Duane Cline, a freelance photographer, was kind enough to share some photos he took of our gardens last month. You can see from the photos we've shared below and the additional shots Duane posted on his website, that there are beautiful flowers to witness year round here on Kauai! Here's what Duane had to say about his experience in our gardens:
"My wife and I and a couple of our friends toured the gardens during our trip to Kauai last month (10/17/2013). We thoroughly enjoyed the gardens; with the wide range of exotic plants, beautiful layout and the opportunity to taste a range of chocolates - including the wonderful chocolate produced on-site. It was one of the highlights of our trip. Our guide, Tewa, was great and her enthusiasm and knowledge added to the experience."
Hailing from Orange County, California, Erik and Vanessa visited Kaua'i for the first time this fall. On October 1st, they took a tour with our guide Tewa, and they just sent us these pictures this past week. Erik tells us that Tewa gave a very engaging, informative tour that they thoroughly enjoyed. Thank you, Erik, for taking the time to share your experience! Erik's gallery has a lot of fruit pictures, including one we haven't seen much of on this website - the jackfruit (Artocarpus heterophyllus)! There is no closeup, but you can see Tewa talking about the big orange fruit that lies cut upon on a rock. Some people claim jackfruit is the basis for the original flavor of Juicy Fruit gum. It is very closely related to breadfruit (Artocarpus altillis), which appears at the end of the gallery. Breadfruit - or ulu in Hawaiian - has been an essential staple of South Pacific cultures for centuries. Read more about it at the Breadfruit Institute.
Tewa, one of our delightful guides, wanted to share some of the flowers that have been in bloom recently and that are currently in bloom. The images at the beginning of the gallery are probably still flowering, including the gorgeous Silk Floss tree, Coral Aphelandra (one of Bill's favorites), and the honeycomb ginger. Costus igneus is a delicate, short-lived bloom native to Southeast Asia. It is sometimes called the "insulin plant," because its leaves have been shown to have hypoglycemic properties (read one of the studies here). At the end of the gallery are a couple photos of the stunning Pride of Burma, Amherstia nobilis. These pictures are a month old, but we have high hopes for the trees having a second major bloom set this season. In the past couple of years, they have been outrageous!
You'll also find a picture of some of the fruit you might taste on one of our tours. Currently, samples include dragonfruit, papaya, starfruit, avocados, honey tangerines, longans, and Robertson naval oranges!
We hope you enjoy the pictures!
Melissa visited Princeville Botanical Gardens in August and was kind enough to share some of her beautiful photos. She lives in Riverside, California and this was her first time ever to Hawaii! We are very honored that she chose to spend some of her precious vacation time in our gardens. Melissa says photography is a hobby she enjoys for its artistic form of expression and that close up botanicals are her favorite subject. It can be easy to lose sight of a specimen in some of our natural settings, but Melissa captures the essence of these plants very well.
Many of these flowers and fruits are still on display if you come on a tour soon. If you've taken photos of our garden that you would like to share, please let us know. There's nothing better than seeing our gardens through the eyes of our visitors.
Lily, a friend of our wonderful neighbors, visited Kauai this last summer with her family and took the time to tour our gardens with our guide Steve. She was kind enough to share some of her pictures (some of which are not of our actual gardens, but are worthwhile anyway) and her thoughts on her experience:
Ever since I can remember I have come to this place and treasured it as my family’s special home away from home. The first time I came I was around 2 or 3. I have been back 4 or 5 times since then but never with a camera. Now that I’ve got a one it’s been a blast to take photos. A highlight was definitely the botanical tour. Bill and Lucinda happen to be our next door neighbors and a good friend of ours happens to be a tour guide, so it was super fun to go on a tour that felt like exploring our own backyard, eating chocolate and fruit, and just having a good time. This trip has been incredible, as usual. Hiking, swimming, waterfalls and just being in this gorgeous island soaking up the summer and loving life.
We get a lot of inquiries during the rainy months about whether or not our tours are still operating. It's a reasonable question given that Kauai is a contender for the wettest place on Earth - Mount Waialeale in the center of the island has had recorded rainfalls of 683 inches in one year! Well, Elaine Lee visited Princeville Botanical Gardens this last winter and was kind enough to share some photographs from her rainy day tour. We think Elaine's picture collection is a nice testament to how much fun people have in our gardens, even if it's wet. Of course, the rainfall on the North Shore is both a blessing and a curse. We are in the wettest area of Kauai and this means our plants do get plenty of water with anywhere from 80-100 inches of rain per year. However, just as in the Amazon rainforest, the heavy rains also deplete soil nutrients by washing away topsoil into streams, and ultimately into the ocean. Not only do we have to constantly replenish the soil with natural amendments, but the heavy rains preclude us from growing plants that cannot handle that amount of moisture. There are some beautiful native plants and unique sub-tropical specimens that we would love to cultivate, but we would probably just end up rotting their roots and killing them.
If you're willing to brave the weather, a rainy day can actually present some unique photo opportunities, which Elaine's professional eye captures well in this gallery. Elaine shared her photos with us on Facebook. Like and follow our Facebook page to get the latest updates on our gardens and to share beautiful photography like Elaine's.
Click on the link below to see Elaine's full gallery. We've included a few pictures in this blog post of our favorites, including a nice juxtaposition of the Ti plant's flowers and fruit.
We have been sorely negligent of our blog and social media for the past year. Fortunately, this wasn't due to a lack of business, but rather too much to handle! We've reorganized a lot in the last year, with new guides, new office staff, new plants, and even new areas of the garden.
We also passed our official 2 year anniversary in June. Although we opened to the public in 2010, we did not receive our Special Use Permit until June 2011. This summer, the Kauai Planning Commission reviewed our permit and extended our hours and tour options. While our schedule is still limited, we hope the new rules will make it easier for us to share our gardens with even more visitors.
With all these changes, we decided to update our website. For the time being, it functions the same as the old site, but the new one will have better mobile functionality (still in the works) and a better gallery navigation. We also plan on adding an online tour reservation and payment feature in the next month or two, which will make both our guests' and our lives much easier. If you have any suggestions for features you'd like to see on our site, please let us know.
Princeville Botanical Gardens is also expanding its social media presence. While our Facebook page has been fairly neglected for the past 2 years, we still managed to rack up nearly 150 likes just from the extra special visitors who sought us out.We've had very passionate fans insist that we must join Pinterest, so we did. We're still getting the hang of it, but we're eager to start sharing our beautiful photography more often. Of course, we also have the obligatory Twitter account, so follow us there to see our latest pins and Facebook posts.
We've already added new pictures to the galleries, like this small collection of photos of our healthy honey hives you can see below. Send us your own pictures and we'll add them to our visitors' galleries.
I think we've posted a picture or two of our African Nutmeg (Monodora myristica) in the past, but the tree has only given us a couple flowers in the summer the last two years. This July, we are enjoying the first major, full set of flowers covering our specimen.They are gorgeous. If you come to our gardens in the next week or two, you should still see these. The African Nutmeg is not the culinary spice plant, though apparently the fruit is sometimes used in the place of nutmeg in African dishes. We are not getting any fruit set. The flowers are natively pollinated by the scarab beetle, which probably muscle their way into that central chamber to get at the pollen. Our flowers fall off the tree before they open completely and expose their stamen and pistil.
The first picture below is a full shot of the tree--those are the fresh, young leaves re-forming on the tree. It dropped all its leaves, bloomed, and started to re-foliate. They will eventually turn thick and waxy and green.
There are a lot of scented bloomers in our garden right now, and I wanted to share some photos of our magnolia varieties. All of them are in bloom right now! Magnolias are some of the oldest flowers around. They evolved before there were bees, and so have a rather primitive flower structure. They originated millions of years ago in North America and separately, in Asia. We grow mostly Asian varieties, though the one below is a dwarf variety of the beautiful tree you'll find all over the Southern United States.
Earlier this year our Coco Magnolia bloomed for a short period of time, but it is showing new buds again! The first picture I took on my phone one morning while the flower was still open. The second picture was later that same day after it had closed up. The third is the next day, when I found the remaining bundle of petals on the ground. I was amazed the petals didn't separate, but fell off like a porcelain urn.
The next photo is known as the Banana Shrub (Michelia figo), because of its distinctly banana candy scent--it is almost too sweet for my liking! We have two of these slow growing shrubs. As of this season, they both have bloomed. You might still see a few late flowers on this plant if you come this week.
Perhaps my favorite Magnolia bloom is our Pak Lan tree (Magnolia x alba). The pictures below are of our larger specimen, with white blooms. We also have a yellow variety which is probably the original Magnolia champaca. In the afternoon and evenings, the aroma of these flowers fill the valley. Our trees will probably remain in bloom for the next month, so come check it out!
Caryota gigas, known as the “Giant Fishtail Palm” or “Caryota King Kong,” is a monocarpic palm, meaning it blooms just once in its life and then dies! Our Giant Fishtails flank our Anini Stream valley, providing a beautiful palette of texture when seen from afar and towering above when walking amongst them. One of ours is in bloom now! Check out the giant, 4+ feet dangling flower cords: they look like dreadlocks or braids. the open flowers are gorgeous, creating a vivid tapestry that is very attractive to the bees. In one of these pictures you can see another young green bloom peeking out behind the open flowers on the other side of the tree--those probably won't open until this fall. It looks like we have a lengthy bloom on our C. gigas, and we will be enjoying blooms for months to come before the plant sadly dies. With any luck, those bees will have done their job and we will be able to harvest viable seeds to propagate more palms to take this fella's place.
Our larger, more robust Medinilla magnifica blooms more frequently and has been in the ground a while. It's also showing off right now:
We also have a little orange once keeping the M. magnifica company, but it's still small and just hanging in there:
It's official! Princeville Botanical Gardens will now be sampling our homegrown and homemade organic dark chocolate during the chocolate tastings on our public tours, three days per week. For the time being, we believe we are the only place on the island of Kauai where you can try 100% Kauai Grown Chocolate! Hopefully, that will change in the future, as we know many people who are actively planting large cacao crops. It was my (Jason) first experience processing chocolate, and though I've known for a year what goes into the processing, actually getting your hands dirty (or shall I say chocolatey) and doing it yourself provides a whole new perspective on the process.
It is a bit complicated, very delicate, and quite time consuming. Over this last weekend (July 29-August 1), it took 3 people 8 hours (and a lot of waiting) to churn out a little more than 7 pounds of chocolate!
If we were to actually sell our homemade 2 oz bars, we'd have to ask somewhere around $30+/bar to cover our costs. Yikes! Chocolate processing is economical only on the large scale, which is why farmers in poorer countries have to sell their beans to a cooperative that does the processing in much larger batches.
I filmed every stage of our process, and so hope to have a short video of the process, from "bean to bar," within the next month or so. It takes a lot of editing, though, so please be patient. Below, I will provide just a few pictures and an abbreviated narrative of the steps of the chocolate processing.
1.) We had already fermented and dried many batches of beans which we stored up until we had the time to turn them into chocolate. The fermentation takes place at a low temperature, as does the drying.
Fermentation is the most vital part of the chocolate process. You can develop amazingly unique, gourmet flavor notes if you can perfect your fermentation process. On the flip side, fermentation is so delicate, one misstep and your entire batch is ruined!
2.) The dried beans are roasted at 250 degrees Fahrenheit. You don't want to over roast your beans--it will ruin the flavor! However, you don't want to under roast them either, or they won't be quite dry enough and won't grind quite as well.
The main purpose of roasting is to further release flavor notes and create a more robust flavor that will come out in the finished bar of chocolate when it is mixed with sugar.
3.) Instead of getting small children to winnow our beans, and because we cannot afford a multi-thousand dollar winnowing machine, we have created our own system for separating the chaff (husks) of the beans from the cacao beans. Below, we first run the dried roasted beans through a "Crankosteen" which basically crushes them, leaving us a mixture of chaff and nibs.
4.) We need to separate the husks (chaff) from the nibs which will become our chocolate so we've improvised the system below. Air blowing up from one side, blows the light weight husks out one end, while allowing the heavy nibs to fall down on the other.
5.) We take the resulting nibs and push them through our Norwalk Juicer to churn out a peanut-butter texture paste, known as the "cocoa mass" or "cocoa liquor." Sampling this and we can begin to taste the sort of quality we can expect from our finished bars.
6.) Large scale manufacturers will press this cocoa mass to separate the solids (cocoa cake, to become cocoa powder) from the liquids (cocoa butter, the fats and lipids that become an additive in chocolate bars, for white chocolate, and as a popular cosmetic ingredient nowadays).
We don't have enough to justify this separation so we mix our cocoa mass with sugar and put it into our melange (below). We made about 79% dark chocolate: 79% cocoa mass and 21% dried organic can sugar.
This melange, with its polished stone wheels ran for almost 3 days straight, all weekend long, making the chocolate mixture creamy and smooth and releasing more heat and enzymes, changing the flavor again. Our melange is a modified rice grinder from India.
7.) After 3 days of grinding, out comes our beautiful liquid chocolate:
8.) Now for tempering, perhaps the most demanding and scientific process that can be done in the modern kitchen. It can take a lifetime for a confectioner to perfect their hand tempering technique. Tempering is a process of manipulating the temperature of the chocolate mixture to ensure the correct types of cocoa butter crystals form, while eliminating unwanted types of cocoa butter crystals.
When this is done correctly, the tempered chocolate has a longer shelf life, has a nice beautiful outer glossy texture that we all appreciate in a bar of chocolate, and because of tempering, the finished bar will snap apart firmly rather than crumbling soggily.
I'll get into the details of this process when I put together that video I promised. We take our hot chocolate and use a chilled marble slab to temper it to the right temperature:
9.) We pour the tempered chocolate into our moulds...
10.) The molds are put in the refrigerator to let them chill and get the cocoa butter crystals to contract, thereby releasing the bar naturally from its mold. And voila! Our finished bars:
BEAUTIFUL! And of course, there is a lot of mess to clean up after all of that. The crew is so busy keeping the chocolate at the exact temperatures that cleanup while you go is almost impossible. But cleanup can be fun, too....YUM:
Interested in tasting some of our chocolate? Unfortunately, we will not be selling this chocolate commercially in any form. However, if you come on our tour, offered three days per week, you'll participate in our small gourmet chocolate tasting and get to sample a small morsel of our homemade dark chocolate! We look forward to hearing from you!
Ahonui Botanical Gardens is full of exotic medicinal fruits and plants from around the world. Phaleria macrocarpa is a particularly potent medicinal that has been used in India and Indonesia for hundreds of years. The people of Indonesia call it Mahkota Dewa, which translates directly to "God's Crown." Our specimen has been producing fruit for the last couple of months on the slopes of our Sacred Valley. It is still a small shrub (see below), but will eventually become a small tree, perhaps 20 feet tall in this particular location on a relatively steep slope.
Its fragrant little flowers (second picture below) eventually give birth to the bright red fruit (third picture). The fruit starts dark green and matures into the almost maroon color when mature.
For medicinal treatments the fruit, leaves and stems are used. The fruit is extremely poisonous when raw and must be prepared for human consumption. Generally, this is done by grating or shredding it and then drying the material for use as a tea. It's properties are amazing. Native populations have used it to counter diabetes, liver diseases, vascular problems, high blood pressure, and cancer.
Modern research into it has proven its ability to control cancer, impotency, dysentery, hemorrhoids, diabetes mellitus, allergies, liver and heart disease, acne and high cholesterol. It contains anti-histamine, antioxidant and anti-cancer substances.
We have not yet begun to process plants such as God's Crown, but in the coming years we hope to harvest our medicines and store them for use as teas or tinctures.
The shrub is still small and so is a little hard to make out, with the green on green. If you look careful, you can see a little red fruit hidden in the lower branches.
Phaleria macrocarpa flower:
God's Crown or Mahkota Dewa:
Our Acerola Cherry Tree (Malpighia emarginata) is loaded with fruit right now. It seems to have two fruiting seasons: the fall and the late spring. We've been having a wet spring and early summer, so the cherries continue to ripen even as we approach the Solstice. I'd suspect they would be done by now in a warmer year. Our spring season is producing way more cherries than last fall's bloom. The tree originates in the West Indies and Northern South America, but today can be easily found and cultivated throughout the tropical and sub-tropical world, including Southeastern North America.
The Acerola Cherry is delicious! The birds, of course, love them, and so often you pick the cherries a little young, making them slightly tart. For this sourness, in Asia, they are popular to process into chutneys and pickles. Allowed to ripen completely, however, and they are quite sweet and juicy with just a mild tartness. Inside are three triangular pits, which are difficult to propagate.
These cherries are extremely nutritious. The Acerolas can have 32 times the Vitamin C content of an orange! One cherry is often enough Vitamin C content for your daily needs. On top this the cherries are loaded with Potassium, vitamin A, Magnesium, antioxidants and lots of other good stuff. For this reason its great for the immune system. Other properties make it helpful in treating headaches, diarrhea and dysentery. Enjoy the pictures...
You don't have to look very far in the tropical garden to find things you'd never imagine. Here are two "miracle" plants with very different claims to fame. The “Miracle Tree” is an excellent example of how little we are aware of alternative sustainable food sources. The properties of Moringa oleifera, and the entire Moringa genus, are astounding.
Every part of this tree is edible, and weight for weight it has more vitamin C than oranges, more vitamin A than carrots, more potassium than bananas, more iron than spinach, and more protein and calcium than milk!
The leaves are the most widely consumed part, especially popular in the Philippines, where they are often treated like spinach and used in soups. However, all of it can be eaten, and supposedly tastes delicious—the flowers like mushrooms and the seedpods like asparagus when cooked! It can even be processed into an olive oil alternative!
The photo to the left is a young Moringa oleifera planted on the top of our terraces. This will make it easier to top and harvest. This is already three times the size it was when we planted it five months ago! Below on the right is a close up of the elegant foliage.
These trees may grow quickly, but they only live 10 years at the most. Below you can see an older specimen we let grow much larger (See the slender base next to the yellow arrow? Now follow that up to the tuft of foliage 20 feet above!).
Nevertheless, this specimen is less than a year old and was about 18 inches tall when we planted it last July! Below that is an okay photo of it's flower. Fruit has not set yet. Check out this nursery in California for more information, or to get your own seeds.
If you continue to scroll down, you will see two photos of the "Miracle Berry" shrub. Synsepalum dulcificum is part of the Sapotaceae family, home to other curious plants with useful fruits or chemicals, like various sapote fruits (where Chiclet gum originally came from!) and Shea Butter.
The Miracle Berry has a chemical called miraculin in it, which blocks the sour and bitter taste bud receptors on your tongue. After eating this tiny berry, the most sour lemon will taste like pre-sweetened lemonade. Anything tart is suddenly bursting with phantom sugars. This sensation can last up to an hour!
This shrub grows very slowly and likes tropical, warm climates with fast draining soil. If you're lucky and happen to visit on a day these berries are ripe, you're likely to experience this miracle taste sensation yourself!
Moringa oleifera flower
Miracle berry shrub above and ripe berry below.
There are a lot of pictures to enjoy in this first set of blog posts from our original website. Enjoy!
Silk Floss Blooms!
Last week the first of our five Silk Floss trees blossomed for the first time!
Soon, the whole tree will be covered with these large blossoms that are very attractive to butterflies.
Ceiba speciosa is native to South America, and I’ve read that no two trees have exactly the same color flowers…we’ll have to wait to see if that’s true.
When not in bloom, the tree is imposing, covered in gnarly spikes that are actually used to store water during dry seasons.
Sorry for the poor picture quality, this was taken on an iPhone–we’ll post some better quality shots when the tree is really going off!
2nd Silk Floss Bloom
A second of our 5 Silk Floss (or Ceiba or Monkey No Climb) trees bloomed for the first time last week.
I mentioned before that I’d read no two trees have exactly the same color bloom, and indeed our tree that bloomed first is a dramatically different hue and shade of pink. Here’s some pictures of both for comparison.
I prefer the newer ones with the deeper pink and darkly flecked yellow center. The last picture is a wide shot of the tree–it’s trunk is covered in sharp stiff points which will go away when it gets much older. Those spines store water in case of drought.
Other New Blooms
A month ago our Lancepod trees (Lonchocarput violaceus) started to bloom, and now they’re in full swing with beautiful violet flowers that stretch along the tops of the spidery, unkempt branches.
Also, our Indian Cork Tree (Millingtonia hortensis) has been blooming again in the past month. These white flowers blossom at night, and I caught some shots this morning while some were still open.
They are wonderfully fragrant; sometimes it’s called Tree Jasmine. The soft bark of the tree is sometimes used to make a type of cork in Asia.
A Few Fruits
A number of unusual fruits are developing throughout the gardens right now.
First, it looks like the fruits on our Areca catechu palm are almost ripe, meaning we could harvest Betel Nuts if we wanted! Those who have visited less developed countries in the tropics may have seen old men in the streets of a town or city with rather hideous red stained teeth and a vacant look in their eyes.
They chew the nut of this fruit, traditionally wrapping it in a Betel leaf (a different plant in the pepper family) with lime and clove or cardamom or some other spice.
Chewing the leaf and nut together are mildly stimulating like drinking caffeine, though the nut is addictive and carcinogenic, sometimes thought of as the Asian equivalent of chewing tobacco. In fact, chewing betel is more popular than chewing gum worldwide, used by 5% of the population!
Next, we have some atemoyas developing on the side of Lucy’s Park. Atemoya is a cross between sugar apple and cherimoya, all in the Annonaceae family and Annona genus.
The inside of these fruits is white and deliciously sweet, with a creamy custardy texture you scoop easily out with a spoon. Soursop, which some may be familiar with, is also in the Annona genus, but I like Atemoyas and Cherimoyas a lot more.
Our tree is loaded right now, more than 2 dozen!
Last, our Anatto pods are growing amidst a few late blooms (Bixa orellana). These spiny red fruit pods will split open when ripe revealing a bunch of seeds surrounded by a red powder called bixin, a non-toxic and tasteless dye.
This is the dye that was used originally to make margarine yellow (and therefore more butter-like) when it was first created. It is also used to die the rinds of cheese.
Sometimes called the Lipstick Plant in South America where natives traditionally used the endemic plant to die their lips, or mixed it with oil and applied it to the skin to repel insects. Bixin is being used more and more as people eschew artificial dies.
It makes a particularly good replacement as very few are allergic to it.
We really have a lot of different flowers blooming right now!
The lack of rain and continued sun seems to be encouraging things left and right. The first picture below is of our Madre de Cacao or Gliricidia sepium. These delicate little pink flowers with a yellow spot on the upper petal base are flourishing in the inner, shady canopy of the tree, protected from the sun all day.
Gliricidias have a number of different common names around the world, but it earned Madre de Cacao for its usefulness when planting cacao (chocolate) trees, which need shade and wind protection especially when they’re young.
Gliricidia grows very quickly, providing shade for a newly planted orchard, and also grows thickly and can be easily pruned to create a living fence. It also makes good fodder for livestock and the roots and bark can be used as a rat poison!
Below our Gliricidia, you’ll see our Cat’s Whiskers (Orthosiphon aristatus var.), which has a bunch of these conical flowers with delicate white whiskers with faintly purple ends. It’s not an uncommon flower, but it’s awful perty.
Finally, at the bottom is a variety of the Wrightia religiosa, which I’ve read is sometimes called Water Jasmine. These shrubs can get large, but are often pruned as bonsai and held sacred by Buddhists, often found in Japanese temples.
These delicate little blooms are intensely fragrant, and have been showing up here and there, one at a time, for months now. The last few weeks is the first time we’ve had a whole handful on the recently planted specimen at once.
Look out for more frequent blog posts in the new year, including videos and our own homemade chocolate processing!
Here is a review of some of the Vireya Rhododendron blooms we’ve seen in the last six months. This is a tropical variety of Rhododendron with many different cultivars…
Brownea’s First Bloom!
This stunning and unusual flower only lasted 2 days before it wilted and disappeared. This is the first bloom ever of our Brownia macrophylla, also known as “Jamaica Flame.” It is named after Dr. Patrick Browne, an Irishman who wrote “The Natural History of Jamaica” in 1756. Hummingbirds love this one!
We almost missed getting these pictures, and so don’t have any shots of the flower before its fully open. As is typical of the young Brownea tree, this one is still low, spreading its foliage close to the ground. It hasn’t yet gained much height, but when it does the leaves will do a better job of protecting the flowers from the heat of the sun.
This may be why our single flower didn’t last very long…