Beautifully prepared poi. Photo by A Taste of Hawaii.

If you’ve ever been to Hawai‘i, you’ve probably heard about poi. Poi is a thick paste of pounded taro root, a traditional staple of Hawaiian cuisine. Traditional poi is produced by mashing the cooked corm (baked or steamed) on a papa ku‘i ‘ai, a wooden pounding board, with a pōhaku ku‘i ‘ai, a carved basalt pestle. Water is added to the mixture during mashing, and again just before eating, to achieve the desired consistency, which can range from highly viscous to liquid. As such, poi can be classified as “one-finger”, “two-finger”, or “three-finger” depending on the consistency, alluding to how many fingers are required to scoop it up (the thicker the poi, the fewer fingers required to scoop a sufficient mouthful).Poi can be eaten immediately, when fresh and sweet, or left a bit longer to ferment and become more sour – it then develops a smell reminiscent of plain yogurt. A layer of water on top can prevent fermenting poi from developing a crust.

Ranger Keoni guiding a visitor as she pounds poi. Photo by MyLynn Phan.

At Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park, Ranger Keoni Kaholoaa will oftentimes lead a cultural program or demonstration to the public. On July 10th, a lovely Wednesday morning, Ranger Keoni demonstrated the process of making poi in a three hour program. Visitors were able to enjoy both a visual and hands-on experience, with the opportunity to taste the poi at various stages (very delicious!) or even sit down and pound it themselves.

Ranger Keoni explaining the traditional tools used to make poi. Photo by MyLynn Phan.


MyLynn is currently pursuing a B.S. in Community and Regional Development and minors in Education and Religious Studies from the University of California, Davis. When she is not getting hopelessly lost in the wilderness during her backcountry excursions, MyLynn can be found flameworking reusable glass straws at her University Craft Center or picking flowers bouquets at the Student Farm. She is passionate about sustainability and environmental justice, and hopes to become an advocate for environmental protection through future involvement in governmental policy and legislation. Currently, she works as a Resident Advisor in the student dormitories, where she mentors and guides incoming first year students at UC Davis. MyLynn’s experiences gained from working with and serving the community around her has encouraged her to continue a career path centered around people and the natural environment.

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