periodically we would have to trim it, and this was a big process involving the whole crew, trusted CSSP workers and scaffolds.  It took at least a week.

There was a big drought and we were forced and encouraged to save water.  I read the night logs, some of my staff worked at night as security, food prep and irrigators.  One guy Bob would turn on the sprinklers for the mock orange hedge and run them for several hours.  I told him, “Bob, you are watering the ocean!”

What?

Bob, we have sandy soil, by running those sprinklers for hours you are wasteful. So please, just about 20 minutes will be fine for the hedge!

‘OK boss whatever you say’ he said with some skepticism  (what did a 25-year-old with a nice fresh B.S. degree know, right?!!)

Well, we reduced our irrigation budget significantly and the zoo gardens were still green enough and healthier. Someone even wrote a letter to the editor about how great the grounds looked!

Mock orange is in the citrus family and it comes from driest India.  Super deep and wide spreading,  tough roots and shiny leaves help make it drought tolerant. They also come from monsoon areas so after a big rain we see fresh growth and fragrant blossoms.  This is how they would respond when the monsoon rains come to India.

Somewhere along the way in this discussion, came the fact that mock orange is sensitive to the sometimes strong salty kona winds we would get at the zoo.  When those came we deployed the sprinklers to wash all the leaves.

Same is true of Bougainvillea.  We didn’t have a lot at the zoo, but I had tons of lovely roof planters of Bougainvillea ‘Miss Manila’ at the Hale Koa hotel. These we would diligently rinse leaves after kona wind storms.

Hinahina, Kipukai, Beach Heliotrope and relatives for LEI DAY

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.