Friday, September 26, 2008

A homesteader's godsend: 'Uala

This is an amazing plant.

I think one can be well assured that an earnest planting of 'uala will greatly aid the success of any Hawaiian homestead.

Easy to grow? Well, I'd say it's like farming morning glory. Whack off a 12 inch piece of vine and more or less stick it in the ground. Within a week it will growing. In my research there were some rituals locally involving the plant and a more complicated treatment, perhaps in different areas or climates on the island this might matter. For me, however, that's all it takes.

At this point, the variety I have--the piko type--bears smallish tubers in about six months after planting. Yields per plant are not high, not like potatoes, but you can expect 2 lbs per plant. The plant itself makes up for those yields by easily being crowded in with itself, about a foot apart per plant, and the vines frankly run amok. If one rotate plants by trimming the vines out of footpaths replanting the cuttings it wouldn't take much to produce serveral hundred pounds of useful harvest with very little attention.

It grows, alright. It likes as much sun and water as it can get, but I can't seem to kill it no matter what I do. It is ornamental and an aggressive groundcover that will even choke out grass.

Traditionally, it was one of the two "big" local survival crops and no question as to why. It seems to me that if a small homestead planned on 100 plants, rotation farmed as one went through the stocks, you could supply a significant percentage of a families food with great reliability. It is more or less bug, slug, vog and chicken immune. The small tubers are typical sweet potatoe types, and they get significantly sweeter about a week after they're harvested, which makes it nice to be able to keep some of that "sweetness" under control, if you're like me and not partial to it. It lends itself very well to typical potatoe curry style dishes.

There are quite a number of other uses attributed to the plant, but at this point I haven't personal experience with those--perhaps someone who has can inform the conversation!


damontucker said...

Glad you are learning some of the easier tricks to keep yourself fed.

I just wish I wasn't so spoiled on foods in the mainland that my stomach for some reason just can't handle many of the locally grown produce...which is terrible considering I have so much access to it.

Allen said...

The leaves also make great cooked greens.