Whether it is spelled kava (kava kava), cava, or ‘awa (in Hawaiian), there’s no denying that it is one of the most important crops on Hawaii.
Said to date back almost 3,000 years, and brought to Hawaii by the gods, Kane and Kanaloa, it’s historically been reserved for both social events and special ceremonies, including as an offering to the gods for bountiful harvests, when choosing the right tree to carve into a canoe, and right before a traditional hula ceremony.
During our fall internship, the HIP Ag interns got their hands dirty by helping harvest the super special kava growing right here on the 'āina. Taking up to three years to mature, the kava that was harvested that day was over five years old, meaning that it contained lots of mana or power from the land.
Aside from its taste, which some have described as being on the bitter side, kava is also revered for its various medicinal abilities. From reducing anxiety/stress and alleviating insomnia, to soothing aching muscles and helping with migraines, kava just about does it all. It also helps put the drinker in a very relaxed state, but doesn’t cloud the mind, allowing the drinker to remain alert at the same time.
Harvesting kava isn't the easiest task, so the interns broke out the shovels and soon got to digging. With lots a teamwork and a little bit of elbow grease, before they knew it, the kava was soon extracted and ready to be processed!
It was then washed, cut into smaller pieces, and put out in the sun to dry so that it could be enjoyed later on the evening. When ready, it was ground, placed it in a porous bag, mixed with hot water, and then strained, subsequently being served in coconut half-shells (although a good ol’ coffee mug will do just the trick).
The effects of kava vary from person to person, but some interns said that their lips and mouths went partially numb and others did feel much more calm. Needless to say, this “food of the gods” is undeniably incredible.