Natural Hawai'i

Hawaiian Food and Agriculture in History

Hawaiian Tarao Plants

Many areas in Hawai’i have good soil and abundant water, and the sunny, subtropical climate encourages growth year round.

The original Hawaiian settlers brought with them, in their canoes, their principal food crops and other useful plants as well as a knowledge of cultivation. They also brought to Hawai’i their only domestic food animals, the pig, dog and chicken.

The diet of the Hawaiians consisted of plants and animals, and of course harvests from the sea.  Fishermen relied on their knowledge, skills and experience. They shared their catch with their ‘ohana (family) and members of the community. The fisherman’s goal was to harvest a considerable number and variety of fish. The fishermen worked either alone or in groups.

Taro Root used to make poiHawaiian Gardening and Agriculture

The Hawaiian planters, aided by the fishermen, were able to produce the food needed in the islands. The planters grew most of their food in the rich soil of the valleys and on the lower slopes of the hills. The use of compost was common. Weeds were not discarded after being pulled but were left to decay and add humus to the soil. In the same manner, leafy materials, particularly hau leaves, were brought in as organic fertilizer.

Captain Cook and early visitors wrote of the Hawaiians’ intelligent and thrifty use of land and water, the abundance of food, as well as about the Hawaiians’ conservation of resources. Visiting ships were furnished with vast quantities of vegetable and animal food. In contrast, we in Hawai’i now  import much more food than is produced here.

Hawaiian Food Preparation

Food was prepared out-of-doors or in the hale imu (a shelter with an outdoor oven) and was served out-of-doors if the weather allowed. Utensils and accessories used in preparing and serving food included food scrapers of ‘opihi and cowrie shells, hand shredders of stone or shell for grating coconuts, knives and cutters (made of stone, shark teeth and bamboo), breadfruit splitters of stone, pig scrapers of rough lava, sweet potato pot mixers of wood, pot pounding boards of wood, stone food pounders, stone mortars and pestles, gourd food bowls, wooden food bowls, platters of wood, cups of wood, gourds or coconut shells, spoons (scoop-like of coconut shells), finger bowls, scrap bowls and spittoons, gourd water containers, strainers, and salt evaporating pans of stone.

Hawaiian Food in History
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