Kula Botanical Garden: A Jewel Set in Grandeur

Haleakala is a massive shield volcano that forms more than three-quarters of Maui Island in Hawaii.  Its name means “house of the sun.”  Legend says that demigod Maui lassoed the sun from this mountain because he wanted to lengthen the day so that his mother Hina could dry her tapa, a cloth made from bark.  If you’ve ever witnessed a sunrise from its peak of 10,000 feet, when the sun pushes the black night into the heavens for a time, you will understand its name.

Haleakala-Crater-Maui1

The road leading to top of Haleakala traverses through Kula on the eastern slope of this spectacular mountain.  Kekaulike Avenue is narrow and winding and its landscape is a stark contrast to the dry, barren volcanic crater.  Upper Kula, or Upcountry as it is commonly called, is punctuated by rolling grassy hills, scented by groves of silver eucalyptus trees and, in late spring, graced by the blue flowers of jacaranda trees.IMG_0332axKBGSign

And, as if the overall grandeur is not enough to impress you, vegetable and flower farms entice you on your journey up the mountain.

The Kula Botanical Garden is a such a jewel.  It is at 3,300 feet above sea level and enjoys a dry temperate climate.

Its owners, Warren and Helen McCord, initially established this area in 1968 as a display garden for Warren’s landscape architecture business.   In time, the McCords transformed these eight acres into a tropical Shangri-la, with colorful and unique plants, rock formations, and the quintessential stream that meanders through the valley.  This labor of love continues to operate as a family business and delights residents and visitors alike.

Mahalo (thank you) to the McCords!

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You can learn more about Kula Botanical Garden at kulabotanicalgarden.com

A note on the photos: All are mine except the photo of Haleakala and the sign for the garden (on the garden’s website).

Waikiki’s Iconic International Market Place

Smack dab in the middle of Waikiki is the International Market Place.

While this may seem a typical tourist attraction, it is the legacy of a king and queen driven to establish a hospital  to “stay the wasting hand that is destroying our people,” as King Kamehameha IV stated In his maiden speech to the Hawaiian legislature. By the time he became king, the Hawaiian race was approaching extinction due to diseases introduced by foreigners.  The native population had dwindled to a fifth of its original size to about 70,000 people.

His wife was Queen Emma, who was adopted and raised by her British uncle and Hawaiian aunt. While she was an excellent horse rider and a fine vocalist, Queen Emma was, above all, a humanitarian and she joined her husband in a personal crusade to stem the decline of Native Hawaiians..

She and the king founded The Queen’s Hospital. To personally raise funds, they went door to door, walking the streets of Honolulu. Today, The Queen’s Medical Center, the successor to The Queen’s Hospital, is the largest private non-profit hospital in Hawaii.

Just under three acres, the land under the International Market Place is owned by The Queen Emma Land Company, a nonprofit organization established to support and advance health care through The Queen’s Medical Center and its affiliates.

The International Market Place was founded in 1956 by Ernest Raymond Beaumont Gantt, otherwise known as Donn Beach, and more notably as Don the Beachcomber.  He commissioned the Dagger Bar and Bazaar Buildings, and during the 1960s, other elements included the Hawaiian Halau, Japanese Tea House and Esplanade buildings. The exceptional banyan tree, which stands to this day, was also once home to Don’s tree house.

I remember visiting the area in these early days.  There was a radio station that broadcasted live near the banyan tree, and wide walkways provided access to tourist shops and eateries.  It was a treat for my mom, my little brother and me to wander through this area while waiting for my dad to finish his second job of bussing and waiting tables in a Waikiki restaurant.

In time, second floors were added and kiosks filled walkways so that the marketplace concept evolved into a cacophony of trinkets, colorful aloha wear, and Hawaiian souvenirs crafted in other parts of the world. The density of vendors, wares and activity overwhelms the senses so that one is oblivious to the surrounding high-rise hotels, busy streets and high-priced boutique retail chains.

I Thought I Might Find You Here

I thought I might find you here
coaxing your precious plants to feed our family
with the help of shape shifters that transport mist

from mountain peaks that seduce the foolish
from insistent waves that soothe the senses
from meandering streams that inspire the poet
from salty tears that contain life’s yearning.

But the cerulean garden was just a camouflage
for the ancient future of hope
that I might find you here.

Perhaps next time.

Arrival at Baggage Claim C

He shifted his weight in the third chair of the single pew at Baggage Claim C.  He was amazed at how these thin seats initially looked comfortable, but soon made him squirm to find a good position.  His elbows banged up against the metal arms on both sides of his seat.  Why do humans intentionally design discomfort? 

“Flight 0804 has arrived,” the automated voice announced to the air.  “Baggage can be claimed at Baggage Claim C.  For passengers flying to another destination, please check the consoles located throughout the terminal.”

He was expecting many important people arriving on this flight.  Dignitaries, financiers, artists and musicians were listed on the manifest.  But he was especially interested in a woman he had yet to meet.  Her postcards always managed to reach him, bits of her life scribbled on the backs of beaches, mountains and cities.  Her simplicity intrigued him. 

“I like this town.  I may stay here awhile.” 

“I didn’t realize how much this beach meant to me.”

“These mountains must reach heaven.”

The tired-looking travelers started filing in one by one, pushing the turnstyle that ended their journeys.  He recognized the young senator from Illinois who will lead a nation, and another man who will challenge Israel’s sovereignty.  He smiled fondly at a dark colored man who will sing about how wonderful life is, and nodded briefly at a man whose baseball career will be tainted by his credibility before lawmakers.

He stood when a small woman came through, carrying an overstuffed red purse and a slim computer bag.  She seemed so . . .  ordinary next to these other destinies.  Yet he recognized her by her expectant glances at different faces, and a small smile that breathed anticipation. 

She set her bags down near the baggage conveyer and ran her fingers through her hair.  She was business-like in her movements, yet bent down to talk to a little Asian boy who will star in a TV series about being lost. 

She saw him walking towards her, and her smile broadened.  “I knew you’d be here,” she murmured when he stood a few inches away. 

He gently placed his hands on her shoulders, and said quietly, “Welcome to Gaia, child.”  They hugged as old friends do when time is of no essence.

“Let me help you with your bags,” he offered, as they waited for the conveyer to deliver her life.

a birthday present to myself

1 New Recipe a Week: Week 5 (aka Morrocan Cornucopia of Spices)

The exotic engages our senses while evoking images. For some, the exotic might be the wispy scent of jasmine tea being poured by a procelain-skinned woman wearing a kimono.  For others, it might be floating in warm Pacific waters as the tropical sun descends towards the horizon and fronds of tall coconut trees flutter in aloha. It doesn’t matter whether these exotic images actually exist. What matters is that these distant lands and cultures beckon us and allow us to dream, to hope, to imagine, to appreciate. 

For me, the exotic is the fragrance of spices in temporary tents around an isolated oasis or in a cacophonous bazaar where one can haggle for roasted chicken on a spit or the coveted mace and saffron.  Far off places like Marrakech, Casablanca, Fez  – where travelers in caravans pause for a night of lamb stew, rest, and perhaps a tale or two. 

For Week 5, I harkened back to this exotic scene and found recipes at morrocanfood.about.com that promised to arouse these images – if only for a night.

RAS EL HANOUT

Ras El Hanout is a mixture of several ground spices that are staple in many Moroccan dishes.  Its literal translation from Arabic is “head of the shop,” implying that it is the best.    

I used a recipe that combined 13 spices. Most were in my pantry, though some rarely used. I bought a few in bulk at Central Market, the most intriguing of which was mace, which sold at $45.95 a pound. Mace is the bright red, lacy covering of the nutmeg seed shell. While its sweet fragrance is similar to nutmeg, its bouquet is stronger, more intense. I bought the exact two teaspoons I needed for the mixture.

I poured the following into a large glass jar and shook it well:

  • 2 teaspoons each of ground ginger, ground cardamom and ground mace
  • 1 teaspoon each of cinnamon, ground allspice, ground coriander seeds, ground nutmeg and turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon each of ground black pepper, ground white pepper, ground cayenne pepper and ground anise seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon of ground cloves

As I transferred the Ras El Hanout into a spice jar, I was as careful as if I were handling gold dust.

M’ROUZIA

Just saying this is exotic.  M’rouzia is a lamb dish with raisins, almond and honey.  It is traditionally prepared in the days following Eid Al Adha, or “Festival of Sacrifice,” a major Islāmic holiday that commemorates Abraham’s willingness to obey God when he envisioned that he was to sacrifice his son.

I used three pieces of lamb shank, which yielded about three pounds of meat.  The Central Market butcher was kind to remove the bone and cut the meat into stew-sized pieces (I later boiled the bones for our dogs and kept its broth for uses I have yet to figure out).  The meat was rich in color and texture, plump, interwoven with fat, sinew and tendon.

I soaked a 1/2 cup of golden raisins in water.  In my favorite Le Creuset pot, I mixed the meat with grated onions, pressed garlic, two cinnamon sticks, two tablespoons each of Ras El Hanout and ground ginger,  a 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric, salt, ground pepper, 2 cinnamon sticks, crumbled saffron and 1/2 cup butter.  I cooked this on medium high heat for about 15 minutes. 

I added water to cover the meat and simmered this wonderfully fragrant brew for a couple of hours.  I then added the raisins, honey, a teaspoon of cinnamon and a 1/2 cup of blanched slivered almonds.  This simmered for an additional 30 minutes, as the liquid became thick and syrupy.  The meat became tender chunks that came apart when prodded with a fork.

RICE PILAF WITH SAFFRON

I prepared a Moroccan rice dish that featured saffron, the fragile stigma of the saffron crocus plant.  In addition to adding a golden color to dishes, it imparts a woody and slightly bitter taste. 

I’m accustomed to preparing rice in a rice cooker.  This dish was cooked in a large skillet.  While I heated four cups of chicken broth in a saucepan, I mixed white long grain rice with two tablespoons each of butter and olive oil, a chopped onion, two finely chopped garlic cloves, and two cinnamon sticks.  To this I added 1/2 teaspoon each of ground ginger, white pepper, cumin and turmeric.  For vegetables, I used a yellow bell pepper and a zucchini, both chopped into small chunks, and a handful of cilantro. 

This rice mixture was cooked on medium heat for 10 minutes, during which I had to stir frequently to keep everything from sticking.  I then added the heated broth and some saffron, stirred it once, and let it simmer for about 25 minutes.

THE MEAL

By the time the cooking was done, I imagined our house smelled like a Marrakech souk (traditional marketplace).   

Of course, this meal would not be complete without the company of fellow sojourners, and we were fortunate to have dear friends, originally from England, dine with us.  We shared stories over m’rouzia and rice pilaf, finishing off iced mint tea at almost midnight. 

Our friends left amid promises of more meals and tales to share.  Our paths shall cross again soon.