My dad has always had a way with plants. We grew up on acres and acres of land surrounded by trees, shrubs, vegetables, fruit and flowering bushes all planted and cultivated by my father's hand. If anyone has a green thumb, it's him.
I, on the other hand, never inherited that part of my paternal genes. In all my attempts at trying to raise plants on my own, it always ends up badly. If anyone has a brown thumb, it's me.
It's because of this that I consistently find myself in awe at my dad's unbelievable ability to take a plot of nondescript land and turn it into a "rainforest".
A few years ago, my parents left behind the beachfront property that I had grown up on at the eastern end of Molokai, and moved west into town to live on my grandmother's Hawaiian homestead in Kalamaula.
Kalamaula is known to be a dry and dusty place, the heatbowl of Molokai, where the hot Hawaiian sun bakes the land relentlessly throughout the day. But in just a short amount of time, my dad has managed to take that dustplot of dark soil and dry earth and transform it into his own personal jungle.
The following is Part ONE of a photo tour of some of my dad's freshly grown flowers and produce. As you read, you will see that there are stories behind each of his plants.
Although, in the words of my mom, dad seems to haphazardly toss seeds to the wind and let them grow wild, there is actually a distinct reason for every single plant that he chooses to cultivate.
How Many Different Colors of Hibiscus Flowers Are There?
The hibiscus flower is an iconic symbol of Hawaiian beauty. My grandma always had bushes of these flowers budding in her front yard, ready to be picked and worn behind her ear whenever she felt like it.
To this day, my dad continues to grow and care for these flowers. He grows several different color varieties, such as red, yellow and pink. There are other colors as well, like white, lavender and black.
Okay, kidding about the black, but wouldn't that be cool?
Memories of Playing Under Grandma's Mountain Apple Tree
The mountain apple, also known as the wax apple in parts of Asia, is an indelible part of my childhood memories. Playing under the mountain apple tree at my grandma's house as a child with my cousins and siblings, and waiting patiently to bite into it's sweet, juicy fruit after it ripens is something I still remember today.
Normally, the ripened fruits are bright red and shiny, but the picture above shows them as mountain apple babies which are small, green and inedibly sour if eaten too early.
Romance and Tragedy: The Mysterious Purple-Flowered Vine
The story behind this one cracked me up. My mom's favorite color is purple, and on a recent trip to my maternal grandfather's childhood home of Halawa Valley, a remote piece of land to the eastern part of Molokai, my mom noticed this beautiful purple flower growing there.
She asked dad to take shoots of this wild flowering vine and transplant it onto their homestead in town as a reminder of my mom's family memories.
Being the quiet romantic that my father is, he brought home samples of this little violet flower to lovingly grow for my mom.
Little did they realize, however, that this vine was in fact a weed, and that it would quickly take over a huge section of their front yard!
Now my mom looks down at the purple hued buds with a mixture of nostalgia, romanticism, regret and humor.
The Spiced Up Story Behind Hawaiian Chili Peppers
Hawaiian chili peppers may look tiny and nondescript, but these little pellet sized babies are deceptively pungent and pack a punch!
Typically, the fruit are yellowish-green and turn bright red as they ripen. The most common way they are used is to make 'chilipepper water', a regular household condiment in Hawaii usually mixed with shoyu and vinegar.
An alternative and equally as popular use for these peppers, at least when I was a child, is as punishment for little kids who mouthed off, misbehaved or otherwise got out of line.
Those children with an exceptionally stubborn penchant for cuss-words needed to be extra careful whenever they were around a blooming bush of these bright-red peppers.
Why I Hate Eating Papayas Down To This Day
Chalk it up to bad childhood memories, but until now the very thought of having to eat a soft, ripened papaya makes me sick. No really. It does.
You see, my dad always had rows and rows of these trees sprouting all over the property. It seemed that with every one papaya I ate as a child, 50 more of their seeds were dried, planted and cultivated to fruition.
Because of this overabundance of freshly homegrown fruit, we were forced to eat one papaya and one banana every day of my childhood life. We weren't allowed to play until we had scraped every bit of rind clean. Seriously. I mean, it was down to the nubbin on the papaya fruit that had to be scraped out and devoured, without exception.
Therefore, overly ripe papayas and I are not on good terms today.
Green papayas, on the other hand, are perfect for making chicken papaya soup. Just pick it unripened, peel, slice and cut it into fat chunks, then boil in a pot with a freshly butchered chicken, and you have the perfect remedy to a cold or sore throat!
Check these out to learn more on natural gardening:
Although my parents have already left behind the land that I was raised on in the countryside and moved closer to town, stepping into the backyard of my dad's hand-cultivated 'jungle' on their new piece of land took me straight back to those childhood days.
My dad doesn't really say much in words, but every plant he has handpicked and chosen to transplant and grow on his new plot of land reminds me that there are pages of stories in his mind, and each flower that blooms and vegetable or fruit that ripens is his way of sharing with everyone else those stories.
These are just five of my dad's many different varieties of flowers, fruits, vegetables and trees. Please stay tuned for more stories of what grows in my dad's personal jungleland of Kalamaula, Molokai, Hawaii!
I'm JR. I come from a long line of adventurers, some were nomadic explorers of the sea and others wandering cultivators of the earth. Ultimately, this legacy of drifters has deeply affected my view of travel. Read more...