Thursday, December 4, 2014

Sustainable Eating - Veggies

One of the difficulties I see people around me having in their quest to achieve sustainability is changing their food preferences to items that can be grown locally. Many people around here have moved to Hawaii from the mainland, and of course have brought their mainland diets with them. Even the locals here are hooked on imported foods. So when gardeners are learning to grow food, they naturally want to grow the things that they are use to eating (sorry to inform you, but pasta and pizza don't grow on a bush) like garlic, melons, zucchini, squashes, cauliflower, cucumbers, sweet corn, sweet peppers, asparagus, etc. The reason I'm mentioning these is that here in Hawaii they are very difficult to grow even for an experienced gardener. Plus some of their usual foods are those not normally seen in a garden, such as rice, sesame, soybean, and wheat.

I'm often asked for instructions in how I grow those difficult crops. Or how to force crops to produce out of their season. For example, gardeners often want bulb onions or yacon year around, but the plants won't do that. While I will give suggestions, I usually pair it with the suggestion of utilizing those local crops that normally grow well. Regretfully the suggestion is often just politely cast aside. (sigh...) But at least I might have put the idea into their heads. 

To achieve a sustainable diet here in Hawaii without investing in expensive screen houses and greenhouses, I find it easier to switch to veggies that I can grow. So that's exactly what I've done on the homestead -- grow more of the things that grow well here........and learn to cook with them.

...pipinola, in place of summer squash - the stem tips are edible too as a green
...sweet potato greens, in place of spinach
...New Zealand spinach, in place of spinach
...edible gourds and luffa, instead of summer squash
...landrace pumpkins, instead of winter squash
...garlic chives, in place of garlic
...salad burnet, in place of cucumbers in salads onions, in place of bulbed onions

Plus utilizing unfamiliar but easily grown crops is a major step, too. 
...Okinawan spinach
...a wide selection of Chinese greens
...rat tail radishes. They are great in stir fry when picked at 2" in length. 
...local edible ferns

Some crops that grow easily here are not commonplace in the supermarkets. But they are worthy of learning how to eat.
...swedes (rutabaga) 
...white beets
...Portuguese cabbage
...turnip greens 
...winged beans
...edible gourds
...yardlong beans
...pipinola greens

In order to be sustainable, self sufficient, or "grow your own", I have to be flexible. And I have to be willing to try something new and unfamiliar. That's not an issue with me......but......hubby isn't all that flexible. He'd rather stick with things that he grew up with. So it's a struggle to get him to try new things and actually like them. Most of the new foods I can sneak into salads, stir fries, soups or stews. Most of the time he doesn't even notice them. About they only 'strange" new veggie he'll eat straight up is fried taro chips. He doesn't know it, but I often use puréed taro in soups and gravy as a filler and thickener. Sssshhh, don't tell him. 

Changing what gets put on the dinner plate is a giant hurdle for people who want to live a more sustainable or self sufficient lifestyle. Plus being Homo sapiens, by nature we don't like change. But I've learned that in order to achieve the lifestyle I'm aiming or, then change I must.......except for those two luscious meals out each week. Every Saturday morning I hear the bacon call my name! 


  1. I agree with most of your observations, but I had great success in the Upcountry of Maui with all kinds of tomato varieties, especially those wonderful yellow pear type (all year long, loads of them), I got onions and garlic to bulb, peanuts were terrific, potatoes were large, including Yukon Golds. Strawberries, cucumbers and lettuces flourished under Reemay (unless the wind was able to snatch it off), and even sweet corn, after I built a very strong windbreak (it matured right after we moved, dang it). Nothing said Maui better than stepping out the front door and reaching up to pick a perfectly ripe Sunrise papaya. We had a huge fig tree that fed all kind birds, lots of upright rosemary, oregano, sage, cilantro, and even a coffee bean bush that set its first crop four years after planting some Kona var. beans. I tried to get good oranges (not too great(, but limes, lemons and mangos were doing well even with those hairy tradewinds. We were at 1200 ft elevation, so maybe that helped. If I had more room, I would have tried melons, again with Reemay or Agribon during the darker hours, or hand pollinate, like I did for the small patch of sweet corn (too hard to get those little sacks on the tassels and silks, and I never got to taste it).
    Mind you, I failed lots of times, but I studied soil science intensively as I was watching the soil pH and amendments constantly. Compost truly is black gold! I was also doing a continual succession planting, sometimes going to the garden stores to get transplant-size stuff if my seed starts were lagging. It would have taken a lot more space and supplies to be mostly self-sufficient, but we got out of Hawaii for other reasons. I'm still adjusting to gardening in the Pacific Northwest at a lot slower pace.

  2. Hope your new gardening venture us a good one. You'll be able to grow many of the things that I can't here. Have fun!

  3. Fineartgourds wrote via email.....
    "no one has told these mainland waifs the reason they have fresh veggies out of season is those products are being shipped in from Mexico or Chile, where they are grown using US illegal pesticides and harvested by Peon labor! No one "forces"an onion to bulb, they just plant it in Argentina where they have summer in December! They also store for many, many months under proper conditions of moisture and refrigeration.... Oh no, I only eat them Fresh, from the store! I have a new set of letters to go with lol; how about ADL," about died laughing"....