Tropical Gardening: Let’s celebrate 365 days a year

  • Photo courtesy of VOLTAIRE MOISE A visit to local farmers markets is a treat, as we see the cornucopia of fruits, vegetables and nuts grown on island farms and in our gardens.

Thursday is Thanksgiving, but giving thanks for the many blessings we have in Hawaii should be a daily event.

For the past several months, it seems many folks have focused on the negative, so let’s try something healthier.

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For this exercise, let us — for the moment — not focus on how Native Americans, Mexicans, Hawaiians, African-Americans, Filipinos, Japanese, Italians, Chinese, Irish and so many other ethnic groups were treated as they tried to fit in to the American scene.

Let us not focus on the two world wars of the 20th century that killed an estimated 100 million people.

Let us not focus on the 1940s and onward. Many American Japanese were being treated as enemies. They lost their homes and were sent to internment camps. Then came the 1950s, with prejudice against African-Americans and folks of the Jewish faith as they were being labeled communists. The ’60s came along with continued violence against African-Americans, plus the Vietnam War splitting our nation until the war came to an end in 1975.

The next decade was scarred by the mistreatment of soldiers returning from Vietnam trying to find their place in society back home.

And this goes on and on until we are here today. It sounds dismal, and we cannot forget the terrible price we pay for fear and hatred when it is allowed to consume our sensibilities. Now is the time, instead, that we can emphasize the power of love and healing in our thoughts and meditations every day.

Here on the Big Island we are somewhat insulated from much of the world’s turmoil. The tropics of the world have many places with as much beauty as Hawaii, and there are many places where you can find friendly people.

What is unique about Hawaii is that not only is it a beautiful and friendly place, we have a form of government that allows us to live in relative safety and prosperity. Our form of government attempts to allow for rule of the majority with protection of the minority. It is just enough capitalistic that it rewards free enterprise and just enough socialistic that most folks have food, shelter and medical care.

Now some readers would disagree, but compared to most tropical African, Asian or American countries this is a reality.

Haiti, for example, fought for freedom from the French centuries ago, but its own internal politics have left it a country where one never really feels safe.

Most people live very close to hunger, illness and have a relatively short life span. They are enduring, tenacious and hard working, but without an environment that allows their talents to prosper, they struggle to thrive.

Some of the Haitian farmers with whom I have worked would be millionaires if they were living in a place such as Hawaii. Like Haiti, the same is true in places such as Guyana, Nicaragua, Ghana or Timor.

Sometimes we forget how fortunate we are. Too often, Thanksgiving is about eating too much rich food and the worry that the weight gain is likely to continue until the New Year or maybe Easter. Unlike much of the tropical world, we don’t usually have to worry about from where our next meal comes.

However, it should be the perfect time to sincerely give thanks for all the many blessings around us every single day. Not only do we live in one of the most beautiful places in the world, we are blessed with the abundance of a great variety of food crops.

We celebrate this abundance with mango festivals, breadfruit festivals and we just finished celebrating our special coffee with the Kona Coffee Cultural Festival. We even have a macadamia festival.

These events merely scratch the surface when it comes to all the amazing fruits, nuts, vegetables and spices we are able to grow.

Hawaii gardeners can grow many tropical fruits such as citrus, mangoes, bananas and avocados, but often overlook some favorites from warm temperate climates such as apples, peaches, pomegranates, figs, kiwi fruits and persimmons. With all the microclimates available, we can grow almost anything.

The joy of sharing the fruits of our gardening labor at farmers markets and with our neighbors adds even more blessings.

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Check with nurseries for these fruit trees and more to make your home gardening more fruitful.

Remember, one of the best ways to count our daily blessings is by spending some time in the garden and appreciating the fruits of our efforts.

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