The first time I visited a taro farm was in the 2nd grade for a field trip and we were told to bring very old shoes and extra clothes. I can still remember my feet getting stuck in the mud and having to pull them out like plungers step-by-step to move across the taro patch. Multiply that with about 5 classes of 2nd graders and you can just imagine the giggling and laughing that we all had! By the end of the day, every student and teacher who started the day wearing their bright blue school shirts were now wearing matching muddy brown shirts.
Most taro farms are located deep in the countryside near streams and rivers so they’re certainly off the beaten path. But because of their location, the area is often pristine with fresh air, deep green forests and an amazingly peaceful atmosphere that will connect you to our Earth. Plus, taro farms often grow other fruits and vegetables that you can just pick and eat, how cool is that?
Other than on a taro farm, taro can also grow wild so once in awhile you’ll spot dryland taro on your hikes. Not to be confused with elephant ears, which look very similar and can also be seen growing wild in Hawaii. Locals who know where these wild taro patches grow will often pick a few leaves and boil them for dinner or use them to wrap their laulau.
If you’re lucky enough to experience pulling taro from a taro patch, you’ll have a ton of fun walking barefoot in water and mud that will suck your feet further into the ground. Tip: You’ll have to move about constantly or risk falling over! While the taro farm may supply you with tools to pull the taro root out, the most exciting way is to use your feet to break the smaller roots around the main bulb so that you can pull the whole taro plant out.
Taro picking is a wonderful activity for the whole family and you’ll find that kids love it the most! It’s an excuse for them to get dirty with permission, plus they get to learn about giving back to the community. If you’re interested in a taro picking activity, I highly suggest heading over to kakoooiwi.org. Kako o Oiwi runs the Mahuahua Ai o Hoi program aimed at bringing back the taro fields and relies on volunteers every 2nd Saturday of each month to help with planting, harvesting, weeding, maintaining and clearing invasive plants from the taro patches. The team there is a non-profit with a goal to restore most of the original taro patches that once covered the land Heeia, Hawaii. Here’s a short video clip featuring their Executive Director explaining about the Kako o Oiwi mission:
Farm tours are fun and there’s a nice one in Maui that features all sorts of fruits and plants and a delicious burger lunch. If you’re a vegetarian, try the taro burger!