POIPU — “Mahalo na Kupuna no ka ulu kaulana, Mea ai ono no ke au nei,” the voices of students filtered through the serene Sunday morning.
Those words chanted by students of the Kanuikapono Ike Hawaii Hui thank ancestors for the gift of the breadfruit, a delicious food for the world to enjoy. The mele, “Ulu Kaulana — Famous is the Breadfruit,” was penned especially for the festival by Mauli Ola Cook.
The aim of the Breadfruit Festival is to revitalize the breadfruit as an attractive, nutritious, and culturally-appropriate food that addresses Hawaii’s food security issues.
Hundreds of people enjoyed the first Breadfruit Festival hosted by the National Tropical Botanical Garden’s Breadfruit Institute at the NTBG South Shore visitor center.
“The parking lot was filled,” said Teddy Blake, one of the guest presenters at the festival. “I don’t think I have ever seen that many cars parked in that area by the roundabout.”
Rhoda Libre, another of the festival participants, was grateful there were breadfruit tree varieties available for people to purchase.
“We had a big tree at our house when I was growing up,” said Jerry Ornellas, president of the Kauai Farm Bureau, who was volunteering at the event. “We always had breadfruit to eat.”
Joshua Fukino of the Kauai Community College Hawaiian Studies program was helping Jerry Konanui of the Big Island in creating ulu poi.
“It’s a good thing you folks have this festival, or I would not be here,” Konanui said. “They paid for my ticket. Otherwise, it’s just too expensive so I would not come. My children, they travel everywhere, but the tickets are just too high.”
Another Big Island practitioner, Shirley Kauhaihao, described by the announcers as an ulu practitioner, joined Chef Sam Choy in discussing the selection and preparation of ulu before Choy took over with a variety of ulu dishes.
Heifara Aiamu might not have been in the spotlight, but was the star of the event, sharing his ulu, cooked over an open fire, with people through Aunty Stella Burgess who talked about the history and legacy of ulu.
“This is how they cook it in Tahiti,” Aiamu said, turning the ulu with an improvised tool fashioned out of a hau branch. “When it’s done, you need a special stick to get the skin off to enjoy.”
The day-long event, generously spiced with helpings of food, samples and presentations centering around the breadfruit, was presented by Hooulu ka Ulu — Revitalizing Breadfruit, a project of the Hawaii Homegrown Food Network and the NTBG Breadfruit Institute.