Taro Field Day

For the last 20 years or so the Maui Community College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources Cooperative Extension Service on Molokai conducts a Taro Field Day to provide kalo growers and enthusiasts with an opportunity to gain access to some of the rarest native Hawaiian kalo varieties. Thanks to people like Dr Ramon Dela Pena on Kauai and our resident kalo expert Harry “Cowboy” Ostuka the varieties have survived.

This year the kalo day is Saturday, Dece. 2 from 9:00 a.m. – noon at Molokai Applied Research and Demonstration Farm located on the grounds of Maui Community College Farm. The day includes discussions on kalo varieties, new concepts for feeding field crops and tastings of various kalo varieties. There will be limited amount of kalo huli, (planting material) of more than 50 native Hawaiian kalo varieties to start home planting. Those who want planting material will need to bring their own cutting tools, ties and labeling pens, ribbon or tags.

In Hawaii, taro (kalo) is much more than a tomato or bean plant. To a nutritionist kalo is an excellent source of carbohydrates and Vitamins A, B and C. To kalo farmers it contributes to the economic security for their families. To water fowl kalo lo`i is a habitat for resting, feeding and reproducing. Kalo also has a special place in Hawaiian culture because of the mythology of the procreation of man. No other plant in Hawaii can claim such recognition.

Kalo plants do not produce seeds can be preserved for a long time, making kalo very vulnerable to extinction. As poi making became commercialized, only selected varieties such as Lehua Maoli were produced to maintain poi consistency. This increased the extinction pressure on other varieties that at one time were favorites and consumed by native Hawaiians.

Many of the varieties have been forgotten. For each generation the varieties must be propagated from vegetative planting material, called huli, taken from the parent plant.

Today we have less than 80 of the 300 or so varieties native Hawaiians developed and cultivated.


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