Specialty Crop Profiles

Specialty Crop Profiles

These crops support:

  • commercial and non-commercial plantings of all sizes, including homegardens
  • small-scale commercial operations suitable for family farms and gardens
  • local food production for happier and healthier communities
  • traditional crops
  • integrating trees and crops (agroforestry)
  • community food self-reliance.

Winged Bean Psophocarpus tetragonolobus—Specialty Crop Profile



THE winged bean, a plant virtually unknown six years ago, has definitely

taken off. It is now being grown in more than 70 countries. A thousand researchers

in more than 60 countries receive The Winged Bean Flyer, a newsletter

established to keep scientists abreast of the rapid developments concerning this seeingly miraculous plant. The highly nutritious crop promises to become the soybean

of the tropics, where it alone may do more than any combination of foods to

counter malnutrition.

 Few crops have risen so quickly from total obscurity to the winged bean’s current level of prominence,” notes a new report from the National Academy

of Sciences’ National Research Council, which catapulted the winged bean to international fame among food researchers with its first report on the plant

in 1975.

 Among those who study it, the winged bean is known as ”a supermarket on a stalk” because it combines the desirable characteristics of the green bean, garden pea, spinach, mushroom, soybean, bean sprout and potato. Save for the stalk, virtually the entire plant is fit for human consumption – from flowers and leaves to tuberous roots and seeds.

 Theodore Hymowitz, an agronomist at the University of Illinois who is a

member of the Academy’s panel on the winged bean, said, ”it’s like an ice cream

cone – you eat the whole thing.”

 Its various parts are rich sources of the protein, vitamins, minerals and calories so often in short supply in tropical countries. It is an especially good source of vitamin A, deficiencies of which cause blindness in many

children in tropical countries. The winged bean seed rivals the soybean in quantity

and quality of its protein. Studies have shown that like many other legumes, when combined with corn it has the protein value of milk and can adequately

nourish a protein-starved infant.

 The winged bean plant is a legume that resembles the pole bean. It is a mass of twining, leafy stems that climb as high as 13 feet or more and produce

long, heavily seeded four-cornered pods with winglike projections at each corner.

Its scientific name, Psophocarpus tetragonolobus, is based in part on the four-

sided pod. The leaves are like spinach in taste and nutritive value; the flowers, sweetened by nectar, can be sauteed to produce a food that resembles

mushrooms; the immature pods are like green beans; the immature seeds are like green

peas; the mature dry seeds are like soybeans, and the roots of many varieties

produce tubers like potatoes, but are much richer in protein than the potato, yam or cassava.

 Winged bean tubers can be boiled, steamed, baked, fried, roasted and even

made into chips. The immature pod, the plant’s most popular part, can be eaten

raw, pickled or cooked in water, coconut milk or oil.

 One Indonesian researcher has produced a coffee substitute by roasting and grinding the seeds and has made a tobacco substitute from the dried leaves.

Even the dried pod left after the seeds are removed can be used. It contains about

10 percent protein and has been found suitable for animal feed and as a medium

for growing mushrooms, the Academy report states.

 Like the soybean, winged bean seeds, or beans, can be pressed to extract an edible, mostly unsaturated oil that is rich in vitamin E, leaving behind a protein-rich flour suitable for making bread or cereal. Also, like the

soybean, the winged bean can be sprouted, made into curd (tofu) and tempeh (an

Indonesian fermented bean cake), or made into a nutritious milk-like drink. No new technology is needed to process the winged bean seed since it is suited to

the processing techniques already developed for the soybean.

 To its advantage, the winged bean seed lacks the beany, painty flavor characteristic of soybeans and it contains less of the flatulence-inducing sugars found in soybeans, a temperate zone plant that cannot survive the high rainfall of the tropics. As with soybeans, antinutritional substances in the winged bean seed that may interfere with digestion of essential nutrients are removed by soaking or by treating the beans with moist heat.

 Furthermore, the winged bean can be grown in poor, sandy or clay soils

without added fertilizer because bacteria that grow on its roots are capable of capturing large amounts of atmospheric nitrogen and converting it to a form usable by the plant. In fact, if the winged bean stalk is plowed back after

all edible portions of the plant have been harvested, it will add nitrogen to the soil.

 Researchers have shown that the winged bean can be grown as a cover crop on plantations, protecting the soil beneath coconut, banana, palm, rubber and

cacao trees. It can also be grown together with corn, which matures first and

leaves behind a stalk up which the winged bean plant can twine.

 Perhaps the most amazing fact about the winged bean is that so versatile and nutritious a crop had remained a nonentity for so many years. It has been

grown for generations in Papua New Guinea and Southeast Asia, where it was

considered ”a poor man’s crop,” cultivated primarily in backyards and generally neglected.

 The need to stake the lanky plant, a laborious and relatively costly

process, currently inhibits its cultivation in large acreages. The hope is that, as

with other agricultural crops, genetically short varieties will be found and cultivated as studies of the plant continue. More than 500 types of winged

beans have already been collected in Thailand, 200 in Bangladesh and more than 100

in Indonesia, providing enormous potential for the discovery and breeding of agriculturally useful genetic varieties.

 ”What is known today about the winged bean is roughly equivalent to what

was known about the soybean 60 years ago, shortly before its large-scale

commercial production in the United States,” the Academy report notes.

 The winged bean was ”discovered” by an Academy research committee in 1974 during an extensive search for underexploited tropical plants. Of the three dozen possible crop plants the Academy researchers unearthed, the winged bean was considered so exceptional that a separate report was prepared extolling

its potential as a tropical food source.

 The winged bean grows prolifically in temperate areas but it will not

produce seeds in the United States because the long days inhibit flowering. However, some types that seem to be unaffected by day length have been found in

Thailand, suggesting that the crop might be adapted to the temperate zone. Good seed harvests have been obtained in southern Florida, Puerto Rico and Hawaii,

where its pods are already a choice product in produce markets.

 Though it grows best in areas with very high rainfall, the Academy report

said that drought-tolerant specimens exist. In Thailand in 1979 the worst drought

in the country’s history destroyed the corn crop, but winged bean fields

survived and some plants even produced good seed yields.

 As with all other agricultural crops, the winged bean has its share of enemies, notably yield-limiting viruses and nematodes that have been found in the Ivory Coast, Indonesia and elsewhere. But the stored seed has thus far resisted serious damage by bruchid beetles, the major pests of stored

legumes. The beetles will lay eggs on the seeds, but the larvae die after eating the seeds. If the lethal factor in the seeds can be identified, it might aid in developing effective methods of controlling storage pests of other legumes.

Surinam Cherry—Specialty Crop Profile

Written by Ken Love and Craig Elevitch | 28 December 2012

surnamcherrySurinam cherry, a promising specialty crop for Hawaii.Surinam cherry is a juicy, sweet-tart fruit generally considered “kid’s food” for picking and eating out-of-hand. In Hawai‘i tasting trials of unusual fruits several years ago, chefs were attracted to the strong, resinous flavors Surinam cherry and began developing unusual dishes highlighting it. By developing a market among chefs over a few years, Surinam cherry has increased in price from $1.25/lb to $6.50/lb.


Surinam cherry fruits are usually eaten out-of-hand, but are also often processed into jam, jelly, and relish. The fruit can also be pickled and the juice is fermented in wine or vinegar. Some chefs use the fruit as a base for exotic curry. Whole fruit or pieces can be used in pie, pudding, salad, and ice cream. The leaves contain a pungent oil that repels insects. Infused or decocted leaves have several medicinal uses.


The tree can produce fruit well even in partial shade, and due to its small stature, it makes a good understory tree. Surinam cherry is also planted in hedges, which, when regularly pruned, can become dense and serve as living fences or boundary barriers in edible landscaping.


Surinam cherry sold as fresh fruit is generally harvested when fully ripe as the fruit contains more sugar and less resin. The fruit is edible, somewhat firmer and less susceptible to damage, when the color is orange or orange-red, but has a more resinous flavor. Fruit harvested for processing can be picked as soon as it becomes orange. Chefs and jelly manufacturing companies have expressed a desire for fruit at this stage.

Adding value

Due to the quick degradation of the fruit at ambient temperatures, the faster it can move from field to refrigeration, the longer its shelf life. Fresh fruit packaged for the consumer should be in vented clamshell containers with no more than a double layer of fruit. Packed fruit should be even colored and inspected carefully for defects and possible infestation. Fruit that leaks juice should be discarded or kept for processing. Fruit harvested for sale to processors should be washed. Freshly picked Surinam cherry chilled within an hour of harvest can maintain its integrity in the produce section of a supermarket for up to 14 days.


Surinam cherry is a large shrub that can achieve heights in excess of 8 m (25 ft), although due to its slow growth it can take decades to reach this height. It is often referred to as a tree, A member of the Myrtaceae family, the plant is related to guava, jaboticaba, mountain apple and other members of the genus Eugenia, which includes many edible species. There are two distinct variations found in Surinam cherry, a common red colored fruit and a less resinous dark purple to black, often sweeter fruit. It produces fruit in full sun or partial shade.


The Surinam cherry is a tropical that can be grown in tropical or sub-tropical regions. It can be grown at sea level up to 1,500 m (5,000 ft) in elevation. The plant has a long taproot and can survive periods of drought. The plant thrives in most soils but produces more fruit in deep loamy soil. It is intolerant of saline conditions.

Further information

For information on Surinam cherry culture, pests and diseases, yield, and cost of production, see Love (2007).


Love, K., R. Bowen, K. Fleming. 2007. Twelve Fruits: With Potential Value-Added and Culinary Uses. College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, Honolulu, Hawaii.

Original source of this article

This article is excerpted by permission of the publisher from:

Elevitch, C.R., and K. Love. 2011. Farm and Forestry Production and Marketing Profiles: Highlighting value-added strategies. In: Elevitch, C.R. (ed.). Specialty Crops for Pacific Island Agroforestry. Permanent Agriculture Resources (PAR), Holualoa, Hawai‘i. © Permanent Agriculture Resources http://agroforestry.net/scps

Lychee—Specialty Crop Profile

Written by Yan Diczbalis | 26 July 2012

Fresh lychee at Kona farmers market.Fresh lychee at Kona farmers market.The principal product derived from lychee is fresh fruit. In production areas where the quantity of fruit harvested exceeds demand, a range of processed products is produced that includes: whole in-shell and peeled dried fruit, processed and canned fruit, purees, and drinks.

World commercial lychee production is estimated to exceed 1.8 million metric tonnes (MT) with the bulk of world production occurring in China (1.0–1.3 million MT). Exporting countries include China, Taiwan, Thailand, South Africa, Mexico, Mauritius, and Australia. Export of lychee into the Pacific islands is minimal with Tahiti importing small amounts from Australia. New Zealand currently imports small volumes from Thailand and Australia. In Hawai‘i, 2008 production was 105 MT which was sold at an average price of $6.05/kg paid to the farmer (NASS 2009).

Small-scale production

Fresh lychee fruit is eagerly consumed by many people is well known for its flavor, juiciness, and texture. Lychee can be well suited, where favorable climatic conditions exist, to small-scale production particularly where there is no competition from large commercial orchards or cheap imported fruit. This is particularly relevant on Pacific islands, where air shipping has become very expensive.

lycheeatgeorges1Bagging lychee fruit in order to improve fruit quality.Variety selection and plant spacing should be considered to allow high density planting. Recent plantings on commercial farms in Queensland are at densities of 600–700 trees/ha, which is considerably higher than a traditional density of 100–200 trees/ha. At high densities, yearly heavy pruning is undertaken after harvest to keep the trees small.

Adding value

The real value of lychee is for its fresh fruit, particularly in a market that is not oversupplied. The production of lychee for processed product is unlikely to be economic unless high volumes of fruit are available. However a number of specialty products have emerged from production regions where fruit is produced in excess to demand. These include lychee wine and or mixed tropical fruit wines with lychee as a base.

Use in the Pacific

IMG 2905Lychee preserves.The distribution of lychee in the Pacific is limited to island groups north or south of 20° latitude. Lychee does not perform well in tropical zones. Hawai‘i and New Caledonia both have small commercial production areas that produce fruit for the local and tourist communities.


Lychee has a minimal contribution to the nutritional health of pacific communities given its limited distribution and commercialization in the Pacific. However, where it is produced it offers an important healthy fruit alternative to the community.

Original source of this article

This article is excerpted by permission of the publisher from:

Diczbalis, Y. 2011 (revised). Farm and Forestry Production and Marketing Profile for Lychee (Litchi chinensis). In: Elevitch, C.R. (ed.). Specialty Crops for Pacific Island Agroforestry. Permanent Agriculture Resources (PAR), Holualoa, Hawai‘i. © Permanent Agriculture Resources

Cacao—Specialty Crop Profile

Written by Prakash Hebbar, H.C. Bittenbender, and Daniel O’Doherty | 26 June 2012

 R0Y3386C-CElevitchHigh quality chocolate production can be done on a small scale.Popular worldwide, chocolate and many other products are produced from the fruit of the cacao tree (Theobroma cacao). Two of the main commercial products obtained from the specially processed beans of cacao fruit are cocoa liquor and cocoa butter, which are mixed with other ingredients such as sugar and milk to produce chocolate. When cocoa liquor is pressed to remove most of the butter, the resulting press cake when dried is called cocoa powder (10–25% fat), which is used in beverages, cakes, and cookies. Cocoa butter also has applications in cosmetics and soaps. In certain countries traditional beverages are also consumed locally made from processing cocoa beans at home. The white, sweet and sour cocoa pulp surrounding the beans in their pod is extracted to prepare beverages.

Cocoa production in Pacific islands is relatively small, with Solomon Islands being the largest producer (5,000 MT or 5,500 t), followed by Vanuatu (800 MT or 880 t) and Samoa (500 MT or 550 t). Production in Hawai‘i in 2009 was estimated to be 18 MT (20 t) on 20 ha (50 ac).

Agroforestry/interplanting practices

 MG 9950-CElevitchCacao-banana-pineapple multistory planting in South Kona.Cacao farms are established often in thinned (Brazil, West Africa) or cleared forests (South America, Asia) or intercropped with other tree crops such as coconut (Cocos nucifera), rubber (Hevea brasiliensis), or fruit trees. When being established in fallow land, cacao seedlings (ca 1,000 trees/ha or 400 trees/ac) are planted under temporary shade of banana or plantain or leguminous tree crops such as Gliricidia sepium (called “madre de cacao” in Spanish, meaning “mother of cacao), Inga spp., and Albizia spp. Shade intensity is a critical factor for successful establishment and fruit production. Cacao trees are prone to wind damage and their cultivation often suffers in tropical trade winds as well as in cyclone-prone areas. Shallow-rooted shade trees that are not firmly anchored can also cause damage by falling on cacao trees.

Value-added processing

Small-scale chocolate processing

Bittenbender and Kling (2009) present an annotated pictorial of harvesting, pod cracking, fermenting, drying, roasting, cracking, winnowing, and chocolate making for small-scale producers. Briefly, the process is as follows. After drying to 6–8% moisture (seed coat and seed can be crumbed by hand) the seed is stored for at least one month at ambient temperature in a insect proof container such as a plastic bucket with fine mesh screen over the top to exclude insects. The seed is then roasted in a convection oven at 135–150°C (275–300°F) for 30–40 minutes for darker, more chocolatey flavors, and 15–25 minutes for fruitier flavors. Alternatively, it can be gently stir fried in stove-top pan. An aroma of baking brownies should be noticed. Stir seeds while roasting to ensure uniform roasting. After seeds have been roasted and cooled, they can be crushed with a rolling pin on a counter top, in specialized hopper crusher, or even in a coffee huller. The goal is to crack the roasted seeds into pieces of shell (testa) and nib (cotyledon). If the pieces are not too small, the shell and nib can be separated using a simple winnowing process. Winnowing can be done by gently pouring from a bucket to a drop cloth or pan using natural breeze or wind from a fan, hair dryer, or vacuum cleaner. Separating out the shell is essential as the shell pieces do not have a good chocolate flavor or texture.

XR0Y5243-CElevitchA wide range of value-added products can be made with cacao, in addition to specialty chocolate (Kona Origins, South Kona).Next, the nibs are ground into a thick paste, called cocoa liquor, which is mixed with cocoa butter, sugar, and other ingredients such as milk powder, depending on the type of chocolate desired. To achieve a smooth mouth-feel, this mixture is finely ground in a special machine called a melanger over a period of 6–72 hours. The heat of friction keeps the molten chocolate warm during the conching process. The final process is tempering, which is a controlled-temperature cooling while stirring to cause the chocolate to crystallize into in a form that has optimal texture and appearance (see photos next page).

Other value-added products

The Indonesian Cocoa Research Institute (ICCRI) and Cocoa research Institute of Ghana (CRIG) have developed various products such as jelly, soaps, cosmetics, cattle feed, and manure-based fertilizers from cocoa. Technology transfer from Indonesia of low cost methods to process cocoa should be explored.

Cocoa pulp is extracted using low cost machines in Indonesia, Brazil, and Ecuador and used to make drinks. Cocoa jelly is made from the first day’s sweating (drippings from fermentation heaps) during the fermentation process. Alcoholic drinks can also be made from cocoa sweating.

Cocoa husks are rich in potash, which should be returned to the cocoa fields after composting. Soaps are also made from ash of pod husks. Animal (cattle, pigs, poultry) feeds can be mixed with ground up cocoa husks.

Original source of this article

This article is excerpted by permission of the publisher from

Hebbar, P., H.C. Bittenbender, and D. O’Doherty. 2011. Cacao (Theobroma cacao). In: Elevitch, C.R. (ed.). Specialty Crops for Pacific Island Agroforestry. Permanent Agriculture Resources (PAR), Holualoa, Hawai‘i. © Permanent Agriculture Resources

Chili Pepper—Specialty Crop Profile

Written by Hector Valenzuela | 26 May 2012

"Hawaiian" chili pepper.“Hawaiian” chili pepper.Chili peppers are consumed fresh or in a variety of processed products in many cuisines worldwide. They are used as condiments or spices to add flavor or pungency to dishes. Use in processed products has increased dramatically in recent years. In the U.S., salsa sales now surpass ketchup sales, reflecting on the popularity of Mexican dishes. Chili peppers are used medicinally in Latin America and Africa. In many countries, chilies are part of the daily diet. Some cultivars are also used as ornamentals.

In many regions where chili peppers are widely consumed, they represent one of the few, if not the only, vegetable added to the diet to provide flavor, spice, and variety to grain- or root-crop-based diets. Their consumption represents a major source of vitamins and minerals in certain regions. Processed chili peppers are found in a variety of products including main dishes, meats, salad dressings, dairy products, beverages, candies, baked products, snack foods, salsas, hot sauces, and even in ice cream. Extracts are also used in pharmaceuticals, as medicinals, and in cosmetic products.

Bird peppers (such as the popular “Hawaiian” chili pepper in Hawai‘i) can be pickled when green or ripe and the ripe fruit is used in hot sauces or ground and used as a seasoning. “Chili pepper water,” which is consumed as a condiment in rice, eggs, fried foods, and cocktails, is among the most popular uses for bird peppers in Hawai‘i. Bird peppers may also be combined with other milder but flavorful chili pepper varieties to create a more nuanced flavor profile in dishes. Peppers are estimated to be grown on over 1.7 million hectares (ha) worldwide. Major producers of peppers include China, Turkey, Nigeria, and Mexico.


Chili peppers are suitable for planting in intercropping or agroforestry systems. They may be grown in alley cropping systems together with tree species such as Leucaena. In tropical regions chili peppers are also commonly interplanted with other vegetables or green manure crops. Competition for nutrients and light determine the performance and yield potential of chili peppers when grown in intercropping systems. An example of an agroforestry system used in soils with low fertility is the modified shifting-cultivation system used in parts of Indonesia. After growing a number of bamboo species for several years to build up the soil fertility and then clear-cutting, the open fields are planted with several intercrops including chili pepper, lab lab bean (Dolichos lablab), bitter melon (Momordica charantia), sweet basil (Ocimum basilicum), and cassava (Manihot esculenta). Similar shifting or slash-and-burn systems are observed in southern Mexico, in which cash crops such chili peppers, corn, beans, and squash are grown for a period of 1–2 years after the fields are cleared of trees and vegetation.

Small-scale production

Chili peppers are well adapted for production levels ranging from a few plants grown in a kitchen garden to small- to large-scale production. Because it is a labor-intensive crop, many small farmers may only be able to handle small plots. Some farmers may be able to grow unique or unusual cultivars for sale to local restaurants and hotels or for direct sale to consumers at local farmer’s markets.

Possible ways of processing chili peppers include dehydration via ovens or solar drying, the preparation of smoked chilies (such as the popular chipotles or smoked Jalapeno peppers from Mexico) or by pickling, roasting, and in salsa. The Serrano-type peppers are popular for salsa.

With some of the small hot chili types, the green fruit is used for pickling, while the ripened red fruit is dried for use as seasoning and often used in soup, stew, sausage, as well as in a host of Asian and Pacific dishes. When used as seasoning, peppers are usually dried and ground. To improve the flavor of some seasonings it is possible to combine the flavor of a hot or pungent chili pepper variety with a milder but more flavorful variety.

In Mexico, most snacks are spiced with chili flavors, including lollipops, tamarind snacks, chocolate pepper cookies, jellies, and potato chips.

Original source of this article

This article is excerpted by permission of the publisher from

Valenzuela, H. 2011. Chili Pepper (Capsicum annuum). In: Elevitch, C.R. (ed.). Specialty Crops for Pacific Island Agroforestry. Permanent Agriculture Resources (PAR), Holualoa, Hawai‘i. © Permanent Agriculture Resources

Bamboo—Specialty Crop Profile

Written by Andrew Benton, Lex A.J. Thomson, Peter Berg, and Susan Ruskin | 28 December 2011

Bamboo can provide food, fodder, medicine, and a multitude of building and craft materials.

Bamboo can provide food, fodder, medicine, and a multitude of building and craft materials.

Bamboo has a range of benefits that make it excellent for developing small-scale productive enterprises. It is widely used throughout the Pacific for temporary building structures, rafts, harvesting poles, fishing rods, food and water containers, food tongs, and handicrafts. Bamboo species are most often harvested from the wild, such as secondary forests in Melanesia. In Hawai‘i, wild bamboo stands are commonly harvested for fishing poles, edible shoots, and some construction applications, as well as for some craft work and kadomatsu. It is little used for food except to small extent by Southeast Asian immigrants.


Bamboos produce woody culms that may be used whole as timber, or split for a multitude of wood products. Some food, fodder, and medicinal uses include

Edible shoots

Bamboo shoots are usually harvested at 30–60 cm tall, and are peeled before cooking. Shoots of many of the clump-forming tropical species contain high levels of cyanogens, and must be boiled well prior to consumption. Bamboo shoots may be consumed fresh on the day of harvest, in which case no postharvest handling is required beyond removing obviously damaged and below par shoots prior to sale. In Hawai‘i, fresh shoots are harvested and placed in cold water for rapid temperature reduction and stored at 4°C overnight. They are then trimmed and cleaned and packed in styrofoam boxes with an ice pack and are transported to market at 10–12°C. For storage, shoots can be peeled and boiled for 2–3 hours, continually refreshing the water. They are then cooled as rapidly as possible to 30°C or less and stored in jars in brine (salt content of 5–8% of the weight of the cooked shoots). Commercially, shoots are mainly canned, an involved process involving drying the shoots, removing the sheaths, rinsing, dressing, classification according to shape, grading, weighing, placing in cans, sterilizing, adding water, adjusting the pH, cooling, heat preservation, inspection and packing. Nastus elatus(New Guinea sweet shoot) is an outstanding edible shoot that can be eaten with minimal preparation.

Freshly harvested shoots in Thai farmers market

Freshly harvested shoots in Thai farmers market

Tabasheer, a silicaceous concretion found in the internodes of some species, is used medicinally, as is leaf sap which is sometimes used as an eye drop. There are many other uses by indigenous peoples, but no commercialisation is known.


Bamboo leaves make excellent fodder for livestock including cows, horses, and pigs.


Waste products, including branches and sawdust, can be used to produce charcoal and charcoal briquettes. These burn hot and clean. Bamboo charcoal is also highly adsorptive and is often used in purification systems, particularly the sugar industry, and in household odour treatments.

Agroforestry/interplanting practices

Bamboo planted in food forest at Mohala Farm, North Kohala.

Bamboo planted in food forest at Mohala Farm, North Kohala.

Intercropping is easily accomplished with wide range of annual crops during the early years of establishing a bamboo plantation in which the annual crops can provide cash income while the bamboo is maturing sufficiently to be harvested. Practices for intercropping mature plantations with timber species exist.

There is limited deliberate cultivation of bamboos on family farms in Pacific islands. Given the increased interest in growing bamboos for multiple products in various Pacific islands, including Hawai‘i, Fiji, and Samoa, the new exotic species will be increasingly incorporated into multi-species, multipurpose agroforestry systems as supplies of planting materials become available.

Scale of commercial production worldwide

The latest data indicates that international trade in bamboo products is worth US$2.5 billion per annum, the major importers being the affluent nations, particularly the EU and the U.S. China is the major exporter. It is not known how much is imported into or exported from various Pacific islands, but the quantities are expected to be relatively small.

Original source of this article

This article is excerpted by permission of the publisher from

Benton, A., L. Thomson, P. Berg, and S. Ruskin. 2011. Bamboo (various species). In: Elevitch, C.R. (ed.). Specialty Crops for Pacific Island Agroforestry. Permanent Agriculture Resources (PAR), Holualoa, Hawai‘i. © Permanent Agriculture Resources

Kava (‘awa)—Specialty Crop Profile

Written by Scot C. Nelson | 28 November 2011

Kawa ('awa in Hawaiian) is a traditional ceremonial beverage in many parts of the Pacific, with commercial potential.

Kawa (‘awa in Hawaiian) is a traditional ceremonial beverage in many parts of the Pacific, with commercial potential.

A traditional beverage made from the roots and stump of the kava plant is the most important kava product. This medicinal, psychoactive, and ceremonial drink is an aqueous suspension of phytochemicals called kavalactones and other components. Aerial portions of the plant should never be used in beverage preparations; consumption of photosynthetic tissues may pose a human health hazard.

Kava beverages may be produced from freshly harvested roots and stumps or from dried roots and stump powders. The traditional methods of preparing the pulp for extraction from fresh material include chewing, rock pounding, and abrading with pieces of rough coral. A robust mortar and pestle or mechanical grating (using grinders or hammer mills) are generally used to reduce dried material to a powder for extraction. Fresh drinking water, a bowl, a strainer and a cup complete the items needed for preparing the kava beverage. The kavalactones may be extracted from kava plants using organic solvents or carbon dioxide, purified and used directly or in formulations with other components. Other value-added beverages are made where kava-based fluids, powders, or extracted kavalactones are mixed with fruit juices or other liquids.


Kava growing in the understory of a mixed agroforest in Samoa.

Kava growing in the understory of a mixed agroforest in Samoa.

Understory planting is a traditional method for cultivating kava, such as beneath or at the edge of the canopies of large trees or by or within forests. In the natural shade of a forest, kava usually has access to moisture and well drained, fertile soil, and low pest populations.

Kava stems or rooted cuttings may be planted in any area within an agroforestry setting that has free soil for the roots to explore. Abundant rainfall may be necessary if plants are extremely isolated. Dry season irrigation could also be provided by water catchment tanks or ponds.


Kava is a multi-million dollar industry worldwide. The Pacific islands are the main producers and exporters of kava. Hawai‘i imports some kava from islands such as Fiji and Tonga. Most Pacific island nations do not import kava because they grow enough for their own consumption.

In the 1990s there were more than 10,000 ha (24,700 ac) of kava in cultivation throughout the Pacific islands, mostly in agroforestry or polycropping systems.

Local markets

Local markets for kava include kava bars or markets (for consumption of freshly produced beverage), roadside vendors of freshly produced beverage, grocery stores for bottled beverage, and farmer’s markets for fresh beverage and dried products. Young kava plants may be sold at local nurseries or garden stores. Powders and encapsulated kava can be found in most health food stores and in some herbal remedy markets or health-related industries such as massage clinics.

Export market

Kava may be exported to any country or location where its use is legal or not banned, such as anywhere in the Pacific, to Asia, Australia, North America, Central and South America, etc. The largest export market is currently the United States. For bulk shipments of kava, new, securely fastened, woven polypropylene bags, usually 16–22.7 kg (35–50 lb) dry weight, are commonly used in the Pacific for export. Each bag is labeled with the name of the exporter and the importer.

Specialty markets

The primary specialty market for kava is organic markets and health and nutrition markets. However, the location and method of cultivation in some Pacific island locations qualifies it for other specialty markets such as rainforest, bird friendly, and fair trade. Branding possibilities include the names of unique or potent cultivars and novel processing methods for bottled beverages. Another possibility is to distinguish cultivars by their kavalactone profiles, and educate retailers and customers about the various benefits of certain profiles. The potential for Internet sales and marketing to tourists is very high.

Original source of this article

This article is excerpted by permission of the publisher from

Nelson, S.C. 2011. Kava (Piper methysticum). In: Elevitch, C.R. (ed.). Specialty Crops for Pacific Island Agroforestry. Permanent Agriculture Resources (PAR), Holualoa, Hawai‘i. © Permanent Agriculture Resources

Coffee—Specialty Crop Profile

Written by Virginia Easton Smith, Shawn Steiman, and Craig Elevitch | 27 April 2011

Shade grown Kona coffee.

Shade grown Kona coffee berries.

The coffee seed, referred to as “bean,” is processed, roasted and brewed for beverages. The roasted beans and brewed coffee are also used in candies, desserts and savory dishes. Many uses for the fruit, seed, and by-products can be found. The fruit pulp can be dried and used to make tea, which contains caffeine and antioxidants. The fruit pulp is high in nitrogen and potassium and is used, fresh or composted, for fertilizer and to add organic matter to the soil. The parchment skins also add organic matter and are used as mulch in coffee orchards and around other plants.

Agroforestry/interplanting practices

In many parts of the world, coffee is interplanted with other crops. These crops vary in size and description and are chosen depending on the needs of the producer. Since coffee is tolerant of moderate shade, it is commonly grown beneath taller plants. These plants can be part of a relatively simple agroforestry system composed of a small number of tree species or a complex, multi-strata forest.

Around the world, there exists a wide range of shaded coffee systems. In a simple shade system, coffee is grown together with one other crop, thereby providing two sources of income from the same land area. On family-run subsistence farms, there may also be a scattering of fruit trees for on-farm consumption and additional shade coverage. The range of fruit trees on shaded coffee farms is extensive and is determined by the subsistence and commercial goals of the farmer. Some examples of species interplanted with coffee in Hawai‘i are citrus (Citrus spp.), Macadamia nut (Macadamia integrifolia), mango (Mangifera indica), breadfruit (Artocarpus altilis), avocado (Persea americana), papaya (Carica papaya), and jaboticaba (Myrciaria cauliflora).

Adding value through quality control, processing, and marketing is essential for Hawai'i coffees.

Adding value through quality control, processing, and marketing is essential for Hawai’i coffees.

Many coffee farms in Hawai‘i include native Hawaiian and non-native trees for shade cover. Aside from shade and other traditional shade tree benefits (see “Advantages and disadvantages of polycultures” below), these trees offer natural beauty, conservation of native species and, potentially, a future crop of timber. These species include koa (Acacia koa), ‘ōhi‘a (Metrosideros polymorpha), monkeypod (Samanea saman), and gliricidia or madré de cacao (Gliricidia sepium).

Around the world, many different species of trees are used in coffee agroforestry systems. Nitrogen-fixing trees like inga (Inga spp.), coral tree (Erythrina spp.), and leucaena (Leucaena leucocephala) are common. Timber trees include Spanish cedar (Cedrela odorata), laurel (Cordia alliodora), and eucalyptus (Eucalyptus spp.).

Postharvest handling and processing

After harvesting, the fruit skin and other layers around the seed must be removed and the seed dried before roasting and consuming. The seed is usually removed from the fruit and the mucilage is removed by fermentation (wet process) or machine (demucilaging). However, fruit and mucilage removal is not mandatory (dry process). The coffee seeds (beans) must be dried to 8–12.5% moisture for storage and international trade (International Coffee Organization standards, but not all locales follow these standards). If the fruit skin is removed, the dried seed can be stored in the parchment until shipping or roasting. If the seed is dried in the fruit, it can be stored as-is or hulled to be stored as green bean.

Original source of this article

This article is excerpted by permission of the publisher from

Smith, V.E., S. Steiman, and C.R. Elevitch. 2011. Coffee (Coffea arabica). In: Elevitch, C.R. (ed.). Specialty Crops for Pacific Island Agroforestry. Permanent Agriculture Resources (PAR), Holualoa, Hawai‘i. © Permanent Agriculture Resources

Black Pepper—Specialty Crop Profile

Written by Scot C. Nelson and K. T. Cannon-Eger | 25 March 2011

Black pepper vine and berries.

Black pepper vine and berries.

Aside from salt, pepper is the world’s most important and valued spice. It is used as an important component of many recipes and to flavor foods. From the berries of Piper nigrumare produced several condiments: black pepper, white pepper, green pepper, and “Tellicherry” pepper. Many grades of these peppers are recognized in the spice trade.


Other important commercial products derived from the pepper plant are:

  • Pepper oil (the vapor or steam distillation process widely used in fragrances or condiments; black pepper yields about 1–2.4% essential oil)
  • Cookies and crackers
  • Tea (pepper leaves combined with tea leaves)
  • Perfumes (made from dried parts of the pepper plant)
  • Candy, sweets (contain pepper oil/resin)
  • Sausage preservation

Commercial production of pepper worldwide in 2000 was approximately 230,000 metric tons (MT) (254,000 T). Countries in the International Pepper Community, an inter-governmental organization of pepper producing countries, produce 84% of the world’s crop (FAO 2000). Other countries such as Vietnam, China, and Madagascar produce the remaining 16%. Pacific island production probably comprises less than 1% of world production.

Growth and development

Pepper is a woody, climbing liana or vine. In cultivation, the plant is grown on a support such as a trellis. It may grow to a length of 10 m (33 ft) or more in length. During the third year after planting, a small crop can be harvested, with full production realized 7–8 years after planting. Plants are most productive at 8–20 years of age, but can continue bearing for 30 years. Ripe berries may be picked about 9 months after flowering. Berries ripen over a period of 2–6 months depending on climate or latitude. Berries are usually harvested every 7–14 days during the harvesting period. The harvesting calendar months vary throughout the world. For example, in India, pepper is harvested from November through March, whereas in Madagascar the crop is harvested from June through October. There is potential for two crops per year in some regions. In Papaikou, Hawai‘i, harvest occurs in February/March and in May/June.


Trees may be used to support pepper vines. Any tree or palm with rough bark that does not peel or slough off periodically, such as coconut, can be used to support black pepper plants. The plant grows well under light shade and thrives in soils rich in humus, making it an excellent agroforestry cropping plant. However, too much shade reduces yield. Pepper plants also respond well to organic fertilization from mulch materials collected in or near forests.

Original source of this article

This article is excerpted by permission of the publisher from

Nelson, S.C., and K.T. Eger. 2011. Black Pepper (Piper nigrum). In: Elevitch, C.R. (ed.). Specialty Crops for Pacific Island Agroforestry. Permanent Agriculture Resources (PAR), Holualoa, Hawai‘i. © Permanent Agriculture Resources.

Banana and Plantain—Specialty Crop Profile

Written by Jeff Daniells, Lois Englberger, and Adelino Lorens | 25 February 2011

Young bananas forming (variety 'Chinese').

Young bananas forming (variety ‘Chinese’). Bananas (plantains included) are the world’s fourth most important food crop after rice, wheat and maize.

Global consumption of banana and plantain is about one trillion individual fruit each year. They are either consumed raw when ripe or cooked when hard, green, mature or at various stages of ripeness and represent one of the most significant sources of food energy in the Pacific. Banana leaves are commonly used as table mats and plates. They are also used for wrapping some foods before or after cooking. Banana blossom, also called bud or bell, is consumed as a cooked vegetable dish. The pseudostem (or “trunk”) is also used throughout the Pacific to line traditional above- and below-ground ovens together with banana leaves placed over the food to keep it dirt-free. Fibres are extracted from the stems and leaves and used for various purposes. There are many medicinal uses that are important for banana. The fibre of the pseudostems and the juice of the stem are used in various treatments, such as for concussion, muscle ache, broken bones, cuts, burns, and fevers. Eating banana can also be used to clear fish bones that are caught in the throat.

Commercial production worldwide

Bananas and plantains represent the largest fruit crop in terms of both world production and trade. Total world production in 2006 was 113 million metric tons (MT). Almost 17 million MT were marketed in world trade in 2005, valued at about US$5 billion. During this period about 980,000 MT were produced in Melanesia, Polynesia, and Micronesia but only 120 MT were exported. An insignificant amount was imported (FAO, n.d.). In 2005, Hawai‘i produced 10,000 MT of bananas for local consumption and imported 5,900 MT (NASS 2009).

Agroforestry/interplanting practices

Agroforestry system in South Kona with banana, cacao, and pineapple.

Agroforestry system in South Kona with banana, cacao, and pineapple.

For subsistence purposes bananas are commonly intercropped with a range of other naturally occurring and cultivated plants such as papaya (Carica papaya), coconut (Cocos nucifera), kava (Piper methysticum), breadfruit (Artocarpus altilis), Marianas breadfruit (Artocarpus mariannensis), yam (Dioscorea spp.), sweetpotato (Ipomoea batatas), aibika (Abelmoschus manihot), and cassava (Manihot esculenta). Any variety can be used in agroforestry systems. ‘Karat’ and other Fe‘i banana varieties of Pohnpei, appear to thrive under some shade of breadfruit trees and in some situations do better if replanted each year. If not properly managed, however, competition for water, nutrients, and light can lead to low yields. The more pest resistant varieties can thrive for many years in such systems without the need for replanting.

Environmental services provided

Banana plants establish quickly and are used in various parts of the world as shade during the establishment of crops that are sensitive to excessive sun. Crops such as cacao (Theobroma cacao), coffee (Coffea spp.), mangosteen (Garcinia mangostana), and kava benefit from shade during the establishment period. Bananas can be used as windbreaks that produce a useful crop, but for stronger wind events such as cyclones bananas offer little protection and are readily blown over by strong wind. Bananas grow well on steep lands but require a shade tolerant cover crop such as perennial peanut (Arachis pintoi) if they are to be considered useful in the control of erosion. Banana plants are aesthetically pleasing with their broad leaves and sometimes very attractive colours, and are a quintessential component of any tropical garden landscape.


Original source of this article


This article is excerpted by permission of the publisher from


Daniells, J., L. Englberger, and A. Lorens. 2011 (revised). Banana and Plantain (Musa spp.). In: Elevitch, C.R. (ed.). Specialty Crops for Pacific Island Agroforestry. Permanent Agriculture Resources (PAR), Holualoa, Hawai‘i. © Permanent Agriculture Resources.

Vanilla—Specialty Crop Profile

Written by Janice Uchida | 28 January 2011

Vanilla beans in the process of curing, Honaunau, Hawaii.

Vanilla beans in the process of curing, Honaunau, Hawaii.

The highly aromatic, cured pod (or “bean”) of the vanilla orchid (Vanilla planifolia) is the primary product. Vanilla owes its properties to vanillin, a compound that is formed during pod maturation and in the curing process. Vanillin is believed to be one of most popular scents in the world. Natural vanillin is expensive by weight, but when used as a flavoring it is affordable.

Vanilla is used extensively to flavor ice cream, chocolate, beverages, candies, cakes, puddings, custards, and many other confections. In Hawai‘i, chefs add it to seafood dishes and other non-dessert dishes. Commercial products include:

  • Whole cured vanilla beans
  • Extractions (usually in a minimum 35% alcohol)
  • Powder of ground, cured beans
  • Paste (minimum 12.5% ground cured beans with sugar syrup, starch, or other ingredients)
  • Seeds

As an aromatic, vanilla is included in products such as perfumes, cosmetics, lotions, detergents, fabric softeners, air fresheners, aroma therapy, and many others. It is also widely used in rubber manufacture and in the fabrication of other items with unpleasant odors.


Vanilla beans maturing on the vine at Krimm Farm, South Kona.

Vanilla beans maturing on the vine at Krimm Farm, South Kona.

While the traditions surrounding vanilla are filled with references of the ritualistic and healing powers of this spice, there are few well documented studies to verify these characteristics. Recently, some evidence of anticarcinogenic (interference with cancer formation) and anticlastogenic (promotion of chromosome repair) activity of vanillin has been found. The anticlastogenic effect of vanillin has been documented in the protection that it provides to cells that are exposed to ultraviolet (UV) radiation and X-rays. When vanillin was added to cell cultures, mutation was significantly reduced following exposure to radiation. This study clearly provides evidence that there are antimutagenic properties of vanillin. In addition, there is evidence that vanillin has strong anti-microbial properties (Bythrow 2005). This may open doors for the use of vanillin as a natural food preservative.

Original source of this article

This article is excerpted by permission of the publisher from

Uchida, J.Y. 2011. Vanilla (Vanilla planifolia). In: Elevitch, C.R. (ed.). Specialty Crops for Pacific Island Agroforestry. Permanent Agriculture Resources (PAR), Holualoa, Hawai‘i. © Permanent Agriculture Resources.

Tea—Specialty Crop Profile

Written by Koen den Braber, Dwight Sato, and Eva Lee | 27 December 2010

Mike Riley of Volcano Tea Garden in Volcano shows his tea plants, which are growing together with native forest trees.

Mike Riley of Volcano Tea Garden in Volcano shows his tea plants, which are growing together with native forest trees.

Tea is the most widely consumed beverage after water. It has a cooling, slightly bitter, astringent flavor. The three most common types of tea are black, green, and oolong. There are also some less common types such as white and yellow teas and compressed teas (e.g., puerh), as well as numerous flavored and scented teas. All of these teas have in common that they use the leaves of the same plant, Camellia sinensis, but they are processed in different ways.

For most teas, only the first 2-3 leaves are harvested.

For most teas, only the first 2-3 leaves are harvested.

Usually, the tip (bud) and the first two (or sometimes three) leaves are harvested for processing. Different leaf ages produce differing tea qualities, since their chemical compositions are different. Green tea is steamed (Japanese method) or roasted (Chinese method) very soon after picking to stop the oxidation (“fermentation”) process. The processed leaves still have their original green color. Oolong tea is semi-oxidized, it is left to oxidize but for a shorter time period than black tea. The color of oolong tea can vary from bright green to dark brown. Black tea is oxidized for the longest period of time, which results in a dark brown or black color. White tea is made from new buds and young leaves plucked before they have fully opened, at which time they are still covered by fine white hairs. The highest quality white tea is made from “tea needles,” buds that have not begun to open. Lower grades contain leaves as well as buds. White tea is produced by wilting and then very gently drying the leaves, undergoing minimal oxidation. The liquor of white tea is normally clear with a light green/yellow or slightly golden color.

The term “herbal tea” usually refers to an infusion or tisane of fruit or herbs that contains no Camellia sinensis, e.g., rose hip, chamomile, peppermint, rooibos, etc.

Other products from the tea plant

Tea seeds can be pressed to produce tea oil. Oil yield is around 15%. This oil can be used for human consumption as edible oil and many industrial applications. In the cosmetic industry, for example, it is used for making hair lotions and soaps. The oil cake and other residues are used as fodder and fertilizer. However, tea seed oil has high saponin content. Saponin has some medicinal value but it is also quite toxic and limits the use of seed cake as fodder.

The University of Hawai'i is working on developing tea as a commercial crop in Hawai'i.

The University of Hawai’i is working on developing tea as a commercial crop in Hawai’i.

Green, oolong, and black teas are also used as raw material for making industrial extracts such as dyes, detergents, and sterilization and medical agents.

Tea has also traditionally been used in some parts of the world as food. In Tibet, pieces of tea are broken from tea bricks, and boiled for several hours in water, sometimes with salt. The resulting concentrated tea infusion is then mixed with butter (sometimes cream or milk) and a little salt to make butter tea. In parts of Mongolia and Central Asia, a mixture of ground tea bricks, grain flours, and boiling water is consumed. In some areas of Japan, concentrated tea is mixed with grain flour, then formed into balls and eaten. In Burma (Myanmar) tea is pickled (fermented) and eaten in a dish called lahpet.

Original source of this article

This article is excerpted by permission of the publisher from

den Braber, K., D.M. Sato, and E. Lee. 2011. Tea (Camellia sinensis). In: Elevitch, C.R. (ed.). Specialty Crops for Pacific Island Agroforestry. Permanent Agriculture Resources (PAR), Holualoa, Hawai‘i. © Permanent Agriculture Resources.

Ginger—Specialty Crop Profile

Written by Hector Valenzuela | 27 August 2010

Certified organic ginger grown in Hamakua, Hawaii.

Certified organic ginger commercially grown in Hamakua, Hawaii.

Ginger is used throughout the world as a spice or fresh herb in cooking and a variety of other value-added products including flavoring in candies, beverages, liqueurs, ice cream, baked goods, curry powder blends, sauces, and various condiments. Ginger is also used in traditional medicine to treat several ailments including nausea, motion sickness, migraine, dyspepsia, and to reduce flatulence and colic. Young rhizomes that are harvested early are also used in pickles and confectionery.

Ginger is well adapted for production levels ranging from a few plants grown in a kitchen garden to small-scale production. Because it is a labor intensive crop, many small farmers may only be able to handle small-size plots for ginger production, ranging from a few 30 m long rows to 0.25 ha plots. Some farmers may be able to grow small plantings of ginger for sale to local restaurants, hotels, or for direct sale to consumers in the local farmers’ market. Small farmers may also explore the possibility of forming a cooperative for sale of bulk volumes through a wholesaler or local distributor. For small farmers, it is always a good idea to identify potential buyers prior to planting a crop and to start with small plots. As they gain more experience and develop better relationships with their buyers, the planting areas can be expanded.

Value added ginger products increase market opportunity for farmers. A certified community kitchen can be used to prepare a range of processed ginger products. Small-scale facilities may be amenable to the production of several processed products such as pickled, dehydrated, or candied ginger, instant tea, cookies, and wine (made from ginger peels).

Ginger is a popular garden and commercial crop grown and consumed on many islands of the Pacific. Commonly used as a spice in home cooking, it also is in high demand by local restaurants and health food stores, with organically grown ginger becoming increasingly popular. Certified organic ginger may be a new local and export market expansion opportunity for local ginger growers.

In 2007 Hawai‘i produced about 1.3 million kg, which was less than 50% of the volume produced in 2003. Reported ginger yields in Hawai‘i for 2007 were about 35 MT/ha. Total Hawai‘i production has decreased over the past few years because of drought, increased disease pressure, and because of greater competition from China.

Original source of this article

This article is excerpted by permission of the publisher from

Valenzuela, H. 2011. Ginger (Zingiber officinale). In: Elevitch, C.R. (ed.). Specialty Crops for Pacific Island Agroforestry. Permanent Agriculture Resources (PAR), Holualoa, Hawai‘i. © Permanent Agriculture Resources.

Pumpkin and Squash—Specialty Crop Profile

Written by Ted Radovich | 22 July 2010

Local squash type grown at Ginger Hill Farm, Kealakekua.

Local squash type grown at Ginger Hill Farm, Kealakekua.

Whole fresh pumpkin and squash fruits are the primary product of commerce. Cooked squash may be canned or dried for storage. Seed can also be consumed. Flowers and tender vine tips of all edible types are sold and consumed as vegetables. Male flowers and vine tips provide a source of income for growers prior to fruits reaching marketable stage, although care should be taken to leave some male flowers as a pollen source for female flowers. Selective, judicial harvesting of young shoots should preserve and promote canopy development and is not expected to significantly reduce yields.

Pumpkin and squash can grow well in full or partial sunlight, but generally do not grow well under heavy shade. They can be planted successfully under young fruit trees before canopy closure or under papaya and similar sparse-canopy crops. It is often grown as a rapidly growing, weed suppressive, soil protective cover that provides some economic/food return while longer-term crops have time to become established.

Rapid vine growth and large leaves makes squash a relatively weed-tolerant crop that is rotated with less weed tolerant crops such as onions to reduce weed pressure. Vigorously vining cultivars may be used to cover marginal soils and steep slopes by preparing small planting holes and allowing vines to spread over unimproved or non-arable areas.

Fruit, seed, and greens are very nutritious. Greens can be a good source of Ca, P, Fe, and vitamins C and A. The most important non-caloric contribution of mature fruit to the diet is its carotenoid content, particularly pro-vitamin A carotenes (e.g., β-carotene). Mature squash and pumpkin contributes modestly (50 kcal per 100 g) to caloric intake due to its substantial dry matter and sugar content. However, the greatest potential caloric contribution to the diet comes from the seeds, with over 550 kcal per 100 g of fresh seed. Cucurbita seed oils are generally dominated by oleic (~50%), linoleic (~30%), and palmitic (~15%) acids.


Original source of this article


This article is excerpted by permission of the publisher from


Radovich, T. 2011. Pumpkin and Squash (Cucurbita spp.). In: Elevitch, C.R. (ed.). Specialty Crops for Pacific Island Agroforestry. Permanent Agriculture Resources (PAR), Holualoa, Hawai‘i. © Permanent Agriculture Resources.

Taro (kalo)—Specialty Crop Profile

Written by Harley Manner | 24 June 2010

Taro growing in Holualoa, North Kona, Hawaii.

Taro growing in Holualoa, North Kona, Hawaii.

The primary food products from Colocasia taro throughout much of the Pacific islands for both subsistence and commercial purposes include: corm, leaves, and petiole, which can be prepared in a number of ways. The corm is boiled in water, baked, fried, or steamed in underground earth ovens (known in various languages as imu, umu, um, and lovo). The leaves and petioles are often boiled and served as a kind of spinach.

In Fiji, the petioles are boiled and served with coconut cream in a dish known as basese. Often as in Samoa and Fiji, the leaves are steamed with coconut cream, onions, and sometimes with corned beef in a dish called palusami. Taro features in traditional desserts such as the Samoan fa‘ausi or the Hawaiian kūlolo, which consist of grated, cooked taro mixed with coconut milk and brown sugar. In Vanuatu, it has been reported that taro flowers are used to make a soup.

In Hawai‘i, laulau, consisting of meat, fish, and/or vegetables wrapped in taro leaves is bundled in the leaves of ti and steamed. Ninety-five percent of the taro produced in Hawai‘i in 2006 was used in making poi, a sticky paste made from the boiled taro corms. Poi is also canned/bottled as a hypoallergenic baby food and a freeze-dried poi powder has also been produced. The Hawaiian cultivar Maui Lehua is mainly used for making poi, while the most common upland cultivar, Bun Long (also called Chinese taro) is not.

Other products made from the corms include chips, flour, ice cream, breakfast cereals, flakes, noodles, canned taro, and meal. In Palau, shochu (a Japanese-type of vodka), is reported to be distilled from taro.


While taro can be found growing in pure upland (dry) and wetland monocultures (e.g., lo‘i in Hawai‘i), it is often found as an understory species in recently established swiddens (slash and burn gardens), along with yam and other crops that require fertile soils. In the Maring culture area of the Western Highlands of Papua New Guinea, these daang-wan duk (taro-yam gardens) are succeeded by longer lived species more tolerant of less fertile soils such sweet potato, banana, sugar cane, etc. Monoculture production of taro tends only to occur for export production, such as in Fiji. In many countries in the Pacific, taro is a very common home/backyard garden crop and is grown with other crops/species, more in an agroforestry system

Macadamia nut—Specialty Crop Profile

Written by Mike Nagao | 24 May 2010

Nearly mature macadamia nuts on the tree.

Nearly mature macadamia nuts on the tree.

Dried kernels are roasted and manufactured by processors and industrial users into a wide number of products featur­ing whole or half kernels that are unsalted, dusted with fine­ly ground confectionery salt, or flavored. Chocolate-coated kernels have become a major product. Second grade and broken kernels (pieces) are used in confectionery products such as brittles and candies or diced for use as garnishes, ice cream, sherbets, cakes, and pastries. Kernels are also milled into a premium nut butter and the oil is extracted for use in food and cosmetics.

Home processing of macadamia can be accomplished to produce an acceptable product.

1. Remove the outer husk of freshly fallen nuts soon after harvesting.

2. Air-dry in-shell nuts for 2–3 weeks on screens by spread­ing them in layers not more than two nuts thick, in the shade where there is good air circulation. Nuts are suffi­ciently dried when they rattle and kernels are loosened from the shell.

3. Crack nuts with a vise or cracker specially designed for cracking macadamia. Separate shells from the kernels, re­move discolored and pest-damaged kernels, and begin dry­ing.

4. Use a home food dehydrator in which the drying temper­ature can be well controlled. Dry kernels slowly at 38°C, for about 2 days, increase temperature to 52°C for 2–3 days and to 60°C for 2 days. It’s difficult to predict length of the drying process. Check the texture of kernels periodically during the final drying by biting into a kernel. Completely dry kernels are very crisp. The drying process should be slow; if the tem­perature is too high, kernels can dry unevenly, change color, or have brown centers when roasted. After drying, kernels are ready for roasting. They can be stored in tightly sealed jars for a short while, but for longer storage, they should be frozen and thawed in a sealed jar.

5. To roast macadamia nuts, place dried kernels in an oven at 135°C for 20–30 minutes. Wire-screen trays are best for the roasting process. Check the color as roasting progresses, and roast to the desired golden color.

6. For salted macadamia nuts, coat roasted kernels lightly with a small quantity of salad oil. Apply the desired amount of powdered salt and shake to distribute the salt evenly. Place nuts in a jar to protect them from picking up moisture. If they are not to be consumed soon, they may be kept fro­zen for up to a year.

Mangosteen—Specialty Crop Profile

Written by Yan Diczbalis | 26 April 2010

Mangosteen is known as the "Queen of Fruit."

Mangosteen is known as the “Queen of Fruit.”

Mangosteen is primarily consumed as a fresh fruit. The fruit is common delicacy and often referred to as the “Queen of Fruit” in Southeast Asia. The volume of production is increasing in Thailand and fruit is now being processed into value-added products such as jam, candy, and wine. In traditional communities, the fruit pericarp (rind) was used as an antibacterial agent and for curing diarrhea. The use of the fruit rind and or whole fruit as a medicinal/nutri­ceutical beverage has been a recent trend in western societ­ies. Mangosteen extracts and processed products have now entered the worldwide health food and nutritional supplement market. The timber, dark red in colour, is used when available in cabinet making and where a heavy durable wood is required.

Thailand is the world’s largest producer of mangosteen, producing approximately 240,000 metric tons (MT) annually, with exports recorded at 15,000 MT in 2006. Malaysia, Vietnam, and Indonesia are also major producers. Most people enjoy mangosteen and the fruit has a ready market in western countries where it is considered a tropical delicacy. Recent production in Central America is being exported into Europe. A modest commercial production occurs in Hawai‘i, primarily for local markets. The fruit has a good postharvest life which is beneficial for export, although it is regarded due to lack of contradictory evidence as a potential fruit fly host.

The tree is ideally suited for small-scale commercial or home garden production, if space allows for the relatively large amount of space an older tree can occupy. Mangosteen is present in the Pacific but it not extensively grown. It has a minimal contribution to the nutritional health of Pacific communities given its limited distribution and commercialization in the region. However, where it is produced, it offers an important healthy fruit alternative to the community. Where the crop can be successfully produced it will contribute to reducing imports and also to boosting local crop production and marketing opportunities.

Sweetpotato (‘Uala)—Specialty Crop Profile

Written by Scot C. Nelson and Craig Elevitch | 23 March 2010

Nelson and Dorothea serenade a sweetpotato patch at Amy Greenwell Ethnobotanical Garden in Captain Cook.

Nelson and Dorothea serenade a sweetpotato patch at Amy Greenwell Ethnobotanical Garden in Captain Cook.

Sweetpotato has a wide range of uses, including foods, beverages, medicines, ceremonial and household objects, fishing bait, and animal feed.

Foods. Sweetpotato is baked or steamed in jackets in ovens to eat as a carbohydrate. Cooked sweetpotatoes may be peeled, mashed, and mixed with water to form a paste. Raw, peeled sweetpotatoes may be grated and mixed with coconut milk and served as a dessert after wrapping them in leaves and baking. Young leaves growing near the apex of vines are cooked as greens, sometimes in coconut milk.

Beverages. Sweetpotato genotypes having high sugar content in the storage roots may be cooked and then treated and fermented to produce alcoholic beverages.

Medicines. Various parts of the sweetpotato plant and various genotypes may be used as treatments for health conditions or in medical applications such as asthma relief, laxative, induction of vomiting, and as a gargle. Parts of the plant may also be used as components of medicinal mixtures for application or ingestion.

Ceremonial. A nursing Hawaiian mother may wear a sweetpotato vine garland to ensure milk flow.

Households. Old leaves or vines may be used as padding under floor mats.

Fishing. Flesh of the sweetpotato storage roots of certain genotypes may be used as bait for mackerel scad fish at their offshore breeding locations.

Animal feed. Leaves and vines are maintenance food for hogs. The storage roots serve as food for final fattening.

Honey bees—Specialty Crop Profile

Written by Lorna H. Tsutsumi and Darcy E. Oishi | 24 February 2010


Honey bees can provide multiple products, in addition to essential pollination services.

There are several bee species that are cultivated for their products and pollination services but the most widely used species is the honey bee, Apis mellifera. In Hawai‘i and in the Pacific, there is a great potential for beekeeping at all scales. Rural areas in the Pacific are ideal for supporting beekeeping activities because of the abundant year round floral sources that can provide enough honey for family and/or community needs with the possibility of additional income from the selling surplus honey.

The most well known and utilized of the harvestable products from honey bees is honey. Honey can be consumed as soon as it is harvested from the hive (or stored for later use) or it can be used to make a variety of value-added food products such as desserts, dressings, and mead. Honey can also be used as an ingredient in other value-added products such as cosmetics and health supplements. Other harvestable products derived from honey bee cultivation include: pollen, wax, propolis, royal jelly, venom, packaged bees, and queen bees. Products such as pollen and royal jelly can be consumed in their natural state from the hive but are usually mixed with other ingredients to produce medicinal or health supplements. Other raw products such as propolis and wax need to be processed into a more stable or usable form and then used for a variety of value-added products including cosmetics, candles, and medicinal ointments or tinctures. Venom is a specialized product with a limited medicinal market. Queen bee and package bee producers are specialized beekeepers that utilize their hives for the purpose of producing bees for sale.

Pollination services are an important source of beekeeper income, especially on the U.S. mainland. This is an essential service to ensure maximum fruit yields, especially for large monocrops (e.g., almonds, oranges, apples, watermelon). In Hawai‘i and in the Pacific, beekeepers often negotiate a trade for land use in exchange for pollination services. Pollination services performed by honey bees make them an essential component on agricultural lands as well as in local ecosystems that are dependent on insect pollinators. This introduction was excerpted from the full 19-page publication: Tsutsumi, L.H, and D.E. Oishi. 2010. Farm and Forestry Production and Marketing Profile for Honey Bees (Apis mellifera). In: Elevitch, C.R. (ed.). Specialty Crops for Pacific Island Agroforestry. Permanent Agriculture Resources (PAR), Holualoa, Hawai’i.

Moringa—Specialty Crop Profile

Written by Ted Radovich | 07 February 2010


Because of its many uses and services, moringa is known as a “miracle tree” around the world.


Almost all parts of the moringa tree are used for food, oil, fiber, and/or medicine. In the Pacific, the most important products are pods and leaves. Young pods are consumed as a vegetable. Very young pods are fiberless, and can be cooked like string beans. Because the weight is low on very young pods, most commercial production involves larger, more fibrous pods that are used in soups, stews, and curries. The nutritious leaves are eaten in many dishes including soups, stews, and stir fries. Sauteed young leaves and flowers are also eaten. The demand for home consumption of pods and leaves can generally be met by one or two backyard trees.

Commercial production of mature seeds for oil occurs in India, Africa, and elsewhere. The press cake left over after extracting seed oil is utilized as a fertilizer and as a flocculent for water clarification. The seed cake contains positively charged compounds that are effective in settling suspended solids out of water (flocculation) because most particles have a net negative surface charge while suspended in aqueous solution. There is international interest in using moringa-based flocculants as a locally produced, biodegradable substitute for aluminum sulfate, which is commonly used to clarify water. The seed cake is normally not used as livestock feed because of the presence of antinutritional compounds in the mature seeds.

Leaves are readily eaten by cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, chickens and rabbits and can also be used as food for fish. Several studies demonstrate that significant proportions of traditional fodder can be replaced with moringa leaf.

Most parts of the plant are used as a medicine. The greatest contribution of moringa to health is its high nutritional value. The most common direct medical use of the plant is as poultice of the leaves and bark applied directly to wounds as an anti-microbial and to promote healing. The anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties of moringa extracts are well documented and are thought to be derived at least in part from 4-(α-L-rhamnopy-ranosyloxy) benzyl isothiocyanate. This compound is particularly effective against Helicobacter pylori, a bacterial pathogen of human beings in medically underserved areas and poor populations worldwide. The strong tradition of medical uses of moringa combined with recent scientific work supporting these traditions has resulted in increased marketing of supplements and so-called “superfoods” based on moringa.

This introduction was excerpted from the full 12-page publication: Radovich, T. 2009. Farm and Forestry Production and Marketing Profile for Moringa (Moringa oleifera). In: Elevitch, C.R. (ed.). Specialty Crops for Pacific Island Agroforestry. Permanent Agriculture Resources (PAR), Holualoa, Hawai’i.

Breadfruit (‘Ulu)—Specialty Crop Profile

Written by Diane Ragone | 07 February 2010


A breadfruit tree can produce 160–500 kg (350–1100 lb) of fruit per year with very little effort on the part of the grower.

Breadfruit produces abundant, nutritious fruit (i.e., high in carbohydrates and a good source of fiber, vitamins, and minerals) that is typically cooked and consumed as a starchy staple when firm and mature. Ripe fruit can be eaten raw or cooked, processed into chips and other snacks, dried into flour or starch, and minimally processed or frozen. Breadfruit flour can be partially substituted for wheat flour in many bread, pastry, and snack products. Seeds, cooked in the fruit and eaten throughout the Pacific islands—but rarely in Polynesia—are high in protein, relatively low in fat and a good source of vitamins and minerals. Breadnut seeds tend to be larger and sweeter than breadfruit seeds and can be roasted or boiled. In Ghana, breadfruit and breadnut seeds have been made into nutritious baby food. In the Philippines, immature fruit is sliced, cooked, and eaten as a vegetable.

Breadfruit is a cultural icon in the Pacific. All parts are used medicinally, especially the latex, leaf tips, and inner bark. The wood is lightweight, flexible, and may resist termites. It is used for buildings and small canoes. The attractive wood is easily carved into statues, bowls, and other objects. Older, less productive trees are utilized as firewood throughout the region. The inner bark is used to make bark cloth (tapa, siapo), but this formerly widespread custom is now only practiced in the Marquesas. Large, flexible leaves are used to wrap foods for cooking in earth ovens. The sticky white latex is used as a chewing gum and adhesive and was formerly widely used to caulk canoes and as birdlime (to catch birds). Dried male flowers can be burned to repel mosquitoes and other flying insects.

This introduction was excerpted from the full 19-page publication: Ragone, D. 2009. Farm and Forestry Production and Marketing Profile for Breadfruit (Artocarpus altilis). In: Elevitch, C.R. (ed.). Specialty Crops for Pacific Island Agroforestry. Permanent Agriculture Resources (PAR), Holualoa, Hawai’i

Coconut (Niu)—Specialty Crop Profile

Written by Mike Foale and Hugh Harries | 07 February 2010

Coconut is one of the most useful tropical plants, both for subsistence and economic uses.

Except for the fairly recent commercialisation of coconut water from immature fruit, the principal products of the coconut palm come from the whole mature fruit: the husk fibre for ropes and mats (geotextiles, woven from coconut fibre, are used to stabilise fragile soils); the shell for charcoal (excellent for activation); and the kernel for oil (emulsified as cream or milk). Desiccated coconut was developed in the late 19th century (after 1895) and husk cortex (cocopeat) in the mid 20th century (after 1949). Copra (dried kernel) was the major item on international markets for much of the 20th century, as a source of oil for food preparation, candle, and soap making and glycerine for high explosives. Traditional uses include toddy (sap, from which sugar is crystalised by boiling or alcohol or vinegar are fermented); leaves woven for baskets and for shelter (atap), or for hats and party skirts; frond stems and dry bunch stalks for fuel; shell for cups, curios, and buttons; and structural and ornamental timber from the trunk. Two uses that may have future commercial prospects are coconut oil as a supplement or replacement for petroleum-based fuels, and heart of palm.

Coconut milk and cream obtained by grating and pressing fresh kernel are consumed daily as ingredients in fish, grain (e.g., rice), and root (e.g., taro, cassava) dishes, both in subsistence, and, increasingly, in cosmopolitan cuisine.

Coconut water in the immature fruit is a safe, sweet, and refreshing drink that can be particularly important where fresh water is scarce. Used for medical and athletic rehydration it is now commercially available in cans, bottles, or naturally “packaged” trimmed fruit.

This introduction was excerpted from the full 24-page publication: Foale, M., and H. Harries. 2009. Farm and Forestry Production and Marketing Profile for Coconut (Cocos nucifera). In: Elevitch, C.R. (ed.). Specialty Crops for Pacific Island Agroforestry. Permanent Agriculture Resources (PAR), Holualoa, Hawai‘i



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