By Hawai‘i Health Travel Staff // Images Courtesy Hawai‘i Tourism Authority
Kalo, as taro is called in Hawai‘i, is saluted as a super-food. And for good reason.
It’s an incredible source of fiber and nutrients with health benefits including blood sugar and pressure management, digestive and heart health. Kalo’s vitamins are also impressive: potassium, magnesium, vitamins C and E, copper and phosphorous.
Kalo is darn delicious too when prepared the traditional Hawaiian way. In general it has a smooth starchy quality and can be served up as baked chips, poi mash puree, as a powder in tea, with mixes for pastries or cakes, and in chunks with soups.
Its’ special “resistant starch” is helpful for diabetes and also reduces risks of heart disease. The kalo root itself has polyphenols and antioxidants to combat cancer growth. Other key treatments associated with kalo run the gambit from allergies to gastrointestinal problems. The latter includes diarrhea, gastroenteritis, irritable bowel syndrome, and inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis). Kalo’s probiotics could help treatments of cancer generally, cancer cachexia, depressed immune functions, inadequate lactose digestion, HIV/AIDS, and pancreatitis/cystic fibrosis, as research now is pursuing to understand better.
Originating across Asia, Polynesians had over 200 names for kalo—and in Hawai‘i there were well over 60 varieties of kalo grown in every eco-niche possible. In the Hawaiian creation story Kumulipo, kalo is among the earliest plants chanted. In Hawaiian culture, the god Wākea, who is the expanse of heavens, and goddess Hoʻohōkūkalani, who compliments the heavens with stars, gave birth to a baby boy. But he was stillborn. In mourning, they buried their baby on the eastern side of their house where the sun rises. It grew into a plant with a long stalk and heart figured leaf they called Hāloanakalaukapalili—the first kalo plant. Their next child was also a boy—which they named Hāloa in honor of his older brother, the kalo plant. Hāloa is sacred as the first person of the Hawaiians. One of his life’s duties was to care for all kalo, his older brother Hāloanakalaukapalili.
Today, Hawaiian people honor him as “mamo na Hāloa” as his direct descendants, or ʻāina. As such, kalo farming is a sacred act carried out by organic farmers across Hawai’i.
To support kalo, today there are countless private and public farms across the islands. Some people have individual hydroponically grown kalo plants in their backyards. Apart from kalo being cooked, the main question to ask before eating it is: was it organically grown?
If not, don’t eat it. Hāloanakalaukapalili and Hāloa wouldn’t approve—nor do their ʻāina today.
Below are a few kalo farms that respect them and the ʻāina.
>Kolea Farm: www.kolea-farm.com