Poi Pounding Implements Canoe Plants | Maui Ocean Center

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Hawaiian Canoe Plants: Poi Pounding Implements

Canoe plants are plants brought to the Hawaiian Islands by Polynesian voyagers who arrived centuries ago. These plants played an important role in the survival and cultural development of the Hawaiian people.


Canoe plants can be found all across the Hawaiian islands, from botanical gardens, to cultural sites, and even along hiking trails. When you visit these locations, you as a visitor will appreciate the resourcefulness these Polynesian explorers brought with them to Hawai’i.


Interested in learning more about Maui’s plant life? Reserve your spot on our Hawaiian Culture and Botanical Tour and dive into our island’s flora today.


Taro Corm (Kalo)

This versatile canoe plant has a delicious edible root, and once fully cooked, it can be transformed into various dishes including savory paʻiʻai (mashed taro), the iconic poi (pounded taro paste), and sweet kūlolo (pudding).


Taro Leaves (Lau kalo)

Taro leaves became a flavorful wrapper for fish, kalo, limu (seaweed), and other root vegetables, all steamed together to create lūʻau dishes.


Coconut Bowl of Faux Poi (Poi)

This is the result of processing kalo in the traditional way by pounding the corm with a pohaku kuʻi ʻai (poi pounding stone) and adding water. Poi is a paste-like substance that was a staple food in the traditional Hawaiian diet along with fish and limu (seaweed). Poi is still found on the modern dinner table and at lūʻau throughout Hawai’i.


Coconut Shell Bowls (ʻApu)

Polynesians brought the coconut palm (niu) to Hawai’i, utilizing its naturally watertight and heat-resistant shells (ʻapu) for holding food like poi and drinks like awa (kava root tea).


Limpet Shell (‘Opihi)

Limpet shells, known as ʻopihi, weren’t just decorations but also played a vital role in preparing a staple food paste called poi. The rough surface of the shell was perfect for scraping the outer layer of kalo (taro root) before pounding it into the smooth paste. (It even came in handy to scoop poi once finished.)


Poi Pounding Board (Papa kuʻi ʻai)

Traditionally made from native hardwoods like koa, these large, flat wooden boards are specifically designed to withstand the pounding that breaks down cooked taro root into a smooth paste.


Poi Pounding Stone (Pohaku kuʻi ʻai)

Traditionally carved basalt pohaku kuʻi ʻai, with a knobbed head (pōheoheo) and rounded base (mole), were gripped by the kūʻau (neck) and used alongside the kaʻe (side ridge) to break down kalo (taro) or ulu (breadfruit) to add to dishes.

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