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EcoTourism: Harvesting Kalo in Hawaii

In the piko of Waikiki, locals and visitors can now harvest homegrown Hawaiian kalo, and wrap and eat lau lau while visiting. Traveling and exploring the local culture is getting easier with hotels and resorts understanding that providing eco-travelers with experiences they can cherish is so valuable.

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The new Hyatt Centric Waikiki Beach features its own organic kalo garden alongside the Splash Lounge (pool deck). Launched a few months ago, the public (including non-hotel guests) is invited to join monthly harvests with Daniel Anthony of Hui Aloha ‘Aina Momona.

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Participants are shown the correct way to harvest kalo while learning the history and importance of this staple to the Native Hawaiian culture. Everyone picks their own kalo, then helps prepare lau lau for eating.

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While the lau lau cooks, Daniel pounds kalo into pa’i’ai while discussing the practice of this Hawaiian tradition of making poi. The kalo is a “living exhibit” at Hyatt Centric Waikiki Beach for guests to nurture and watch this plant go through its normal life cycle to ensure that the kalo continues to sustain people and land.

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The Aina Momona is family-driven, community-driven and culture-driven. Their goal is to restore ‘āina momona (abundant land) in Hawaii using the core principles of sustainability and cultural perpetuation. By educating and engaging individuals, families, businesses and community organizations as active stewards of the land and its resources they strengthening traditional practices based on agriculture and food.

Hui Aloha ‘Aina Momona conducts a large number of educational and cultural activities for residents and visitors alike, as well as promoting the sale and consumption of traditional kalo food products like hand-pounded poi or pa‘i ‘ai. Guests are invited to enjoy the Haloa Challenge workshops which demonstrate the great nutritional and culinary values of kalo.

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Why eat pa‘i ‘ai?
This “super food” of the Pacific is one of the most nutritious complex carbohydrates in the region. It is hypoallergenic, low-glycemic and has been effective in feeding cancer patients and infants. The bacteriocin-producing bacteria, which creates the souring element in poi, has been recognized as a food preservation element. They are also a source of healthy probiotics in the same manner as miso, tempeh, shoyu, tofu, and natto—foods that have been shown to aid in digestion, reduce cholesterol and the chances of heart disease. These qualities, not to mention its taste and value-added production, make pa‘i ‘ai a potent tool for connecting taro farming with mainstream audiences.

Kalo is gluten free and, as a low glycemic index food, also helps control hunger. In combination with its slow digesting carbohydrates, kalo’s high fiber content helps helps ensure a gradual rise in blood suger, making it an excellent food for controlling diabetes. Its high concentration of potassium, manganese and vitamins C, E, and B-6 supports the immune system and protects against cardiovascular disease.

Kalo leaves also have significant levels of vitamin A, plus phenolic flavonoid pigment antioxidants such as beta carotenes and cryptoxanthin. Just 100 g of taro leaves provides 4825 IU or 161% DV of vitamin A. These compounds allow the body to maintain healthy mucus membranes, skin and vision and help protect against lung and oral cancers.

The harvests are free, open to the public and held 2:30-6 p.m. on the fourth Tuesday every month, year-round. Remaining 2017 dates are Nov. 28 and Dec. 26.

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About Hyatt Centric Waikiki Beach
Opened in January 2017, the new Hyatt Centric Waikiki Beach is located in Waikiki on the Hawaiian Island of Oahu. This AAA Four Diamond boutique hotel showcases 198 guest rooms plus 32 suites, culturally chic inspired amenities, open-air lobby, all-day dining at The Lanai restaurant, bar, pool deck with lounge pool and private cabanas, and fitness center. Centrally located for today’s modern explorers, the hotel is within walking distance to all of Waikiki’s best experiences including the iconic Waikiki Beach, world-class shopping, award-winning restaurants and exciting nightlife.

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All images courtesy Hyatt Centric Waikiki Beach.

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