Photo: Locally Grown Bananas on Oahu

by Sabra Leomo, RD

Think about the last thing that you ate. Do you know where it originated? For most of us, the answer would be “no”.

Imagine eating an apple banana and knowing exactly what farm it came from. The locally-grown food movement does just that. It connects consumers with food grown in their communities, food that is distributed over shorter distances than those common in industrial food systems.

Sustainable methods of food production have gained attention over recentyears. While there isn’t a consistent definition of sustainability, think of it as being methods of food production that won’t compromise future generations’ ability to produce food.

Some of the benefits of buying locally and sustainably grown food are:

  • Max freshness - Local and sustainably-produced farm fruits and vegetables are often fresher and taste better. They do not require long distances for transport and can be harvested closer to peak ripeness, which means better flavor for you. Another benefit is that fruits and vegetables can contain more nutrients when allowed to ripen naturally versus sitting in a warehouse for long periods of time.
  • Supports the local economy - The money you spend on local food stays in the community and is re-invested close to home.
  • Better for the environment - Locally and sustainably grown foods travel a shorter distance and have a smaller carbon footprint than conventionally grown foods. Local food also helps to preserve greenspace/farmland in your community.
  • Local connection - Local food helps connect you to local farmers and your community. Buying locally means you can talk to farmers and learn what methods are used to grow food.

Due to the climate in Hawaii we are fortunate to have access to locally grown food year round. Hawaii has amazing variety when it comes to produce. Try some of these options that were brought to the Islands by ancient Polynesians who were the original sustainable farmers in Hawaii.

  • Kalo (Taro) - Beyond poi, kalo (taro) can be used in sweet and savory dishes. In general, use it like you would a potato or sweet potato. It can even be baked into crispy chips!
  • Lu‘au - The leaf blades of the kalo plant can be steamed, boiled, or baked and they have a tender texture and pleasant flavor. They also work great as an edible wrap when cooked.
  • ‘Ulu (Breadfruit) - When it is ripe ‘ulu will have a flavor and texture similar to a baked potato. For a smoky flavor ‘ulu can be roasted whole. Steaming and baking also work well for dishes like stews and curry. As ‘ulu continues to ripen it has a creamy texture and sweet flavor that works well for desserts.
  • ‘Ōlena (Hawaiian turmeric) - ‘Ōlena is a wonderful addition to spice up food and can also be used as a natural dye. ‘Ōlena can be cut into chunks and made into a tea that is not only comforting but packs an anti-inflammatory punch.

Taste the difference! Try local and sustainable food that is grown in your community.