Hundreds learn about taro in WaimanaloUPDATED 10:50 PM HST Jun 21, 2013Video Transcript
How much do you know about taro? Hundreds of people spent the afternoon in Waimanalo to learn more about this staple of the Hawaiian diet... and how the plant is being saved for future generations. KITV4's Justin Fujioka was there. Jerry Konanui knows taro. The Big Island native travels throughout the state to verify varieties of taro, or kalo in Hawaii. Jerry Konanui: "EACH TARO VARIETY HAS A STORY. EACH TARO VARIETY HAS ITS GOOD AND BAD. SO MANY THINGS IS FASCINATING. THEY'RE TREASURES ACTUALLY." Justin Fujioka: "KONANUI SAYS THERE ONCE WAS MORE THAN 600 VARIETIES OF TARO IN HAWAII. HE SAYS THAT NUMBER IS NOW DOWN TO THE 60S." Jerry Konanui: "IT'S A KULEANA, A RESPONSIBILITY TO MAINTAIN THIS." Scientists are working with taro caretakers like Konanui to find new and innovative ways to safeguard the varieties in this kalo collection at the University of Hawaii at Manoa College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources' Waimanalo Research Station. Jari Sugano: "WE'RE LOOKING AT DISEASE RESISTANCE, WE'RE LOOKING AT PEST- CONTROL MEASURE, WE'RE LOOKING AT EVEN IRRIGATION, TRYING TO FIND INNOVATIVE WAYS TO GROW TARO MAYBE IN SYSTEMS THAT ARE NOT LUCKY ENOUGH TO HAVE A WETLANDS SYSTEM." But Konanui says modern science is limited by time and money. Jerry Konanui: "WE CAN GIVE EXCELLENT GUIDANCE AND YOU DON'T HAVE TO WASTE ALL THAT MONEY. YEAH?" Jerry Konanui: "PLEASE GET INPUT FROM US CAUSE WE KNOW BEST ON OUR TARO VARIETIES. IT'S VERY DIFFICULT TRYING TO SAVE THE TARO VARIETIES IF YOU DON'T EVEN KNOW THEIR NAMES OR THEIR STORIES, YEAH?" And that was the purpose of this taro field day... for anyone, interested to learn anything taro and all its Hawaiian varieties. Jari Sugano: "I THINK IT'S GREAT THAT THE KIDS, ADULTS, AS WELL AS KUPUNAS ARE HERE TODAY, CELEBRATING TARO IN WAIMANALO." Justin Fujioka, KITV4 News. Today's event was also designed to raise awareness of the state's Taro Security and Purity Task Force, which was established in 2008 to protect the future of taro in Hawaii.