23rd East Maui Taro festival celebrates an early and important Hawaii crop

East Maui Taro

Kalo (taro) burgers, chips, pancakes, fresh poi and more will be found in abundance in Hana, Maui this weekend.

The East Maui Taro Festival, a free annual celebration, highlights the traditional Hawaiian dietary staple and, more broadly, celebrates eastern Maui’s Hawaiian cultural traditions and bountiful agriculture. Expect a large farmers’ market, food and craft booths, opportunities to pound poi and more this Sat., April 25.

Kalo, a broad-leafed and starchy root vegetable has been valued by Hawaiians for centuries. The plant is one of the oldest cultivated crops in the Islands and is believed to have been brought to Hawaii in the canoes of Polynesians more than 1,500 years ago.

Kalo (taro). Photo: Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA).

Traditionally, the root is pounded into fresh purple poi or the newly legal paiai and served as a staple. More recently, poi and paiai have become popularly used as the base for a variety of more complex confections and dishes. The plant’s leaves are also sometimes served as a collard green-like vegetable.

The first day of the weekend-long event is held at the ballpark in the remote village of Hana at the end of the winding and scenic Hana Highway. An opening oli (chant/blessing) will kick of the festival, and a full day of live music performances and hula will be performed. Demonstration booths will feature poi pounding, hala weaving, traditional Hawaiian games and weaponry.

Sunday’s festival events are held in various locations around Hana and include the popular taro pancake breakfast (7:30 a.m. til 10:30 a.m., ticket prices vary), cultural garden tours at the Hale O Piilani Heiau, and a living farm and cultural excursion to see active kalo loi (taro terraces) at the Oheo Gulch in Kipahulu (beginning at 1 p.m.).

Categories: Culture, Food, Maui