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Kiawe Trees, No Longer Just A Thorn In Your Slippah

Updated: Sep 23, 2022

When life in Hawaii gives you kiawe, make delicious raw desserts! That thorn in your shoe, or worse in your bare heel or car tire, can no longer be cursed as useless. Oahu based local food producer Wai’anae Gold is changing the way we look at the invasive kiawe tree.

Uses for Kiawe

Kiawe trees were brought to Hawaii from Peru. The wood burns slow and sweet, perfect for barbecue and imu meal preparation. More recently, smokey kiawe blooms have also been appreciated in local honey. It seems that this unassuming tree so prevalent along the coastlines of Hawaii has been highly undervalued as a nutritious food source.

Harvesting an Abundant, Local Food Source

During kiawe pod harvest season (mid to late summer) Vincent Dodge and his ‘bean pickers’ gather mature yellow pods, wash and dry them in the Hawaiian sun until crispy, then grind and mill to a flour. After learning that kiawe is closely related to mesquite and may be the solution needed for those suffering from diabetes in his community, educator, cultural practitioner, and longtime resident of Wai‘anae Vincent Dodge travelled to Arizona and Argentina to learn from cultures utilizing the plant for sustenance. Armed with this ancient knowledge and a small mill, he started grinding kiawe bean pods into flour. Honing his skills, expanding his team and upgrading his equipment, Wai'anae Gold became certified by the Department of Health to produce kiawe flour for public consumption in 2013.

Cooking With Kiawe

Sourcing fresh and innovative plant-based ingredients grown and produced in Hawaii is an integral part of the Choice Health Bar mission. Upon learning about kiawe flour through internationally recognized wild food forager Sunny Savage, Choice owners ordered a bag and started experimenting. They found that kiawe flour created a great crust for raw desserts thanks to the smokey, sugary flavor comparable to a graham cracker. Choice first debuted kiawe crust on a raw lilikoi pie during a multi-coursed raw food dinner with Sunny Savage in 2015. Fast forward to today, you'll find a similar crust topping the recently released ‘lemon kiawe cup’ available in the grab-and-go fridge at all Choice Health Bar locations along with other raw, plant-based desserts (many of which also utilize local ingredients).

Sources and Inspiration for Eating Local on Maui

October 23-29 is the Eat Local Maui Challenge, hosted by Project Locavore. A community-building initiative, the EAT LOCAL MAUI Challenge is promoting the sharing of resources and recipes, getting to know your farmers and neighbors, and taking personal steps towards building our resilient local food future. Prepare for the 7 day challenge with recipes for bars, breads, cakes and beverages using kiawe flour on the Wai'anae Gold website Sunny Savage also leads kiawe foraging and cooking classes Locavore recipes and more on the Eat Local Challenge can be found on the Project Locavore website Follow @choicehealthbar for upcoming locavore and kiawe specials

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