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August 24, 2019

ʻĀina Fest

August 10, 2019

Is Kahili Ginger Edible?

dehydrated kahili ginger flowers hedychium gardnerianum

Dehydrated kāhili ginger flowers.

Although the Ginger (Zingiberaceae) Family is generally safe, info is sparse on kāhili  (Hedychium gardnerianum) as an edible. Although not expressed directly in any literature, I determined through inference and experimental practice, that yes kāhili ginger flowers, flower buds, rhizomes, and new shoots are edible in small amounts. 

We know that H. gardnerianum is considered to be a folk medicine of the people of Sikkim state in the Indian Himalayas [1]. There is evidence that H. gardnerianum was used as a ginger substitute in New Zealand during World War II food rationing [2]. We also know that H. gardnerianum does not seem to have any strong toxicities in humans, dogs, cats, or horses [3] and that it is highly palatable to livestock [2] and used in ruminant feeding in some areas [4]. All of the evidence seems to indicate that uses of H. gardnerianum for both aroma and as a flavor/spice for ingestion are safe. It is always wise to start with a small amount when trying a food for the first time.

white and yellow butterfly ginger flowers

Yellow butterfly ginger (Hedychium flavescens) on the lower left, and white butterfly ginger (Hedychium coronarium) on top. We know that the chemistry of the three closely related species – H. coronariumH. flavescens, and H. gardnerianum – does not significantly vary and that they share most of the same dominant aromatic compounds.

White butterfly ginger (H. coronarium) is edible: its rhizomes are known to be eaten in India [5,6], and although it is described as a famine food, this assessment need not apply if new or creative edible uses of the plant can be found. Its flowers and flower buds are edible and can be used like a vegetable as well. 

processing kahlii butterfly ginger flowers in hawaii

Pulling kāhili ginger flowers off of the flower head is usually done while watching a movie and talking story with friends and family. 

butterfly ginger flower wild fermentations

Butterfly ginger flower wild yeast starters. Kāhili (H. gardnerianum), white (H. coronarium), and yellow (H. flavescens) are often described interchangeably in literature on the essential oils, so we can assume that many of the same medicinal qualities also are present in kāhili (H. gardnerianum).


savage kitchen butterfly ginger icon

Look for the orange butterfly ginger pin in the Savage Kitchen app & online foraging courses, coming in 2020. A "butterfly ginger" pin can be dropped anywhere you find kāhili (H. gardnerianum), white butterfly ginger (H. coronarium), or yellow butterfly ginger (H. flavescens).

savage kitchen app demo

sneak peek at the Savage Kitchen app map!


[1] ENVIS (Environmental Information System Center: Sikkim).[nd]. Medicinal and Aromatic plants in Sikkim. Gangtok (India): Forest, Environment & Wildlife Management Department, Government of Sikkim. http://sikenvis.nic.in/WriteReadData/UserFiles/file/Medicinal%20&%20Aromatic%20plants%20of%20Sikkim%20from%20FRLHT.pdf

[2] NRC (Northland Regional Council). [nd]. Wild ginger, Pest Facts No. 4, Whangārei (New Zealand): Northland Regional Council. http://www.rnzih.org.nz/pages/pest%20facts%204%20-%20wild%20ginger.pdf

[3] ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals). 2017. Toxic and Nontoxic Plants: Kahali Ginger. New York (NY): ASPCA. https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control/toxic-and-non-toxic-plants/kahali-ginger

[4] Carvalho MJ, Carvalho LM, Ferreira AM, Silva AMS. 2010. A new xanthone from Hedychium gardnerianum. Natural Product Research 17(6):445-449. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/1478641031000118906?journalCode=gnpl20

[5] Lim TK. 2017. Edible Medicinal and Non-Medicinal Plants: Volume 12: Modified Stems, Roots, Bulbs. https://link.springer.com/book/10.1007/978-3-319-26065-5

[6] Kunkel G. 1984. Plants for Human Consumption: An Annotated Checklist of the Edible Phanerogams and Ferns. Oberreifenberg (Germany): Koeltz Scientific Books. https://books.google.com/books/about/Plants_for_Human_Consumption.html?id=7L0H0WBBMOkC

Hāwī is gonna get down! Am so jazzed to be a presenter at this years 10th Annual ʻĀina Fest on September 7th. My workshop will focus on the butterfly gingers, it's a theme right now, so come prepared to have their heavenly scent fill you up.  

GET YOUR TICKETS NOW  ----->>>    https://hipagriculture.org/aina-fest

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July 27, 2019

Wild Foods in the Sonoran Desert

sonoran desert saguaros

The Sonoran Desert has always held a special place in my heart, as I learned to love it during visits with my grandparents. Now, I've been called to return and help in the care of my grandmother who has dementia. My mom has been her caregiver for the last 7 years and it is time for me to play a more active role. I will return again in December, and probably be making more regular trips to relieve my mom. God bless the caregivers! 

saguaro cactus fruits ripening

It's hard to pick favorites in life, but saguaro (Carnegiea gigantea) cactus fruits are my favorite wild food. They contain fat and sugar, which is a pretty awesome combination! These beauties are protected, so it is advised that you connect in with traditional harvesters to be given permission and learn how to harvest in a respectful and appropriate way.

In 2007 I joined Stella Tucker out at her traditional saguaro camp, and this video documents her families way of harvesting and processing the fruits. Fast forward to 2019 and I just met a new foraging friend, Mark Lewis. Mark told Stella he was meeting me and she was like, "Oh yeah, that white lady who came out here all those years ago. I remember her!" So fun for me to reconnect, in these roundabout ways, with those of us who practice our love for the land. May Stella and her family be blessed in perpetuity, and the Tohono O'odam people, and the saguaros ♥

prickly pear red fruit perfectly ripe

The bulk of my wild food diet here in the Sonoran Desert right now has been prickly pear fruits (Opuntia spp). These magenta beauties have found their way into multiple rounds of barbeque sauce, margaritas, fruit leather, and so much more. 

grinding mesquite into flour in vitamix

In typical forager form, I traveled with a vitamin in my luggage. When it's 116° who needs many clothes, lol. I had heard the mesquite were dropping here, so I went from kiawe in Hawaiʻi to grinding my own flour here in Arizona. 

blue palo verde edible flowers

Palo verde (Parkinsonia florida) have also been on the menu. These cheery flowers are in full force here in the Valley now, a welcome addition garnishing our meals. 

foothills palo verde edible seeds

Foothills palo verde (Parkinsonia microphylla) fresh seeds have been a trail nibble as I just missed a more major harvest. Absolutely delicious, and easy to just pop open the pods and eat these nourishing and delicious seeds.

wild foods of baja paipai people

This new-to-me wild food was a gifted experience by Mark Lewis, my new foraging friend. Mammallaria albicans. It was Mark's "gateway wild food", as in the food that got him hooked on wild foods! He grew up in Baja, in his ancestral homelands of the PaiPai people. So much story, so much goodness.  

desert willow infused into water

And finally, desert willow (Chilopsis linearis) has been in glorious bloom. It really makes you wonder how...how can these plants and animals survive in 116° weather? But they do, and it is mind boggling and awe-inspiring. So much to learn, stories to share, but the simple act of participating in the dance of life with them is a great start. 

July 13, 2019

Sow Thistle Surprise

sow thistle (sonchus oleraceus) growing in iao valley

Sow thistle (Sonchus oleraceus) is a wildly nutritious green, this one found growing out of the rocks in ʻĪao Valley on Maui this week. In addition to it's edible leaves, the flowers, flower buds, and roots can all be eaten. Green Deane's Eat the Weeds - Sow Thistle article has wonderful details of its identification and history. The main parts I like to point out are the exaggerated terminal leaflet, which is the end of the leaf is typically large, and that the leaf hugs/wraps around the stem. Sow thistle is found growing along roadsides, disturbed areas where humans have turned the soil like construction sites and as a major agricultural weed (oftentimes more nutritious than the plants farmers are growing for market).

If you learn this plant in Hawaiʻi you will find that knowledge useful if you travel to other parts of the globe as well. It is a blessing to travel to other parts of the globe and immediately, after proper identification that includes a minimum of 3 identifying characteristics, have a wild food you can identify and eat.  

sonchus oleraceus hawaii sow thistle greens

Sow thistle growing in Haiku, Maui, Hawaii. They can sometimes have a blue-green coloration to the leaves.

sonchus gone to seed in hawaii

Sonchus gone to seed in Wailuku, Maui, Hawaii. Stems oftentimes turn purple.

sow thistle (Sonchus oleraceus) large leaves

Greens can vary from mild to bitter, with older greens definitely having more bitterness. Sow thistle can become quite large!

lobed leaves of sow thistle

One leaf of sow thistle (Sonchus oleraceus), which can have varying amounts of spines on them. There is a very spiny one found in Hawaii as well, called spiny sow thistle (Sonchus asper), and the species can hybridize/cross as well.

sow thistle (sonchus oleraceus) flower hawaii

Here you can see it's yellow dandelion-like flower, which is so typical of the Asteraceae Family of plants. This one found growing in Paia, Maui, Hawaii. 

Looking for a super adventurous foraging trip? Learn to identify kahili ginger (Hedychium gardnerianum) by pulling it out for the Nature Conservancy at Waikamoi Preserve. This is a 4x4 only excursions, which they provide transportation for, up on the mountain and a phenomenal way to access this sensitive environment through service. You will see why we are trying to eradicate the kahili ginger, the scope of its threat to our endemics and the importance of tending these biodiversity hotspots. 

July 6, 2019

Foraged Fare

shell ginger edible flowers

Eating these firecracker-like flower parts of shell ginger (Alpinia zerumbet) is an enjoyable explosion of color. Eat the labella, pulling away the whitish-pink perianths, when navigating this harvest. Hawaiian colors!

prosopis pallida harvest in hawaii 2019

The kiawe (Prosopis pallida) harvest on Maui continues to be phenomenal. We now have the remnants of Hurricane Barbara heading this way as a tropical storm. We are all going to welcome the rain, but it does dampen the kiawe harvest. Get out this weekend before they all get drenched and the mold sets in. 

June 29, 2019

WorldWild Podcast Interview

worldwild podcast with sunny savage

What a delight to be in conversation with Miles Irving of the WorldWild Podcast! Take a listen (skip to minute 6 to start of our conversation) as we discuss invasive species, the uniqueness of Hawaii's biodiversity, and our wild future ahead. Miles is the founder/owner of Forager, a phenomenal company that started selling wild vegetables to restaurants in the United Kingdom in 2004 and has since built this network linking foragers with chef's to include over 500 wild ingredients. 

kahili ginger (Hedychium gardnerianum) growing on Maui, HI

It’s kahili ginger (Hedychium gardnerianum) flower season. This is a short-lived season, only lasting about 5 weeks depending on elevation. Take a peek at the flowers and foliage in this video taken at Makawao Forest Reserve last week. Flowers can be dehydrated and made into tea, cooked into onion jam, used as garnish on a cocktail. All the things!

June 22, 2019

How to Make Kiawe Tea

Want a healthy recipe to make with freshly harvested kiawe (Prosopis pallida) beans? Watch the video to see how to capture this naturally sweet goodness.

iced kiawe mesquite tea

Kiawe tea is delicious hot, cold, or frozen. Seen here iced, blended with cat's ear and dandelion root tea, and served with fresh coconut milk. You can also freeze kiawe tea into popsicles, or use the tea to make a rich broth.

June 14, 2019

KIAWE season is HERE NOW!!!

kiawe haole koa side by side

Which one is kiawe?

A. kiawe (Prosopis pallida)

B. haole koa (Leucaena leucocephala)

Jumping up and down over here! Yup, me along with all of those in the know. Have you had a kiawe craving? On a magical night in Wailea, 5 days ago to be exact, while preparing wild salad for 70 in an epic outdoor farm to table experience, I found my first ripe kiawe (Prosopis pallida) of 2019. Did I mention jumping up and down? Allelujah! Since this blessing happened I have driven around half of Maui scouting kiawe beans. Lanai tomorrow and Molokai next week. There is food going to waste on the ground out there. It is time to activate on this harvest NOW. Why?

kiawe harvest maui foraging community

Hot dry sunny days make for great kiawe beans. Although the trees will continue to produce beans, if we have heavy moisture from tropical storms or hurricanes, the beans become moldy. This is the time to store this amazing food, before the hurricanes come! Free food, stored just in time for hurricane season. Get them now! 

Want to learn more? Kiawe is the perfect food for a community cooperative...let's get organizing. We need kiawe dryers in Lahaina and Kihei. And remember, Hawaiian harvesting rights are protected under law, so respect the host culture. We have a window of beautiful weather right now, let's activate and bring in this blessing of sweet abundance.
Get involved --->>> c
ontact spineofstars@gmail.com

June 7, 2019

Hoja Santa (Piper auritum) Wild Yeast Starter

False awa (Piper auritum) wild yeast starter

Do you love fizzy drinks? Looking for a 100% local wild yeast to kickstart your fermentation for wild sodas? False awa (Piper auritum), also called hoja santa, is an incredible new discovery in my wild kitchen. This crazy invasive provides plenty of fizz from its flowers/inflourescences, recipe coming! Jar on left showing bubbles forming after just one day. Jar on the right has the milky color change and bubbles on top that indicates it's ready for bottling.
Want more info on false awa? CLICK HERE

The wild isn't some far away place, it's all around us. This video shows several wild food plants found growing in my garden, right now. Work on identifying them, maybe they're in your yard too!


And, thanks to the Maui Times for the mention in this weeks article ::
Lost & Found : Reflections on technology, nature and wilderness

June 1, 2019

How Not to Kill Yourself Foraging

Release of FREE Guide on Plant Identification

how not to kill yourself foraging free guide


Today is the release of an offering I've been so excited to share. A great compliment to my book Wild Food Plants of Hawai'i, this project gave me the opportunity to provide more detailed information on plant identification and a resource list for digging deeper. Visit our homepage to :: 

 → •  Click here, or image above, to DOWNLOAD NOW  • ←

foraging paia maui hawaii

Plant identification hike in Paia on May 31st, 2019.