To Poi or not to Poi; that is the question. Taro was first brought to Hawaii by the Polynesians in double-hulled sailing canoes, perhaps as long ago as 450 A.D. Taro (colocascia esculenta) is a Samoan word. In ancient Hawaii, the cultivation of taro was associated with the god Kane, procreator and life giver, provider of water and sun. Only men could plant, harvest and pound taro. Poi is made by pounding taro.
Although taro is eaten around the world, only Hawaiians make poi. Traditionally they cooked the starchy, potato-like taro root (corms) for hours in an underground oven called an imu. Then they pounded the taro root on large flat boards called Papa ku`i`ai, using heavy stone poi pounders called pohaku ku`i`ai. The taro was pounded into a smooth, sticky paste called pa`i`ai, then stored air tight in ti leaf bundles and banana sheaths for storage or future trading. By slowly adding water to the pa`i`ai, which was then mixed and kneaded, the perfect poi consistency was created.
Poi is hypoallergenic, naturally gluten free and contains plant-based microorganisms that have been validated by research to be safe and highly beneficial. Poi is also considered to be one of the most digestible foods on earth.
The Taro plant is the 14th most cultivated crop on earth.