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Learning The Roots In Haloa Challenge

Daniel Anthony (above) demonstrates the traditional way to pound taro into poi at dozens of markets, fairs and events around the island. This photo is from the 2011 Haleiwa Taro Festival. Now the Kaneohe resident is conducting workshops in Kaneohe through Mana ‘Ai to spread the culture and the technique among interested residents. Photo from Kamuela Vance.

A 90-day Haloa Challenge already is under way in Kaneohe, but it’s not too late for more residents to enroll and become “poificiant” in the art of making poi out of taro the traditional way.

Led by Daniel Anthony, a Kaneohe resident and head of the family business Mana Ai LLC – which he runs with his wife, L. Anuenue Punua, and three children – the challenge consists of four weekly, hands-on workshops. Students are provided with four pounds of kalo (per session) plus all the equipment and tools necessary to transform it into paiai. Paiai is unfermented, undiluted taro ground by hand with a traditional lava rock and wooden board.

“Come clean and positive, go home with good food,” Anthony said. Simple as that. Those who complete the workshop are then able to purchase organically grown Hawaiian kalo at $4 per pound raw/frozen, or $5 per pound cooked.

Each workshop costs $40 and averages three hours in length. A four-week series of workshops covers the history and meaning of Haloa, the taro plant and its varieties, beneficial bacteria, styles of pounding, the cooking process, impactful laws of the land, equipment and more. A final, two-hour session consists of a test and assessment. Those who complete and pass this, Anthony explained, are then able to attend more workshops and waive the fees.

The workshops are meeting in Kaneohe every Sunday at 7 a.m. and 3 p.m. during the makahiki season, and will conclude in January. For more information and to sign up, call Anthony at 542-1326.

Haloa refers to taro as the elder brother of humans – the connection between all Hawaiians, between people and nature.