The First Sweet Potato

Late last fall I put a new vegetable bed into use. After several years of accumulating compost and shoveling cinder soil I actually have something like real soil in a large enough quantity to call a vegetable garden.

One of the first things planted were sweet potatoes. Deb and I love the local purple sweet potatoes. The Okinawan variety is a favorite through the islands and has become a staple on our table as well, usually purchased from local growers at the farmers market.

Knowing that these are pretty easy to grow I gave it a try. I planted a ten by ten area with half a dozen slips and arranged a soaker hose that runs on the automatic drip system. It was not long before I had green foliage popping up. The potato patch certainly looks healthy enough, the plants thriving in the Waikoloa sunlight. The patch quickly became a heavy tangle of vines with pretty white and purple flowers.

Sweet Potato Tuber
A single enormous Okinawan sweet potato tuber from our garden.
This weekend I finally decided to do a trial run at digging up a plant to see what I have… To my stunned amazement I have not a pile of little tubers, but one giant tuber right underneath the main plant. What the heck is this?

This thing was huge, six inches long and five inches in diameter, weighing several pounds. There was enough in this single tuber for several meals!

Consider the usual Okinawan sweet potato is an inch or two in diameter and four or five inches long. Why is this so different? The starting stock for my potato patch was quite typical, just a few Okinawans I had bought at the farmers market and set aside for planting. I expected to get much the same out of the ground, not this giant.

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A Walk in the Park

Several hours without transportation. My vehicle is in the transmission shop for a checkout, have been having some rough shifts. Stranded for the morning without wheels in the old industrial area I had no intention of sitting in the shop’s waiting area for a few hours.

Old Airport Beach Park Kona
Looking down the old runway at the Old Kona Airport Recreation Area
Just up the coast from the old industrial area is a large beach park. Called Old-A’s or Old Airport, it is the site of the original landing strip just north of town. Abandoned when the jet age rendered this airstrip far too small. The area was used for a while as a drag-strip, the old airport was eventually converted to a park. The old terminal building was renovated into a multi-use pavilion. The old runway is still there, now an enormous parking lot that fronts the rocky shoreline along one side and a community garden on the other.

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A Stroll in the Garden

My mother is on island, escaping the cold and grey of Portland for a week. An excuse to visit the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden… Again.

Ginger
A white ginger (Alpinia purpurata) at Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden
I have visited the gardens several times across our years on the island. The garden is a beautifully maintained array of tropical plants collected from across the globe. Set in the lush jungle of the Hamakua coast above the pretty Onomea Bay the gardens are always a treat to visit.

Onomea Falls
Onomea Falls at the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden
I admit plants are pretty, but the dizzying array of botanical specimens leaves me just a bit overwhelmed. Yes, it is yet another pretty orchid. I love to study the local plants and animals, but this collection from all over the world lacks much organization, having little focus. No matter, my main interest in visiting is to have fun with a camera and take advantage of the many photographic opportunities of these beautiful gardens.

Of course, being a tropical rain-forest it rained for our visit. I have never actually managed to visit the gardens when it was not raining. Still, the soft light of heavy overcast and the drops of water on leaves and flowers are just another photographic opportunity.

As my mother and Deb wandered around talking plants, I wandered nearby with a tripod and an umbrella borrowed from the entry station. I did come up with a few pretty photos. Not a bad day for a stroll on the garden.

Escargot Anyone?

A wet winter and spring has brought changes to the Waikoloa area… Green pastures and hills around the village, an enormous crop of weeds in the yard, uncountable cockroaches and gnats, and these guys… Giant African snails.

They are everywhere I look in the yard, in the corners and under any debris. They get caught out by the sun to roast on the driveway, or crunch beneath vehicle tires. The compost pile is snail city, with dozens visible and more underneath the detritus. They get big too, the specimen photographed below was nearly six inches long when crawling along.

I understand that folks in some parts of the world eat these guys. I jokingly brought a handful to my wife one day and let her know I had dinner planned. She did not think the idea was a good dining choice. I have to agree with her, I am not really tempted.

Giant African Snail
A rather large giant African snail (Achatina fulica) in the garden