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Ethnology of Tongareva

Hala (Pandanus)

Hala (Pandanus)

The hala (Tongarevan, hara), said to have been introduced by Mahuta, grows plentifully on all the islands. The fruit (kahui hara) forms a useful food. The immature fruit (paraoa) may be eaten. The ripe fruit, which is fragrant, is pounded against a tree trunk or stone to cause the keys to separate. The softer inner ends of the keys may be eaten uncooked, and the hard outer ends (penu) be discarded. The penu contains a small kernel (kiko), about the size of a peanut, which is extracted by pounding (tuki) on a rock and is much sought after by children and adolescents.

The keys of the ripe fruit may be separated and cooked in an oven, which renders them much softer. As in the uncooked fruit, the inner ends of the keys are chewed.

Two foods are made from the fruit:

1. Para. The separated keys of the ripe fruit are scraped on the sahu. The fleshy parts (para) are collected in a bowl or on a mat placed below the implement. The para may be cooked in a covered coconut shell.

2. Makano. The grated para is mixed with the strained grated flesh of the mature coconut which is left after making the roro cream. The coconut gratings are termed ota sakari. The mixture then cooked in covered coconut shells is termed makano. It is referred to in the following song:

Hoi aue, hoi aue!
Te rongorongo kino o Atea,
Ko te makano i langia ki te tumasi.
E rawa te tautai e—
E moe te one e—

Alas! Alas!
An evil rumour comes from Atea.
The makano has been distributed to all.
The fishermen have plenty
And sleep on the sand.

The growing ends (kaihara) of the aerial roots of the hala which have not reached the ground are soft and juicy. Some root ends are quite sweet, and the degree of sweetness is said to coincide with the sweetness of the fruit, which varies with plants. On occasion, the aerial root ends may be cooked in the oven or chewed. The stringy fibers are used for the mesial three-ply braid commencement of the pakirere sleeping mats.