Hōkūleʻa WWV - Newport, RI
Vocabulary I learned:
Wildcraft: gather herbs, plants and fungi from the wild
Stand: a concentrated area of resources in wildcrafting
Organoleptic: acting on or involving the use of the sense organs
~Almost all marine (salt water) seaweed are edible, so it probably won’t kill you if you nimble on one from clean area.
By coincidence I learned about a seaweed tour in Newport, RI from Nancy - a woman I met at our canoe tours who has been following the worldwide voyage. I was curious to see if I’d find similarities with gathering here and home. Shout out to Michelle Kapana-Baird, a waʻa sister and STEMS^2 masters cohort 1 member (https://coe.hawaii.edu/academics/curriculum-studies/med-cs-stems2), who has gotten me more interested in limu. She has encouraged me to take pictures of the different seaweed I find in every port we stop in (kumukaai.weebly.com & kaaiohelo_berries instagram).
It’s funny because the owner of Gather (www.gatherherbs.com). Sarah Berkman (www.gatherherbs.com/about), and student professionally trained in the culinary arts, Sam Radov, talked about how asking permission might sound funny; how it might feel silly to ask a plant, “Can I pick you?” Some people in Hawaiʻi believe this is an integral part of gathering, but ask in different ways like chanting. Some also thank the plant or talk to them. E ola ʻoe, i ola mākou nei.
There are many lessons that come with gathering. These sayings are found in Hawaiian ʻōlelo noʻeau; e ʻai i kekahi, e kāpī i kekahi. Eat some, salt some; it’s also one of my favorite children’s book (photo). Only pick what you are going to use. Gather what’s in abundance, ‘ai ka mea loa’a. Sarah reminded us to, “Be ok coming home with an empty basket.” I was reminded of one of the first ʻōlelo noʻeau I ever learned, mai huli kua i ke kai or never turn your back to the ocean. I’ve learned to always face the ocean in order to know what’s coming up next. You wouldn’t want a big wave to take you by surprise.
As we walked to collect different types of limu I learned that both of Sarah’s Italian grandmothers taught her this knowledge of gathering from the wild because they were both interested in gathering. Even Sam was exposed to wildcraft from a very young age. In two hours I heard interesting names like sugar kelp, feather boa, and sea lettuce. I didn’t know that there are twice as many seaweed in the Pacific Ocean because it’s older than the Atlantic Ocean. Seaweed can be used as a bandange, chewed for a sore throat and can treat hypothyroidism. They mentioned that seaweed can be used for farming, which I recently learned from the Reppun ‘ohana, a family that I adore back at home in Waiahole (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aslbaWr7bC0). Seaweed; eat them, bathe with them, garden with them.
Every person in the class received a small glass jar of local homemade organic furikake picked from the East Coast. I was happy to return to the waʻa with something for the crew. I learned that people in Rhode Island don’t use furikake as much as people in Hawaiʻi. At home, we use it like like ketchup, putting it all over our rice and even popcorn. The crew used it for lunch and made pan spam musubi (photo).
Although gathering limu on the East Coast was a first experience for me, it felt unusually familiar. It made me miss home. I came thinking I’d learn more about seaweed, when it was clearly a reminder to take care of our kūpuna. As we were gathering I helped Nancy, a woman who I just met yesterday, walk along the shore to ensure she wouldn’t slip on the rocks. To care for people even when we barely know them is a way to mālama honua.
We also need to acknowledge, honor and seek out the knowledge of our kūpuna before their ‘ike (knowledge) is gone; to make mistakes when they’re still around; to ask questions because they’ll probably know the answers. When I return home, I’m going to my Aunty who has been wanting to show me the spot where our family picks limu. I’m going to tell her, I’m sorry I took so long, but I’m ready now. Go learn something new from a kūpuna today or ask a question you’ve been wanting to ask for a long time; you won’t know until you show the desire to learn and gain that knowledge.
Mahalo for following me and Leg 22 on this journey. We thank you for continuing to follow us on hokulea.com.
Kumu Kaʻai previously taught at Kānehūnāmoku Voyaging Academy and Hawaiian Studies at Wilson Elementary School to K-5 students.