Kalo – or taro – is the center of Hawaiian culture and cuisine.
This ono food is packed with nutrition and has kept Native Hawaiians healthy for years, both in eating and cultivation.
Maintaining a loi patch requires hard physical work outdoors. And a Hawaiian plate doesn’t taste right without a side of slightly sour poi to balance the saltiness in lomi salmon and moist meat of kalua pig and laulau.
Kalo grows in other parts of the world, including Asia, Africa, and elsewhere in the Pacific. The first Polynesians brought it here by canoe centuries ago. Over the years, kalo patches have given way to hotels, highways, and shopping malls. Waikiki was once a large taro patch. And kalo has been replaced by rice and potatoes as the staple of the Native Hawaiian diet. But kalo is making a comeback. More people these days are growing and eating it. There are dozens of varieties of kalo to choose from.
You can buy kalo in supermarkets, local farmers markets, or direct from taro farmers. But you can easily plant kalo in your backyard to eat or landscape as an ornamental plant. You can grow it on dry or wet land. Ask an expert to find out what variety is best for your use.
Ka Papa Loi O Kanewai
Native Hawaiian Cultural Gardens, University of Hawaii at Manoa
808-945-1562 or 808-956-6825
Waimea Valley Botanical Garden
College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR)