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.
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.
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 !
By Heidi Bornhorst
Leaves are valuable for our gardens and for living soil. Akamai farmers of old used and valued leaves to create and maintain good soil. Good soil is “alive” with beneficial microorganisms.
Some people rake up and throw away their leaves. To me, leaves are way better for our gardens than chemical fertilizers.
I consider them to be GOLD for the garden. Do you need some exercise at a safe social distance? GO out and rake up some leaves! Raking is good for your arm muscles.
Its fun for keiki and ohana too, just keep your distance from each other, if anyone has been traveling or exposed at work or school.
What is the best kind of leaves?
- Fine leaved legumes like Kiawe
- Whatever you have!
Nitrogen fixers like monkeypod, koa and kiawe are great. The smaller the leaves, the more surface area, and the more rapidly they decompose, releasing nutrients that are available for plants to uptake and use.
`Ulu or breadfruit leaves make excellent soil building compost and they are so petty too!
Any leaves will work. Bigger leaves like those from Mango, Lychee, mountain apple and Avocado can be cut up or shredded to make them decompose more quickly.
If you grow Anthuriums, these big leaves that don’t break down quickly are useful intact. We grew up using hapu’u, Hawaiian tree fern trunks for Anthuriums and orchid potting medium. But its not sustainable to use hapu`u, it better to let them grow in our gardens and rainforests. SO, a trick I learned from my old Foster Botanical Garden Boss and sensei, Masa Yamauchi: use lychee or mango leaves for potting medium in your anthurium pots.
Cut them up with clippers and soak them in a bucket for a while. If you have a chipper or shredder those make nice fine leaf cuts. You can also run the leaves over with a lawn mower to get them into smaller pieces.
If you trim get your trees trimmed professionally, have them chip the leaves and branches too. This makes excellent mulch and compost. Make sure the chipper has sharp clean blades.
Or mix fine textured and large leaves
I went up to my neighbor Cindy’s and harvested leaves out of her green bin.
She likes a neat yard and does daily raking. And even though she’s my good friend, and a very good tidy gardener, she THROWS THEM AWAY!
Her gardeners (grass cutters) had been there and they dumped a bunch of grass in the bin too. I DON’T want the grass! It might have weedy seeds and has too much nitrogen. So, I had to separate it all and lean down into the bin to get the good leaves. And then the rain and wild winds came too!
All in all, it was quite a workout ! I loaded up the bags, buckets and boxes of leaves and brought them home to my garden.
I had priority plants that I want to give extra nurturing to:
- Food plants
- Rare Hawaiian banana variety that is struggling
- Rare gingers
- `Ohi`a lehua
- Palapalai ferns
- Rare native Hawaiian Hibiscus, koki`o ke`o ke`o, H punaluensis.
I distribute the leaves, and watered them in.
Adding water helps “stick” the leaves in place and starts the decomposition process. With this wild wind I don’t want them blowing all around.
Q: What are those gorgeous silvery street and park trees? Some are at Sandys Beach, some Giant ones are on Pa`alea street in Palolo Valley, and some are at Ala Moana beach park. Please inform us about these
Mahalo, M. Silva, Palolo
A: Silver buttonwood trees! AKA Sea Mulberry, or Button Mangrove. Conocarpus erecta is the Latin name. they grow naturally in mangrove swamps and are in the Combretaceae plant family, they have a very interesting horticultural history that I am happy to share.
As you may know they are very wind resistant, xeric (drought tolerant) and salt tolerant. The bark and gnarly trunks are very attractive, especially as the trees mature. You can make lovely lei with them. Keiki can make a fun lei using masking tape and the leaves – easy and gorgeous!
At Lei Day in Kapiolani Park this year (and a HUGE mahalo to all the dedicated City of Honolulu, Parks and Recreation and Honolulu Botanical Garden Employees and Volunteers, who organized and coordinated that major public, free event in our park) we saw some fab lei, using various parts of silver button wood trees. Some used the fruit clusters, some used the leaves, some crafted the leaves into silver “rose” buds and so on.
Our late mentor Paul Weissich had just become Director of the Honolulu Botanical Gardens (HBG) in 1957. He was reviewing all of the interesting plants growing in the nursery and lath houses at Foster Botanical garden (FBG).
Weissich found a flat of seedlings. Some were green and some were silvery. One keiki was super silvery.
He selected the silveriest of the silvers and had them potted up into larger individual pots. The best, consistently silver one was selected and more were propagated from air layers. He watched over them and had the expert plant propagators nurture and grow them up. This is a prime example of ‘Horticultural selection’.
He planted a bunch of them at Ala Moana beach park, which was an adjunct Botanic garden back in those days (and still has his legacy of tough, salt tolerant interesting, rare and unusual trees growing).
A mixed silver and green hedge of them is still growing today around the tennis courts at McCoy pavilion.
One of the silveriest was planted at Foster Garden and its gnarly and sprawly and has a growth habit something like an ancient time gnarled Olive tree. We have been talking about making this an Exceptional Tree.
Over the years more of the silvery trees were grown and planted in beach parks like Sandys and as shady tough street trees in Oahu neighborhoods. They make a tough specimen tree (especially nice when up lit with solar lights for your “Moon Light Garden”), a good hedge or windbreak.
Button woods are native to a broad area from the Bahamas, to the Caribbean coastal tropics and all the way to West tropical Africa.
This is one of the many Horticultural legacies of Paul Weissich who passed away this year at age 93. He really grew our beautiful and amazing botanic gardens here on Oahu. His legacy is our five Honolulu Botanical Gardens: Foster Lili’uokalani, Wahiawa, Koko Crater and Ho`omaluhia, as well as people like me and my Husband Clark whose career and lives he nurtured, just like that flat of keiki silver buttonwood trees all those years ago!