Categorized | Agriculture

Puna Ulu Festival revives rich culture of breadfruit

Uncle Keikialoha Keikipi chanting a traditional chant while planting a new Ulu tree. Uncle Keiki will be planting an Ulu tree at the Puna Ulu Festival to commemorate the 10-year anniversary of Kua O Ka La PCS. (Photo special to Hawaii 24/7 by Craig Elevitch)


The Puna Ulu Festival is 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday, March 3 at Hooulu Lahui, the site of Kua O Ka La Public Charter School at Pualaa, adjacent to the Ahalanui County Park warm ponds in Puna.

The event is free and open to the public.

The Puna Ulu Festival will feature a cooking contest, breadfruit trees for sale, presentations on the cultivation and care of ulu trees, poi pounding, tapa making, activities for the keiki, music all day and local food featuring breadfruit.

Without a landscape that was conducive to abundant taro production, Hawaiians in Puna relied heavily upon the breadfruit. Due to the young lava lands in Puna, the planting styles are different and the primary staple food for Native Hawaiians was always ulu, not taro.

Puna was uniquely known for its breadfruit trees that were planted in deep holes so that the leaves and fruits grew at ground level. Hence the breadfruit groves were often referred to as “hidden” because they couldn’t be seen from afar.

Kua O Ka La Public Charter School (PCS) is located at Pualaa in Puna, a 600-acre ancient Hawaiian village site. The revitalization of ulu in this region is a key initiative for Hooulu Lahui and Kua O Ka Lā PCS.

The day will include a Breadfruit Cooking Contest in which the public can enter recipes in the categories of Appetizer, Main Dish/Entree and Dessert. Prizes will be awarded for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place in each of these categories and for Healthiest Choice and Best in Show.

Cooking demonstrations will be held throughout the day featuring Chef Casey Halpern from Cafe Pesto, Shirley Kauhaihao, a Hawaiian cultural practitioner from Kona and the students of Kua O Ka La PCS.

Chef Alan Okuda and the East Hawaii Community College Culinary Arts Program will be preparing a sumptuous buffet lunch, and Kua O Ka La PCS students will be selling their award winning ulu tamales.

Presenters include: Ryan McCormack of Kua O Ka La PCS speaking on “Ulu, A Hawaiian Perspective,” Dr. Diane Ragone and Ian Cole of the Breadfruit Institute of the National Tropical Botanical Garden speaking about “An Overview of Pacific Breadfruit” and “Care and Maintenance of Ulu” and Craig Elevitch of Hawaii Homegrown Food Network presenting on “Food Security—Pasifika Style.”

Cultural activities will be ongoing throughout the day including traditional ulu poi pounding, making poi boards from ulu wood, tapa from ulu bark and Hawaiian quilting.

Keiki activities include games and an art booth with local artists.

Uncle Keikialoha Keikipi will be planting an ulu tree to commemorate the 10-year anniversary of Kua O Ka La PCS.

The Puna Ulu Festival is sponsored by Hooulu Lahui, Kua O Ka La Public Charter School, Hawaii Homegrown Food Network, the Breadfruit Institute of the National Tropical Botanical Garden and Kamehameha Schools.

The Puna Ulu Festival is a part of a larger statewide effort to revitalize breadfruit for food security called Hooulu ka Ulu.

For further information about the Puna Ulu Festival, call 965-5098 or visit

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