Kiawe – Food!?!


Today in Hawai‘i, the Kiawe tree is known as a thorny invasive pest that puka your slippa, puncture your tire, and is the best barbecue and imu wood. In the recent past it was known as an excellent fodder for all types of animals, and its flowers made the best honey. Our trees are originally from Peru and are known for their sweet pods. In northern Argentina the kiawe (algarrobo) tree has the status of our kalo. It is a mother tree of the desert providing food, medicine, building materials, etc. Here, we are just beginning to discover the true nature of kiawe. We live in Wai`anae on the west side of O`ahu, part of the largest Hawaiian community in the world. Diabetes is rampant here. And kiawe is the most common wild tree on our coast. Kiawe bean pods are a naturally sweet, nutritionally dense diabetic food. It is an amazing gift from mama ‘aina to  our community. It is growing in our backyards, on our beaches, in our lowlands, in our kula lands, waiting to be recognized and received.

Information that the bean pods were an excellent food for people did not come with the first plants that were gifted to the Hawaiian kingdom by Father Bachalot in 1828.

Here in Hawai‘i, other than hungry kids occasionally snacking on the bean pods, it was not eaten by us. In contrast, in Arizona, New Mexico, Peru, Bolivia, Paraguay, Argentina, India, Africa, Yemen, Afghanistan and nearly everywhere where kiawe is native, the dried pulverized bean pods were an ancient, revered, staple food that native peoples depended on to survive and thrive.

Properties and Traditional Uses:

  • Kiawe bean Pod Flour is 45+% fructose and sucrose, <1% fat, 15% protein and high in calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium and zinc. It is also 30+% insoluble fiber which slows digestion down to 4-6 hours, feeding your body in the best way possible- slooowly. This prevents hunger, provides lasting energy and stabilizes blood sugar levels.
  • It is a diabetic-friendly food
  • It is gluten free.
  • Dried bean pods and the flour made from dried pods will store for years.
  • The the leaves of the kiawe tree can be chewed into a poultice and applied to cuts and punctures, killing the pain and preventing infection. We have used the chewed poultice on serious wana (sea urchin) punctures. It relived the pain on contact, reduced the swelling in 10 minutes and neither the pain or swelling returned. It was amazing!
  • Kiawe is a desert tree that can grow in the harshest environment, even in salty water.

Although just 10 years into this endeavor we are well on our way on this “ke ala o kiawe – the kiawe path.” We have learned much and made many friends. We give thanks for our many friends in Wai`anae, in Kawaihae, Puako, Kohala and Niuou, in Kaunakakai, in Kihei and Lahaina, in Waioli, Kekaha and Kalaheo, in Tucson AZ, in Argentina- Buenos Aries, Tartagal, Las Vertientes, Cerro Colorado, Santiago Del Estero, Rio Ceballos, Portand OR., in Hokkaido, Japan- our kiawe `ohana . We are learning every day. We are not experts. We humbly offer you information and our experience – use it, test it, know it for yourselves. “Ma ka hana ka ‘ike – knowledge is in the doing.” And please share with us what you discover about the amazing kiawe.

At this time it is of the utmost importance that we – the kanaka that live with the kiawe and all kanaka that love our ‘aina, our mother earth – learn to feed each other with the mea ‘ai of kiawe. When we become pili or connected to kiawe, then no one, no entity can exploit it.

Kiawe is an amazing tree. It will grow in the most uninhabitable places. In its native land it can live 1000 years. See this YouTube video from Peru about the 1000 year old tree.

Copy and paste the link below to c this excellent video from Peru about kiawe reforestation with native communities.

Journal Article: Four simple steps to turn Prosopis (kiawe) beans into a valuable food and fodder.
By: Pasiecznik, Nick M.; Choge,  Simon K.; Trenchard, Liz J.; Harris, Phil  J.C. (2012) Improving food  security in famine-prone areas using invasive  and underutilized  prosopis trees. Food Chain, 2, (2), pp. 197-206.

Book: Native American Food Plants by Daniel E. Moerman. See pages on Prosopis (Kiawe) as food and medicine. Mahalo Nui to Kim Birnie for sharing!

Kiawe will host sandalwood. On the top of Kaho‘olawe the most healthy replanted natives are growing under the kiawe canopy. It is a kipuka, a nursery tree, creating good soil, partial shade and wind protection for all other plants that grow near it. It is food for people and animals. It is medicine, dyes, cordage, cloth, lumber and firewood. It is such a generous tree! And there are many many thornless trees. Note: all the large old trees at Pokai Bay Beach Park are thornless. And we have started propagating seeds from thornless trees and now have thornless keiki kiawe. While we still have an abundance of kiawe here, let us get to know, use and protect it.

For information on gathering, drying and milling kiawe pods plz see the gathering, drying and milling pages.

Got a motivated group of people- `ohana, church, club, organization, etc who r hot to gather, dry and make kiawe pod flour? We make u this generous offer- send one or two people to visit us and experience with us gathering, drying and milling. Then go back to ur group, gather lots and lots of bean pods, use what materials u have available to dry them, pack the dried pods securely and call us. We will have u send us a sample of ur dried pods. If they r dry enough to mill and u have gathered, washed and dried to our standards, then we will bring our mill to your community, and mill with u and split the flour.

We are the sole producers of kiawe bean pod flour in the Hawaiian islands. We became certified by the Dept. of Health to produce Wai`anae Gold Kiawe Bean Pod Flour for public consumption in July 2013.

`Ai ka me loa`a. Eat what you have. Eat what comes from your `aina.