ʻUala (Hawaiian Sweet Potato) - Maui Ocean Center
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ʻUala (Hawaiian Sweet Potato)


Common name: Hawaiian Sweet Potato

Scientific name: Ipomoea batatas 

Where to Find: Sea level to 5ooo feet.  More prominent in dry areas with little rainfall, but can grow throughout all the main Hawaiian islands.

Status: Indigenous

Sweet potato is one of two plants that can replace Kalo as a staple food. Unlike Kalo, it is less water sensitive and easier to grow.  ‘Uala was planted in less-fertile soil mounds because the best lands were saved for Kalo.  Both men and women were able to cultivate the species, unlike Kalo, which were restricted to only men.  

‘Uala was eaten in the same manner as Kalo, cooked and cubed or pounded into poi ‘uala (like a mashed potato).  This dietary supplement was consumed in Hawai’i’s drier and more arid areas.  In other places that received more rainfall, it was treated as a famine food – only eaten when Kalo wasn’t readily available.

Did You Know?
There were roughly 50 varieties of ‘Uala documented before European contact, but today there are only about two dozen varieties that can be found.