The last week and a half on Oahu have been amazing. I've had the opportunity to see some truly beautiful parts of the island and look forward to exploring some of the other islands of Hawaii on return trips.
Some of the best parts of the trip have been the hikes and sightseeing tours I signed up for to get me away from the loads of homework and out of the hotel. I've seen tons of wild mango and coconut trees along with date palms and all sorts of other beautiful native treats. I'm pretty sure I could go all hippie-off-the-grid style and just live off the amazing fruits here.
The apple-banana tree showed above was growing next to an ancient Hawaiian temple - funnily enough on the same property of the local YMCA. We tried apple-bananas on the food tour and they were delicious. It was even better to see them still on the tree.
Also near the Hawaiian temple were kukui nut trees.
Kukui nuts are hugely versatile and an integral part of Hawaiian culture. They can be used as candles and moisturizers as well as, on the less glamorous side, a particularly effective laxative.
The birds around the tree seemed to be particularly fond of the nuts, so hopefully they don't work the same effect on our avian friends...
I was really surprised at just how much oil came out of the dried kukui nut meat. Squeezing just a small piece of kukui nut, about the size of a pencil eraser, yielded enough oil to keep my eternally dry hands moisturized all day.
We found noni fruit after that.
As you can see, they look very unique. I've heard about noni juice being marketed for health benefits and have seen it in numerous health food stores.
All I can say is that if the juice tastes anything like the fruit smells, you couldn't pay me to drink it. It was a combination of overripe washed rind cheese and dirty socks.
Not particularly appetizing.
The tour guide said that he'd once attempted to make noni fruit juice in his house because he was interested in its purported health benefits. His house reeked of rotten cheese for a week, he said. Every time he walked into the house he gagged.
There is a movement in Hawaii to reclaim their culinary heritage by cultivating taro, the long time staple of the islands, in the traditional methods. Seeing the fields was very interesting and I'm disappointed I haven't yet had the opportunity to try any poi - even though its supposedly not very tasty.
The fields were beautiful and I can definitely appreciate the effort being made to hold onto the heritage of their culture. I'd love to see this kind of traditional farming more often on the mainland.
I went on a hike a couple days later in the mountains of central Oahu.
There were massive amounts of wild ginger. This strain of ginger isn't edible, but the roots look exactly like the normal ginger root in your grocery store. I guess it's a bit of a nuisance and is threatening some of the endemic plants of Hawaii.
I couldn't help but notice that the pink leaves of the plant looked remarkably similar to the pink-dyed gari that's usually served with sushi, though.
We found tons of guava fruit lying about from the hundreds of wild guava trees that line the mountains. We munched on them for most of the hike, but I wasn't able to find elusive sweet ones that my fellow hikers were finding. Mine were extremely tart. I didn't expect all of the seeds either - they're filled with them. I imagine they provide a great source of insoluble fiber, though...
One of the best parts of the hike was finding the coffee tree forest. TA and I are huge fans of coffee, TA infamously so within his family, so finding the coffee trees was really exciting.
Looking at the sparse little berries on the trees really makes you think about how much work it takes to get a pound of coffee.