Category: Fall 2014

Foraging Hawai’i With Sunny Savage

Story by Kristen Hettermann

Photography by Sue Hudelson

“Food is such a great way to bring people together… we gather, we share, we commune.”

Sunny Savage can walk anywhere in nature, look at the natural plants, and create a meal. She calls herself a forager.

Sunny’s world is nothing short of a brilliant energy, nourishment and creative abundance. It’s hard not to be captivated by Sunny’s gorgeousness, as she gushes about the healing properties of the weeds growing in her garden. “Did you know elderflower plant and berries shorten the average viral infection from 7 days to 3-4 days?”

It’s easy to latch on to Sunny’s captivation with the huge diversity in plants and the many cultures, textures and flavors to be explored. Committing one hour a day to food harvesting and processing, her daily foraging is a practice of humility, gratitude and sharing. “The plants and I share the earth…its atmosphere and its water,” she say. “We share a moment in time together while I’m out there foraging. I sing them a song and they dance in the breeze. I think positive thoughts while harvesting and they nourish me.”

Sunny feels that every moment as a forager is an opportunity to think about the broader implications of our relationships with our plant friends and how best to peacefully coexist. She has dedicated her life to campaigning on behalf of wild greens and their bounty of micronutrients, phytonutrients, and fiber.

Coming from a “back to the land” family in Northern Minnesota, this visionary didn’t take long to hit the road. At the age of 18, she landed a job running a kitchen at McMurdo Station in frosty Antarctica. Years later, she found herself in Africa working with the Pygme Folks through a USDA Grant to introduce wild foods in gardening projects. By the time she was 30, Sunny had ventured to every major continent and held a resumé that boasted a Bachelor of Science Degree in Dietetics and a Master’s Degree in Nutrition Education, with a focus on the antioxidant properties of wild greens.

“I grew up close to nature—with a respect for nature. Some of my fondest childhood memories include tapping maple trees and harvesting wild berries,” says Sunny. “I received inspiration from my mom, who taught us a lot about medicinal plants, about making tinctures and salves that cured all of our ills. I knew from an early age that going to nature was the answer for optimal health.”

While she was filming her TV series Hot on the Trail with Sunny Savage in 2008, Sunny traveled by RV and motorcycle through 17 states visiting state parks and wildlife refuges. The show currently airs in the U.S. and can be found in markets in Eastern Europe. “My goal has always been to educate as many as I can about wild foods and to share my passion. There is incredible fun in getting outside and recognizing how to eat these gifts that are just waiting to be unwrapped!” Sunny’s Hot on the Trail tour took her to Maui and Kaua‘i, where three episodes were filmed. She rented a room for her project base in Maui, where she fell in love with her landlord, Ryan Savage. Their love affair took her around the world on yet another adventure.

“It was my husband’s lifelong dream to sail around the world,” says Sunny. The couple made plans to go on a sailing adventure like none other, exposing Sunny’s first son, Saelyn, to the world at large. Leaving Maui in August of 2010, Sunny and Ryan picked up their sailboat in Florida and circumnavigated around the Caribbean. Starting in St. Lucia, they sailed through the Caribbean chain to northern South America, Colombia and the Caribbean side of Panama, then back up to Florida via Honduras and Mexico. “I am a forager at heart, so I was always looking for new and old plants to play with,” says Sunny. “I was able to learn about many new plants, as well as share my own knowledge with hundreds of others.”

Some highlights? Teaching the Kuna that cattails were edible. Preparing several wild food dishes while presenting at the University for Peace in Costa Rica. Sharing knowledge with rastas in Dominica. Tending a permaculture farm gone wild. “I nibbled my way through many countries…tasting their wild side.”

Foraging Hawaii at

Back on Maui, Sunny and Ryan decided to have a child, and a short year after the return from their adventure, little Zeb was born. In describing the honor in motherhood, Sunny’s face melts as she talks about her service to her newborn son. “He smiles and it melts my heart. Nourishing myself is nourishing him.”

Sunny is adamant about raising her little one with wild foods. Babies can start with poi and stewed wild greens. Kiawe flour and edible flowers are wonderful additions for growing keiki, and Jamaican vervain flowers (Stachytarpheta jamaicensis) are great little flowers for children to utilize. “Our children learn through example,” says Sunny. “Eating a bio-diverse diet, full of different colors, smells, flavors and textures, sets the nutritional foundation of a healthy life.” And the uses of wild foods don’t stop at eating. Baby Zeb is often dressed in handmade bamboo onesies with wild nettle and milkweed fibers dyed with wild coyote brush.

Sharing is a major theme at the Savage home, as Sunny, her family and their Woofers all work the land daily. Her terraced, permaculture-style garden going far into a gulch has over 30 weeds and plants harvested weekly for food. “Nature is so abundant that I oftentimes find myself with more than my family and I need. Our property has 11 people living on it, so sharing the abundance feels good and is integral to community building.”

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So what’s up next? Sunny is releasing Wild Food Plants of Hawaii, a self-publishing effort covering several wild food plants of the Hawaiian Islands, as well as her personal manifesto on the importance of eating wild foods in the face of punctuated global change. Once the book is finished, Sunny is moving toward editing an inspirational film about her family’s trip through the Caribbean. In addition, she is excited to find new combinations of plants for her medicinal clothing line, and will continue teaching and strategizing about the use of wild foods here on Maui and for our global family.

“I relate to aloha. I feel it. I live it. I teach it to my children. Love of my fellow brothers and sisters, love of the ‘āina, and love of the Ha‘ikū mist that blesses us and brings rainbows.”

To buy Sunny’s upcoming book:

For more information on Sunny Savage:



Pass The Pa’i’ai – Bound by Invisible And Profound Ties

Story by Shannon Wianecki

Photos by Sue Hudelson

When food is served family-style, you can tell who grew up with a passel of siblings: they’re the ones hawk-eyeing the dish as it’s passed from person to person. They calculate how many spoonfuls remain while ladling heaping portions into their neighbors’ bowls. Around the dinner table, I notice two opposite reactions in myself and those beside me. First, a mixture of impatience and anxiety. What if there is not enough? Because we’re adults and mostly mature, we’ve learned to quell the inner child that might tantrum if we don’t get as much as the others did. I have never gone hungry; I have no reason to worry that the bowl will be scraped clean before it reaches me. But just as often, I worry about those after me. Will they get enough?

Which gives rise to the second reaction: selflessness. Almost invariably, dinner guests take smallish portions, and leave something in the bowl. No one wants to be the one who empties the dish. And somehow, despite (or maybe because of) this self-deprivation, everyone leaves full. It reminds me of the parable when Jesus fed 5,000 people with just a few fish and loaves of bread. The more people shared, the more there was to share.

Last spring, Kāne‘ohe taro farmer Daniel Anthony asked Edible Hawaiian Islands to help fund the documentary, “I am Haloa.” The film, which is in post-production, follows three Kamehameha School seniors as they cultivate, harvest and eat taro three meals a day for 90 days. As the young women travel across the archipelago working with farmers and chefs, they root themselves in their native culture. For Hawaiians, taro is not only a dietary staple, it’s their eldest brother.

Our publisher Dania Katz knew immediately that she wanted to support the students’ effort. But rather than writing a check, she sponsored a benefit in the spirit of the film: a taro-themed supper. “I decided to feed the community,” says Katz, “to share how eating together can uplift a neighborhood or support a need in the community.”

When Travaasa Hana jumped in to co-sponsor the event, agreeing to host chefs, organizers and media at the five-star resort, everything fell into place. The dinner’s setting couldn’t have been more apropos: on the eve of the 22nd annual East Maui Taro Festival, at the resplendent Kahanu Garden. Just outside of tiny Hana town, the garden is home to the state’s largest living breadfruit collection, as well as a Polynesian canoe garden and Pi‘ilanihale Heiau, one of the most significant ancient temples in all of Hawai‘i.

Guests arrived in the late afternoon as the sun gilded the forested hillside. A huge rainstorm had swept the air clean the day before and the rolling lawn was extra green.

I Am Haloa Dinner at

A single long banquet table waited beneath the trees as guests mingled under a tent, sipping cocktails and Big Wave Organics kombucha and enjoying Hawaiian steel guitar music.

Before we sat down, we toured the grounds. Quite by chance, Native Hawaiian cultural advisor and artist Sam Ka‘ai was in attendance and gave an impromptu talk in the canoe garden. He described how his ancestors migrated across the Pacific using the stars as guides and carrying in their voyaging canoes everything necessary for survival: breadfruit, bananas, sweet potato and taro.

Looming behind him, Pi‘ilanihale Heiau stood as testament to a powerful people. Ka‘ai further explained that the Hawaiian word for land, ‘āina, doesn’t just mean acreage, but the fertile soil that produces ‘ai, food. And with that in mind, the procession returned to the mobile kitchen where the chefs had prepared a feast.

Sitting on the grass and dressed in a malo (loincloth), Daniel Anthony pounded chunks of steamed taro with a stone pestle. Every so often, he’d scoop a few doughy clumps onto fresh leaves and his young helpers would scamper off to distribute them in the crowd. In my mind, there is no better food than this. Pa‘i ‘ai has a consistency similar to Japanese mochi: chewy, starchy and satisfying. It’s packed with vitamins and minerals (more calcium and iron than rice or potatoes) and is fit for travel and long-term storage. It’s what nourished the first Hawaiians on their trans-Pacific voyages. When mixed with about three times more water, pa‘i ‘ai becomes poi. But unlike poi, this labor-intensive treat can’t be machine-made. It has to be hand-pounded.

To eat pa‘i ‘ai is to savor a labor of love. Before you can make this Hawaiian specialty, you must first build a kalo lo‘i (taro patch) with sturdy rock walls and fresh stream water flowing through. Then you plant rows of huli (taro starts) in the soft mud. As the shoots grow, you have to protect them from pests: diseases, snails, grazing animals. Nine months later, you can wade into your patch of heart-shaped leaves to yank the fist-sized roots free from the mud. You wash and steam them, and then the fun begins: pounding.

If Anthony is any indication, we should all be eating more taro. His enthusiasm and energy seemed boundless as he methodically mashed the roots he grew into delicious appetizers. His farm, Mana ‘ai, is one of the few in the state that consistently produces pa‘i ‘ai. His family helped legalize the commercial production of this traditional food.

Anthony serves as a mentor to the student filmmakers producing “I am Haloa.” In addition, the young women have apprenticed under top Hawaii chefs to create novel recipes that spotlight taro. Lee Anne Wong of Koko Head Café is the film’s culinary advisor. She flew over from O‘ahu to cook for the benefit dinner, alongside culinary whizzes Isaac Bancaco, James Simpliciano, John Cadman and Derek Watanabe.

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Bancaco is a Maui chef currently on a meteoric rise in the culinary universe. He served bite-sized versions of popular dishes from his restaurant, Ka‘ana Kitchen at Andaz Maui: octopus, smoked meat and Surfing Goat Dairy cheese atop a pa‘i ‘ai crostini; and a sliver of Kona kampachi poisson cru with Hawaiian chili and liliko‘i (passion fruit) suero.

Derek Watanabe, the executive chef at Travaasa Hana, prepared beautiful greens from nearby Mahele Farm, tossed in Kipahulu poi dressing. Wong worked her magic for the main course, using all island-grown ingredients: Maui Cattle Company rib eye with spring vegetables and scrumptious morsels of roasted garlic pa‘i ‘ai. Bright orange nasturtium flowers accented her dish, served on large monkeywood platters.

For dessert, John Cadman presented his signature Pono Pies—nutritious indulgences made with breadfruit grown on site. Each sweet slice incorporated a cornucopia of canoe plants: taro, breadfruit, and haupia (coconut cream), garnished with chunks of purple sweet potato and macadamia nuts. The guilt-free treat was so tasty that people joked about sneaking bites from each other’s plates—though by then everyone’s belly was comfortably full.

The event was a sell-out success, with all proceeds going directly to the “I am Haloa” campaign. Eighty-plus people gathered around the table to share a truly memorable meal, thanks to the many hands that volunteered to help make it happen. The following day, Hana residents shared their treasures with the greater community at the annual Taro Festival. Booths featured handcrafted kapa (barkcloth), homegrown plants, kupe‘e (nerite shell) necklaces, poi mochi and heaping plate lunches. Musicians and hula dancers performed with great heart and sincerity. People from near and far relaxed on the grass, enjoying the entertainment, food and company.

Whenever we sit down together to eat, we’re bound by invisible but profound ties. The lessons we learn during family-style meals can inform us how to manage our natural resources. The ‘āina, the land that sustains us, is ours to share. And according to Hawaiian belief, the natural elements aren’t “resources” at all, but beloved family members.

Behind The Cover – 2014 Fall

If you are a faithful reader of our blog posting Behind the Cover you know that we support our mission statement with each cover selection:

“The mission of edible Hawaiian Islands is to “talk story”: a local term meaning to verbally share stories between visitors, friends and ‘ohana. We intend to share the stories of people who are growing, farming, ranching, fishing, and cooking our food. Our stories will be told through stunning photography, beautiful art and well-written stories that inspire the reader and uplift an entire community.”

The decision to choose the fall issue cover was complex. We felt this image supported our feature story, The Hunter, The Chef. It also follows our theme of SHARE for this issue.

We invite you to feel free to comment. Share with us your thoughts about our cover here.

Fall 2014 Cover

Setting The Table With Maui Culinary Academy Students

Story by Sara Tekula

Photos by Mieko Hoffman

Maui’s best island chefs are side-by-side when it comes to mentoring Maui Culinary Academy students

“We are not creators; only combiners of the created.”
― Ryan Lilly

“On most nights, us ‘old guard’ chefs are fierce competitors. But when it comes to supporting the growth of the ‘new guard’, the up and coming chefs, our walls come down to train and mentor and support.

That is Chef Tylun Pang, Executive Chef at The Fairmont Kea Lani Maui at Wailea, whose culinary career in the Hawaiian Islands spans 40 years. He’s sitting across from me in a conference room, and we’re gathered to discuss the upcoming benefit event he co-founded, The Noble Chef.

The Maui Culinary Academy’s annual Noble Chef gala is now in it’s 18th year, and is the academy’s largest fundraiser. Student mentorship is built into the fabric of the event, and its Pang’s unwavering support of the academy that makes the event possible from year to year.

He continues, “for the ‘old dogs’ in business, it’s a responsibility that comes with the job. Otherwise we don’t leave behind a good legacy. That is what The Noble Chef is all about, the principles it was founded upon.”

Right then, something occurred to me: the culinary arts are not only about flexing great food skills, creating delicious dishes, and wowing foodies with epic menus. A large “piece of the pie”, so to speak, is about chefs becoming custodians of culinary knowledge, and taking on the responsibility to pass that knowledge on to the next generation of chefs.

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It takes patience and a sincere dedication to mentorship in order let someone new in to “your” kitchen, to make room at your side for them, and to openly share your craft. Thankfully, many of our chefs believe that must happen, otherwise, the skills, the traditions, the recipes would die.

Some of the most treasured things passed down from generation to generation are recipes. These days, with the hustle and bustle of work life and the constant struggle to balance it all, there is sadly a decline in food knowledge being passed down within families. This chain has been interrupted, as people are now a lot less likely to prepare food at home from scratch.

In Hawai‘i, many unique recipes have been handed down for generations but have not, until recently, been properly documented. For quite some time, the local food culture wasn’t respected and therefore was not reflected in commercial food establishments. That isn’t the case any longer. As older generations pass behind us, it is our community – especially our island chefs, our culinary school instructors, and now their students – that have kept these cultural treasures on the front burner, and in so doing, perpetuating the stories and flavors of our island ancestors. Now, thanks to them, Hawaiian food culture is celebrated. It’s exciting, it’s more than food. It’s become a movement.

When I ask the Maui Culinary Academy’s program coordinator Chris Speere about “the old guard” passing down food knowledge to his students, he proudly says “It’s been a long journey in reciprocity, and its made a dramatic impact on our students and in kitchens across the nation.”

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Our chefs know that with knowledge comes responsibility, and that in a nutshell is the cycle of mentorship: we share what we know to keep the things we love alive.

It is because of our passionate, seasoned island chefs that culinary students today have the opportunity to taste their collective food future. Under the guidance of their culinary champions, they are not only encouraged to embrace the knowledge, but to also take it beyond the status quo, to take the old recipes to new places. It’s a torch they keep aflame with inspiration, and they carry it forward with them into their future careers as chefs.

Eventually, down the road when they are called on to mentor an up-and-coming chef, they too will feel the “walls” come down, with love.

Noble Chef at

The Farm Is On The Table At Blue Dragon Restuarant

Story by Leslie Harlib
Photos courtesy of Blue Dragon

Taking fresh to a whole new level

Order the Living Salad at the Big Island’s Blue Dragon restaurant, nightclub and spa in North Kohala, and you’ll get a dish so fresh you’ll think the farm was brought right to your table.

Created by Blue Dragon’s Executive Chef Noah Hester, this inventive concoction ($11 on the starter menu) is a little wooden planter box a’bloom with five to seven types of lettuces, edible marigolds and fennel fronds—it all depends on what’s seasonal at the time. Served with the salad is a small dish of the day’s fresh produce, which might include anything from minuscule whole cucamelons to snippets of magenta dragonfruit, and perhaps a fresh ginger and Kiawe honey vinaigrette.

The bouquet of assorted leaves, which flourish in a bed of vermiculite, perlite and special coconut shell potting soil, is designed to share and eat with your hands; you harvest the bounty with a dainty pair of scissors.

“We’re always looking to get things as fresh as we can,” says Hester, who debuted the dish in March 2014. “People are amazed when we tell them produce was harvested that morning from Blue Dragon’s farm. The Living Salad takes the concept of freshness down to the minute.”

Hester sells anywhere between 10 and 30 whimsical salads a night. His concoctions are devised in conjunction with farmer Paul Johnston of Kekela Farms in Kamuela and Hester’s father Ron of Hawi, who hand-makes the planter boxes from 500 year-old mango wood.

“It’s always fun to see how people interact with it,” Chef Hester says. “Just recently we had a family with kids who were playing with iPads suddenly on the edge of their seats, so excited, when Dad was snipping off lettuce leaves and handing them out. They started out not wanting salad, and then they couldn’t wait to eat it. Watching the experience gave me goosebumps. That’s totally what the salad is about.”

Blue Dragon salad at

The Hunter, The Chef

Story by Shannon Wianecki

Photos by Sean Hower

Intimacy with what we consume contributes to our wholeness

The morning had a mythic quality. Mist bathed the southeast- ern slope of Haleakala and a rainbow hovered over the tree line, offering a sort of benediction. Dressed in camouflage, Brian Etheredge threaded through the tall grass followed by his friend and cooking partner at Capische restaurant, Chris Kulis.

Between them, the award-winning chefs had dressed scores of animals, many more than most hunters. Kulis had spent the past few years sharpening his charcuterie skills, buying whole pigs from Ma-lama Farms and using everything from tail to snout to make delectable salami, sausages, meatballs and more. But the chef had yet to dispatch an animal himself.  The gravity of taking a life was not lost on the new father, who left his baby and her mother at home to come along on this overnight excursion.

The hunting trip was a fundraiser. Robin Kean, a commercial property manager and avid hunter, came up with the idea four years ago. Wanting to blend his passion for both hunting and charity work, he figured that a guided hunt on scenic Kaupo Ranch could fetch top dollar as an auction item. To further entice bidders, he contacted Brian Etheredge—owner of one of Maui’s best restaurants and an experienced hunter himself and asked the chef to add a catered gourmet dinner to the package. Etheredge readily agreed. The team has since hosted five charity hunts and raised $16,000 for the Hawaiian Islands Land Trust and Grow Some Good, a school garden initiative.

This year’s hunt couldn’t have gone better.The winning bidder, Jason Davis from Colorado, arrived with his family Thursday night. On Friday, he bagged a big buck, a goat, and a pig—the “Kaupo- Grand Slam.”

“We’re going to need a bigger cooler,” he joked to his wife, Elizabeth, as he and the other men skinned the animals. The hunting party included the Davises, Kean, a few assistant guides and the two chefs.There was more than enough enough for everyone at the Kaupo Ranch cabin, a gracious home built in 1929 and decorated with relics from past hunting adventures.This weekend’s hunters were after meat, not trophies, but when Davis took down a buck with a perfect set of antlers, his smile grew at least five watts brighter.

Axis deer are beautiful animals with tawny, white-spotted pelts. Sadly, they’re invasive pests on Maui. Wild herds grow faster than hunters can cull them and hungry deer ravage island farms, ranch- lands and wilderness areas. Davis was delighted to help thin the population while procuring food for his family. “Axis deer are hunted by tigers in India, so they’re smart,” he said.“It’s a fun, hard hunt. I’m lucky to have great guides.” But Kean, who grew rambling through the back forty at Kaupo Ranch, knew the animals’ habits. He led his party straight into their midst.

Dinner that night was a feast of heroic proportions. Etheredge lorded over the outdoor barbecue like Prometheus, grilling venison shot at the ranch the week before. Flames leapt high as the sunlight faded on the horizon. Inside, he and Kulis maneuvered in the cramped vintage kitchen with ease.

They brought out dish after mouthwatering dish, covering every inch of the massive dining room table. First came platters piled with cheeses and charcuterie: Hawaiian chili soppressata and prosciutto that Kulis had been waiting a year to debut. Then came kale salad with fat hearts of palm and guava vinaigrette, steamy black forbidden rice, red curry studded with Kona lobster, pork ribs slathered in mustard, and a salt-encrusted ‘o-pakapaka caught just offshore.

The Hunter, The Chef on
The chefs used local ingredients to handcraft everything from the pickled fennel agrodolce to the ono brandade, an Old World purée of salted ono, garlic, and potato emulsified with olive oil. It was an overwhelming offering—one fully appreciated by the famished huntsmen.They nearly fought over the venison meatballs. Heaped atop fennel linguine and sprinkled with Parmesan reggiano shavings, the savory little globes were so good that half the table groaned while eating them. Same with the scrumptious trotters, which were “as gluttonous as it gets,” according to Kulis, who made them out of Ma-lama Farms pigs’ feet, tongue and cheek. Elizabeth especially liked these, and requested recipes to take home along with her freezer full of fresh meat. But best of all was the grilled venison loin: as tender and noble as filet mignon, only more flavorful.

The chefs enjoyed the rare chance to pull up chairs and dine with old and new friends.The conversation ranged from exploits in the kitchen to near-misses in the field. Davis expressed gratitude for the wild-harvested food.“I know who touched this meat,” he said. “I know it didn’t sit in a bunch of chemicals for weeks before it got shipped.”

As they ate, they waxed philosophic: meat should always be pro- cured this way, with consciousness and care for the animal and the environment. We are what we eat, and an intimacy with what we consume—where it comes from and how it lived—contributes to our wholeness. Robin reflected on his first hunt, at age 26.“I thought I’d have more remorse than I did,” he said.“But when I was out there, I discovered senses I didn’t know I had. It made me realize that this is something humans are made for.”

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Kean and Etheredge both hunt with bows, having swapped bullets for arrows years ago. Davis marveled that his “Grand Slam” included his first bow kill—a goat he felled with an arrow. Bow hunting requires greater tracking and stalking skills. It’s not as violent; a good shot passes cleanly through the animal with less kinetic energy.“When a gun hunter sees an animal, the hunt is over,” said Etheredge.“When a bow hunter sees an animal, the hunt begins.”

For dessert, he and Kulis shared sweets from The Market in Wailea, their new gourmet deli. Though full, everyone dug spoons into the tiny Mason jars filled with liliko‘i curd, Valrhona chocolate, and dulce de leche. It was well after midnight by the time the bone-tired celebrants drifted off into their separate rooms.
Before dawn broke the next morning, the men set out to pursue their favorite game. Yesterday’s fine haul meant that today’s hunt was pressure-free, a bonus round. Kulis shadowed Etheredge, who stopped to perform a personal ritual before entering the hunting grounds. Removing his gloves, he touched his fingers to the earth. He asked for permission from the land, and those that came before him, to take an animal. He asked for a safe flight for his arrow.

The men followed the sporadic barks of deer through the brush, and soon found a large herd grazing in a meadow.The rut (mating season) was in full force; the bucks were crazed.  The largest males bellowed, stamped and rammed their racks against one another. Though 50 does sounded alarms as the hunters approached, the bucks focused on their fight.

The men stood on a small ridge, a light wind at their back. Kulis hung behind as Etheredge hunkered down into the grass and crawled to the shelter of a nearby tree. He stood and watched a healthy doe skirt the edge of the herd. He drew back his bow.The animal stepped into range.The hunter held his breath and released the arrow. Startled, the herd flew towards the coastline, leaving behind a large doe lying still in the grass.
A nearly invisible blood trail showed that the archer’s shot was true; she hadn’t run more than 15 feet before falling. Etheredge petted the doe’s soft fur and thanked her for feeding his family. Hefting her onto his shoulders, he carried her back to camp.

The Hunter, The Chef at


Acmella oleracea (syn. Spilanthes oleracea, S. acmella) is a species of flowering herb in the family Asteraceae. Also known as the toothache plant. Its native distribution is unknown, but it is likely derived from Brazil and widely grown in tropical climates, such as Hawaii. It is grown as an ornamental and it is used as a medicinal remedy in various parts of the world. A small, erect plant, it grows quickly and bears gold and red inflorescences.

For culinary purposes, small amounts of shredded fresh leaves are said to add a unique flavor to salads. Cooked leaves lose their strong flavor and may be used as leafy greens. Both fresh and cooked leaves are used in dishes. They are combined with chilis and garlic to add flavor and vitamins to other foods.

The flower bud has a grassy taste followed by a strong tingling or numbing sensation and often excessive salivation, with a cooling sensation in the throat. The buds are known as “buzz buttons”, “Szechuan buttons”, and “electric buttons”.

Thanksgiving At The Simeons

Story by Eliza Escano

Photos By Mieko Hoffman

Rooted in authentic regional Filipino cuisine

Chef Sheldon Simeon’s gratitude cup is overflowing. Since finishing Top Chef Season 10 as a top-three finalist and fan favorite, the talented toque has partnered with chef and restaurateur Mark Ellman to open Migrant restaurant in Wailea. The awards came not too far behind, with Simeon most recently securing Food and Wine magazine’s “The People’s Best New Chef Award” in the Northwest and Pacific Division.

Accolades aside, it’s Simeon’s humble demeanor and smile that endear him to both peers and fans. One gets the idea that his successes are merely byproducts of what the two-time James Beard finalist celebrates most: family and the Filipino-Hawaiian culture that raised him.

On Maui, where Simeon and his wife Janice raise their four children, Thanksgiving resembles those of the chef’s younger days. Simeon’s dishes, which are replicated from his father’s recipes, are a delectable and honest study on authentic regional Filipino cuisine, specifically Ilocano.

At a Simeon Thanksgiving, there will be a lot of guts, and it will be glorious. Tripe is stewed with tomatoes, reminiscent of Italian Trippa. Most innards and cartilage are boiled down to a softer texture and flavored liberally with shoyu (soy sauce), vinegar and the essence of bay leaves or a combination thereof. The dishes tell a poignant history of hard-working folks who turned parts that would otherwise be discarded into something comforting and tasty. When one of his uncles puts a whole plate of thinly sliced, vinegary cow skin aside to take home, Simeon considers it the most meaningful approval. “That’s the best feeling,” he said. “I would take that over anything.”

Other less “gutsy” fare is still quintessentially Filipino. Ensaladang katuday is a lovely salad of white flower buds, blanched and mixed with cubed tomatoes and patis (fish sauce). Sweet tocino is smoked pork belly cooked with pohole (fern) shoots. Balatong is a thick stew made with boiled green monggo (mung beans). Simeon adds crispy-skinned lechon kawali (deep-fried pork belly) from Lahaina’s Ilocandia grocery store, bagoong (shrimp paste) and alii mushrooms. The delicious soup is finished with marunggay (moringa) leaves, which the Simeon girls picked from their yard and cleaned.

Warm and melty blueberry mocha, almond cheesecake and bibingka, a Filipino holiday sticky rice pudding, marvelously conclude the extraordinary feast. And ever true to tradition, Simeon picks up an ‘ukulele to wind down a splendiferous evening of gratitude with family and friends.

The Simeon's Thanksgiving meal

Squash And Awe

Article by Sara Smith

Photos courtesy of Anna Peach

Renegade farmer brings one more crop back to Hawai’i

Can a one-woman farm on a scant ¼ acre produce six tons of squash in one year? Yes, and Anna Peach wants nothing more than to share exactly how she’s doing it.

Last spring, after securing a plot in the Lalamilo Farm Lots, an agricultural subdivision in Kamuela, Peach founded her first farm, Squash and Awe. An artist-turned-gardener, Peach called on a year of intensive squash research, countless hours volunteering in urban gardens in New York City, and her family’s six generations of Wisconsin farming for the grit and wherewithal to accomplish her mission: make her super garden a commercial operation.

Six farmers had tried and failed on her parcel, so her first order of business was hand-building its dry, depleted dust into a moist, nutrient-rich soil. Peach bucks tradition by using a no-till method she calls ‘lasagna gardening’: layers upon layers of cardboard, newspaper, fish and vegetable food scraps—all collected for free from local businesses—with garden green waste.

“I soil-build for the worms and microbes, I plant for the bees,” she sums.

Supporting her one-person model, this method requires no machinery, but it does require her to walk her fields—an act key to fostering an intimacy with her farm.

Her next renegade act was planting only heirloom varieties. Onlookers shook their head, saying she couldn’t make it without GMO seed because of pickle worm. “That made me want to find the solution, then share it.”

Anna Peach on

Peach trialed 45 varieties of squash in search of the strongest, tastiest contenders to take to market. While a portion of her farm is dedicated to growing near-extinct heirloom varieties to seed, she’s focused-in on five workhorse varieties that have proved hardy and pest-resilient, including Kikuza and Black Kabocha.

And chefs love them. In a bold move, she secured clientele in advance of her harvest using fruit from her trial plants for initial sales calls into the kitchen of the island’s finest restaurants. Within a hundred days of her initial planting, Peach was making commercial deliveries. Fast forward one year, Squash and Awe is moving 1,000 pounds to market every month. Recently, the Hawai‘i Prince Resort featured a month-long specialty squash menu starring her produce.

The success of her guerrilla farm, as she calls it, is catching national attention. The president of Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds travelled from Missouri to visit her quarter-acre operation. The visit resulted in an invitation for Peach to speak at the National Heirloom Expo this September, an event she calls “the SuperBowl of sustainable farming.”

In the meantime, Peach is busy preparing a quarter-acre expansion and experimenting with varieties of eggplants, a companion planting she’s found to do well with the squash. She continues to grow as much as she can, with excess poundage being stored, donated to local food banks, or composted. It’s endless work, as she puts it, “bringing one more crop back to Hawai‘i.”

Squash And Awe on

For more information, great farming tips, and squash recipes visit


Dinner Roles In The Kenoi Household

Story by Fern Gavelek

Photos by Kirk Shorte

Food fosters togetherness in the Kenoi household

Sitting down at the table and enjoying dinner together as a family is a priority for Hawai‘i County Mayor Billy Kenoi.

“Dinner is the one time a day we all have together,” states the second-term mayor and Big Island native.

Leading full and busy lives, Mayor Billy and wife Takako share the parenting of their three children: Liam, 16; Justin, 14 and Mahina, 12. A flight attendant, Takako travels three days each week and in her absence, Mayor Billy takes over. Fatherly duties include transporting keiki to their activities and supervising dinner preparation.

“Over time, we have developed roles in making meals,” Mayor Billy says. “Takako likes to cook, so she takes over when she’s home. When it’s me and the kids in the kitchen, we work together.”

Family food participation starts with shopping. Typically, after picking up the kids in the afternoon, Mayor Billy takes his brood to the grocer’s or the Kea‘au Farmers Market to source ingredients—unless there’s something already in the works. When kalua pig is available in the freezer, made earlier in the family’s own imu (earthen oven), then one of the kids simply cooks cabbage.

There’s always hamburger in the freezer too to grab and defrost for the night’s meal. Other Kenoi meal-making “starters” are rice, poi and poke.

Justin’s favorite is Hamburger Helper and he readily takes charge of its preparation. “The kids love that; it doesn’t last long around here,” Billy says with a smile.

Another well-received family dish is “gravy burgers.” Prepared with hamburger, cream of mushroom soup, chopped onion, egg and bread crumbs, the recipe involves heating the soup, shaping and frying the patties, simmering the finished patties in the soup and then enjoying atop rice. It’s easy for kids to make.

“I make shoyu chicken, broiled pork chops and grilled salmon,” says Mayor Billy, adding that salmon and chicken are Liam’s favorites. “We always have a salad.”

Fresh fruit is readily available for all to grab, plus chocolate milk, juices, sports drinks and water. “I encourage the kids to hydrate,” notes Mayor Billy, who is an avid surfer and regular recent competitor in island triathlons.

“The kids can be picky; but they are pretty flexible and we have fun,” he concludes.

The Kenoi Family in