The second group that was sent to visit the Goodsell Ridge Geologic Preserve were happy to once again meet with our brothers from Kanahwake; seeing one another again much sooner than we expected. Together, we stood at the Fisk Quarry Preserve on the oldest reef in the world that was formed by organisms long ago.
I was surprised to see a large open field with durable signs scattered along the way for visitors to do self-guided tours. Each sign, from beginning to end, talked about how the reef was formed and how life evolved over time.
As we walked the path, Kanentokon started to gather plants along the way with his cousin. It’s funny how plans change. We came to look at the rock fossils, however being with kamaʻāina, people of this land, I was excited to learn about the plants and their uses.
I learned that the root of the milkweed can be used for tea.
These brown leaves look very rigid, but in contrast are extremely soft. Kahnawiio mentioned that it could be mixed into cookie batter and is a good source of iron for women - that’s my kind of medicine, I’ll take a few.
This reddish brown flower can be used as a tea and helps with diabetes. The red leaves can also be used for tea, but ironically inhaling its smoke treats asthma.
Although the leaves are green and its flowers are pink, the red clover can be made into a tea and is a blood purifier. We pinched a few petals and ate them. I like gathering from the wild (also known as wildcraft) and getting to eat things right from the land.
The leaves of this purple flower can be eaten. Kanentokon explained that the best way to eat the flower was to pick the petals off with your teeth without breaking the stem. It was fun to eat and the taste is subtle, but definitely had a hint of sweetness.
Fascinated by all of this information, I asked Kanentokon if his parents taught him how to know what to pick. Quickly he replied, “My grandmother did.” Kanentokon’s and Kahnawiio’s grandmothers came up in conversation - I wouldn’t be surprised if they were walking and gathering with us today.
I might’ve missed the wine berries hanging beautifully if Kanentokon didn’t point them out. He was surprised that this area was abundant, mentioning that he didn’t see many wine berries as much back at home. They were small grapes with a deep purple color. The berries had a much stronger taste than I expected, somewhat bitter but still delicious. I agreed with Uncle Kalau when he mentioned that these little berries had way more seeds than you’d think would be in them. I ate a whole bunch, spitting out the small seeds as we walked.
There’s a mushroom... but we threw it back because mushrooms can sometimes be tricky.
If we came to visit this place on our own, I would’ve looked at this area simply as an open field with fossils here and there. Now I’ve built a connection, being able to recognize a few plants with a little help. This place is special because of the people and interactions that occurred here. Another cultural exchange that was unplanned yet meaningful. Where both cultures were interacting and strengthening bonds that will definitely continue in the future.
Kumu Kaʻai previously taught at Kānehūnāmoku Voyaging Academy and Hawaiian Studies at Wilson Elementary School to K-5 students.