Tropical Gardening: Celebrate Thanksgiving wherever you are

  • Courtesy of VOLTAIRE MOISE

    The durian is a popular fruit of Vietnam and much of tropical Southeast Asia. In Hawaii, in spite of its unique taste, it is one of the newer fruits and bringing top dollar to local farmers. Each fruit can sell for as much as $25.

As we wander throughout Vietnam, our family back home is gathering at the Kona Cloud Forest Sanctuary to celebrate Thanksgiving. Being here really makes one aware of how blessed we are in Hawaii.

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


These are strange times.

For the past several months, it seems many folks have focused on the negative, especially when it comes to politics. So let’s try something healthier.

Let us, for the moment, not focus on how indigenous peoples and so many other ethnic groups were treated as they tried to fit into the American Dream. Let us not focus on the two world wars of the early 20th century that killed an estimated 100 million people.

Instead let us focus on the great contributions these diverse ethnicities and cultures bestowed on America as we move forward in the experiment called democracy.

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 ’60scame 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, who were 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 should emphasize the power of love and healing in our thoughts and meditations every day.

It is amazing to experience how a country such as Vietnam moved beyond anger and hate after years of war, even though some effects of that war are still visibly present. What a lesson for the world!

In Hawaii we are somewhat insulated from much of the world’s turmoil. The tropics of the world such as Vietnam 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 are we 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 regions, we are very fortunate. Vietnam for example, fought for freedom from the French, but it is still recovering from the effects of that long war in which the United States became involved.

Some people of Vietnam still live very close to hunger and illness and have a relatively short life span. Folks here are enduring, tenacious and hard working, but without an environment that allows their talents to prosper, some struggle to thrive.

Hard working farmers of the countryside here would be millionaires if they were living in Hawaii, where we have many more opportunities to excel.

Sometimes we forget how fortunate we are. Too often, Thanksgiving is about eating too much rich food and worrying that the weight gain is likely to continue until 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 in Hawaii every single day.

Not only do we live in one of the most beautiful places in the world, we are blessed with one of the most diverse populations of most other parts of our great country. This creates an environment of inclusion.

We can be friends with anyone we like and marry anyone we want. With this mixture of ethnicities and cultures, we have an abundance of a great variety of foods.

We celebrate this abundance with mango festivals, breadfruit festivals and avocado 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 scores of tropical fruits such as citrus, mangoes, bananas, avocados, mangosteen and even durian, 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 local farmers markets and with our neighbors adds even more blessings.

To get the most out of all these choices, check with local nurseries for these fruit trees and more. Our gardens represent the many cultures that make Hawaii so special.


Remember, one of the best ways to count our daily blessings is by spending some time in our multicultural gardens and appreciating the fruits of our efforts and the contributions the many cultures have bestowed upon us.

To learn about all the great edibles you can grow, call the UHCTAHR Master Gardener helpline at 981-9155 in Hilo or 322-4993 in Kona. You can also call Brian Lievens of the Tropical Fruit Society to get additional information on new tropical fruits and sources of plants.

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