So, one thing about dating a guy who’s family runs a farm? You’re going to eat a lot of what they grow! Ok, I kid, but I did enjoy my fair share! Let’s just say there’s not only taro, as their late 80 year old grandparents still work out in the fields and gave us fresh off the vine cucumbers and Japanese eggplant! I died for a second they were so good!
During the week I was invited to come on the Taro Farm and Historic Rice Mill Tour their family provides to the public, and though I’m not super into history like the Civil War or Ancient Egypt, I thoroughly enjoy local and family history, especially of people that I know!
We started off at the Taro Lunch Wagon, located in Hanalei, where we were introduced to some info on what taro is, the history, the ecology and a sample of their taro based fruit smoothies (this one had strawberries and I’m not sure what else, which I also had earlier during the week at another visit to the lunch wagon).
We hopped on a small bus and headed out to the farm and into the fields where Whit’s sister gave the tour and talked more about the farming process and what taro looks like.
(I’m holding a taro plant just as it comes out of the field, along with the piece that is replanted to make new taro grow. It’s a 14 month crop! Yowzers!)
I was being my dork birder self and of course taking in all the wildlife I could. Who wouldn’t in this area, right?!
Anyhow, I also learned that my boyfriend’s a killer…Of hogs that rip apart their crops. Ok, maybe I can get over that…but I don’t like guns! Haha!
Anyhow, I talked in length with all his sister, Dad and Mom about the biggest problem they have on the taro farm: apple snails. They’re invasive species that eat a fair amount of the taro plant and have a seriously fast reproductive rate that simply makes them impossible to eradicate.
Funny that only two years ago I was trudging all over the Everglades studying snail kites and worrying about the areas running out of Apple Snails for the birds to eat. Oh the irony….Fish and Wildlife Dept, get your act together and make these two areas work together!
Back to taro, the group was involved in helping out the farm by finding apple snail eggs on the taro and getting rid of them. I love the contraption they use to remove them…Japanese frying spoon? LOL!
Not only we were given a chance to learn about the taro farm and fields, but also were able to visit the family’s historic rice mill, located just next to the farm house. Unfortunately I wasn’t allowed to take pictures inside the mill (dang historical societies) but it consisted of an exact replica of the mill, since much of it had been destroyed over the years from various floods and hurricanes that swept through the area. Every component of making rice was there and it’s amazing how much they use renewable energy like the river’s flowing water to power the whole process! We need to take heed from history and use the earth wisely!
Ok, rant over, but after all was said and done, we were able to sample some of the things that are found locally on the farm, and staple in their diets. Fresh coconut was cracked for us to produce fresh coconut water (which I was relieved didn’t taste like the coconut flavor I thought it would, as I hate coconut) and then the inside was shredded out and mixed with freshly mashed taro. I don’t know what to call them other than Taro Balls with Coconut, but they were pretty good. I had a few bites, but the texture of coconut gets to me, though I enjoyed it unsweetened as I think that’s what I don’t enjoy about coconut.
After the rice mill tour was over we drove back to the lunch wagon and were given a nice lunch to round everything out! I go the Taro Veggie Sandwich, which included veggies and taro hummus, along with chips and a piece of Taro Mochi Cake for dessert.
I really enjoyed the hummus (pictured below that I had with pita chips later in the week for lunch) a lot because it has a really great flavor and had a bite of the mochi cake, but not too much of a fan since I don’t really like mochi. I know, I know, what kind of Japanese am I?! Haha!
Overall the tour was great and I learned a lot, and of course it helps to spark the interest since I know the family personally! It’s so interesting to learn about these things!
One last taro product I had throughout the week was the Taro Burger. Whit’s brother in law makes them and I must say they’re pretty tasty! He’s added in things like quinoa, black beans and acai to give the burger even more health benefits than it already had!
For instance, did you know that when you mash taro and ferment it it turns into what they call Poi (which has a smoothie like consistency and reminds me of greek yogurt with unsweetened applesauce mixed in!), which many people use to help with digestive problems and feed to babies when they have a hard time drinking their mother’s milk or eating food? You know I was all over that concept since I’m prone to so many belly aches that I want to get a new stomach!
Anyhow, this was the basis of my eating experience the week I was on Kauai. Staying at Whit’s meant I didn’t have to eat out all the time (yay $$$ saver!) but also missing out on some of the local products. It’s alright though, as I was happy devouring tons and tons of fruit throughout the week and staying in the company of his family!
So, who’s had taro!??!?! I know there are a few out of there who have tried taro from being on Hawaii, but any other way?! I’ve heard rumor of taro fro-yo, taro popsicles and more!!! And if you haven’t had it, would you want to try it? It’s even used in things like banana bread, cookies, and pancakes (which I did have for breakfast on morning, makes them so dense and chewy!!!)