Plant-based diets are growing increasingly popular, which has had a positive impact on farming in Hawaii. A diet comprised primarily of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and whole grains touts a host of benefits. Those who eat plant-based boast lowered markers of inflammation, decreased blood pressure, increased energy levels, clearer skin, and fewer digestive complications. Plant eaters also decrease their risk of developing several diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Reducing meat, cheese, and egg consumption significantly reduces your carbon footprint and is thus beneficial for the environment. Physically, mentally, and ethically, transitioning to a diet that includes more plants is a sound nutritional choice.

However, a plant-based diet is not without its caveats. A diet void of meat decreases the consumption of iron and vitamin B12, potentially causing anemia. It may also be inadequate for active individuals, who might find it hard to meet their protein needs without encountering gastric distress. At Gingerhill, we are “flexitarians”—that is, we take care to eat mostly produce and consume only organic, ethically sourced animal products. We believe that the flexitarian lifestyle is the most ethical, balanced, and nourishing approach to farming in Hawaii.

It is important to vary your diet day-to-day to ensure proper intake of a variety of nutrients. Farming in Hawaii allows for a diet that supplies all necessary vitamins and minerals. Below we explore in depth the nutritional benefits of just a few of the crops that we grow here at Gingerhill.

Farming In Hawaii:

Papaya

If you’re not big on papaya from the mainland, don’t be so quick to shun Hawaiian papayas. Time and time again, we’ve transformed papaya haters into papaya fanatics. They’re not just delicious, though; they are also a digestive powerhouse. Papaya contains papain, an enzyme that breaks down protein. Papaya thereby decreases digestive distress and supports healthy elimination. Rich in vitamins A, B, C, and K, antioxidants, and phytonutrients, papaya supports the immune system while also working to decrease inflammation and reduce free-radical induced oxidative stress. Notably, papaya contains Lycopene, a compound that improves complexion by reducing redness and wrinkles.

Noni

Noni gets a bad rap for its pungent odor, but its benefits are seemingly endless. When prepared correctly, noni can be as delicious as it is nutritious. Native to Southeast Asia, noni is a popular Hawaiian agricultural product. The light green, bumpy fruit  is comparable to hydrocortisone in its ability to ease pain. It also encourages the immune system to produce more lymphocytes, improving the body’s ability to detoxify and ward off disease. Additionally, noni has antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral properties that significantly strengthen immunity. Noni treats pain and disease holistically, addressing both symptom and cause in relieving pain and strengthening immunity. It also supports the production of serotonin and melatonin, reducing stress, elevating mood, and promoting sound sleep. Finally, noni reduces bodily absorption of LDL cholesterol, fostering good cardiovascular health.

Bilimbi

If you’re not farming in Hawaii, it’s likely that you are unfamiliar with bilimbi. This small, cucumber-resembling Malaysian fruit is refreshing and slightly sweet, but it also packs a powerfully sour punch. Its pucker is due in part to its high content of oxalic acid, a compound responsible for a host of Bilimbi’s benefits. Bilimbi juice’s acidity makes it useful as a non-toxic, natural, DIY household cleaner. It’s also a topical analgesic that reduces inflammation of the skin, and is thereby an effective treatment for skin irritation, acne, and bites. A paste concocted from bilimbi leaves yields similar effects. A decoction of bilimbi is useful in treating colds, coughs, fever, flu, allergies, and general inflammation. It is useful as a tonic as well but should not be consumed in excess, as oxalic acid can be toxic to the kidneys.

Ulu

In Hawaii we refer to breadfruit by it’s Hawaiian name, ulu. Ulu is a rough, bright green fruit of phenomenal versatility. High in potassium and complex carbohydrates, breadfruit is excellent for those that live an active lifestyle. Though breadfruit is primarily comprised of carbohydrates, it is nonetheless an excellent source of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids. By extension, ulu works to stabilize mood, reduce inflammation, and promote hair growth. It also contains antioxidants that encourage new cell growth, thus protecting and brightening the skin. Perhaps its greatest asset, ulu is incredibly versatile. When it is less ripe, ulu makes an excellent substitute for potatoes. As it ripens, the fruit becomes sweet and custard-like and can be used to make desserts. A Gingerhill favorite: dehydrating and processing breadfruit to create a delicious, gluten-free, paleo flour.

Sweet Potato

Athletes and nutritionists have long been praising sweet potatoes for their complex carbohydrates and high fiber content, which provide ample energy without causing blood sugar fluctuations. Sweet potatoes are high in Vitamins A and C and possess antibacterial and antifungal properties. Purple sweet potatoes, like those that we grow at Gingerhill, are distinct from other varieties in their nutritional potency. A serving of purple sweet potato contains 1.5 times the antioxidants of a serving of  blueberries. One of these antioxidants, anthocyanin, is what endows the sweet potato with its bright purple-indigo color and functions as an anti-inflammatory. Like ulu, sweet potatoes are a significant aspect of farming in Hawaii. The sweet, starchy root is incredibly versatile and is used in both sweet and savory dishes. Purple sweet potato pastries and pies are among the island favorites.

Arugula

Though it would appear to be more closely related to lettuce or spinach, arugula is actually a cruciferous vegetable. Slightly bitter with an earthy spice, arugula has an impressive nutritional profile. The green is high in nitrates (not to be confused with nitrites, which are used to preserve meat) that reduce oxygen needs, enhancing the performance of endurance athletes. Arugula also possesses sulfur-containing compounds that halt the proliferation of cancer cells. High in chlorophyll, arugula detoxifies the body and neutralizes the threat of carcinogenic compounds. Due to its Vitamin K content, arugula improves calcium retention and absorption. It also contains high levels of Alpha-lipoic acid, which regulates glucose levels. Steady glucose levels, in turn, prevent energy crashes. At only 10 calories per cup, arugula boasts an incredible nutrient-to-calorie-ratio. At Gingerhill, we use arugula to lend personality to our salads or add it to pesto for extra zing.

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