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Monday, May 01, 2023

Kaʻū News Briefs, Monday, May 1, 2023

 ʻĀkulikuli, Sesuvium portulacastrum, is an indigenous plant of Kaʻū. Illustration by Joan Yoshioka

IT'S MAY DAY AND TIME TO CELEBRATE A NATIVE PLANT OF KAʻŪ, ʻĀkulikuli. Sesuvium portulacastrum is the subject of the Lāʻau Letters column written by Jodie Rosam and illustrated by Joan Yoshioka. Each month, read about Kaʻū’s native plants and their moʻolelo (stories), uses, preferred habitats, and opportunities to adopt them for stewardship. This column seeks to encourage making new plant friends and to reunite with others.
    Description: Introducing one of the most salt-tolerant of all of Hawaiʻi’s coastal plants: ʻākulikuli! ʻĀkulikuli, a.k.a. sea purslane, is in the Aizoaceae (ice plant or fig-marigold family). The Sesuvium genus contains eight species, and of those eight, S. portulacastrum is the only species native to Hawaiʻi Nei. This sweet and salty succulent is a common component of Hawaiian wetlands and coastal ecosystems, where it provides habitat for wetland invertebrates and is a food source for native waterbirds. Its slender, green leaves are roughly ½ to 2 inches long, and turn reddish-orange as they age. ʻĀkulikuli flowers are small but beautiful and bloom year-round in shades of pink, purple, and white. It can be mistaken for its riparian friend ʻaeʻae, but just remember that ʻaeʻae flowers are always white and have rounded petals while ʻākulikuli petals are more pointed, and ʻaeʻae leaves tend to be more rounded than slender.
    Uses: ʻĀkulikuli is one of the few plants that was listed as an emergency food source during WWII. The
ʻĀkulikuli, with its striking flower and edible leaves.
U.H. Botany photo by G.D. Carr
fleshy parts of ʻākulikuli are edible and can be eaten raw or cooked, and I highly encourage you to try it! Everyone loves an edible plant. The succulent leaves pack a salty crunch that is delicious when sprinkled on salads, in stir-fry, or (my personal favorite) in your favorite fresh poke bowl. Aside from culinary uses, ʻākulikuli can be used to clean stagnant waters through its root system. In fact, platforms of ʻakulikuli were placed in the Ala Wai Canal (near Waikīkī on Oʻahu) to filter toxins and unwanted materials from the water. The small flowers of ʻākulikuli can be used in lei if you can find enough of them!
    Habitat: ʻĀkulikuli grows along our shorelines on all of the main islands and on Pihemanu (Midway Atoll), Holoikauaua (Pearl & Hermes Atoll), Papaʻāpoho (Lisianski), Kauō (Laysan), and Mokumanamana (Necker). It thrives in sunny and windy sandy beaches, coastal coralline areas, and around wetlands and anchialine pools. It is common along the Kaʻū coastline, so the next time you are at the beach, go find a nice ʻākulikuli patch and introduce yourself!
    Growing and Purchasing: ʻĀkulikuli grows easily from cuttings and will thrive along a water feature in your yard (or somewhere that is constantly wet or can be watered regularly). They can handle full sun and wind, and even thrive off of salt spray. ʻĀkulikuli require little to no fertilization, especially if they are part of a water feature. Plant them 6-12” apart to allow the plants to spread, and before long, you will have a hardy groundcover to admire. Because plants need friends too, consider planting ʻākulikuli alongside other native coastal species like ʻilima or pāʻū o Hiʻiaka. Planted in your home garden or in the wild, take a moment to focus in on this little native plant, and I promise you will find yourself admiring her succulent beauty, and maybe even snacking on her tasty leaves!

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Kalia, Keone, Jennifer and Kaikala with their Four Scoops
 of Aloha food truck, at their home base in Pāhala.
Photo from Four Scoops of Aloha
GRACE FAMILY BRINGS FOOD TRUCK TO PĀHALA. Keone Grace is servicing Pāhala with a food truck and parks it most weekdays and soon on Saturdays next to Kamani Street by Kamae Gas Station.
    A long time food manager at Kaʻū Hospital, Grace said he has been dreaming of going out on his own for many years to support his family, Kalia and Kaikala and their mom Jennifer, who grew up in Kaʻū. Grace was able to purchase an 18-foot food truck with a stainless steel interior and finish it off with certification. He left his post at the hospital and said he is happy to provide food to Kaʻū folks from approximately 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and return the rig to his Pāhala home each day to make ready for the next.
    The name of the enterprise is Four Scoops of Aloha and the menu varies from burgers to chicken and pork, Thai and seared ahi, along with burritos, quesadillas and more. He also takes orders for family and group dining and catering. Text, call 808-747-2910. Email kaliakahu@gmail.com. See Four Scoops of Aloha for the menu on instagram.

THE PUBLIC IS INVITED TO THE KAʻŪ  RURAL HEALTH ANNUAL MEETING on Friday, May 26. The public Conference and Annual Meeting of Kaʻū Rural Health Community Association, Inc. is set for 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Robert Herkes Gym multipurpose room next to the Pahala school campus.

    The organization has invited Gov. Josh Green, Mayor Mitch Roth and food guru Derek Kurisu to be speakers. There will be door prizes, lucky numbers and refreshments. Focus will be workforce development, employment opportunities and continuing education in the health fields and beyond. Numerous participating employers in the community will be on hand. 

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A NEW DEPUTY DIRECTOR FOR COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF RESEARCH & DEVELOPMENT is a familiar face in the field. Frecia Cevallos has worked at R&D for more than 15 years as an Economic Development Specialist. She takes the post of long time public servant Bob Agres, as he retires.
    Mayor Mitch Roth made the announcement Monday, saying, “Frecia’s dedication and commitment to the County of Hawaiʻi, along with her years of expertise in regenerative tourism, culture, sustainability, and community building makes her a natural candidate to assume the role of Deputy Director. We’re confident that Frecia will bring all the skills necessary to bolster our efforts as we continue to forge a sustainable Hawaiʻi Island where our keiki can thrive and succeed for generations to come.”

Frecia Cevalos is new Deputy
Director for County R&D
Hawai'i County photo
    As Deputy Director, Cevallos will continue to oversee economic development and sustainability efforts and initiatives, working closely with the department’s leadership team to ensure the implementation of sound policies and practices that support the County’s economic growth and development.
Bob Agres retires as Hawai'i County Dept. of
Research & Development Deputy Director.
Photo from Hawai'i County
    For the past nine years, Ms. Cevallos has successfully managed the development and implementation of the Hawaiʻi Island Tourism Strategic Plan and Destination Management Action Plan, which includes the County’s community-based tourism initiatives and the Hawaiʻi Island Visitor Promotions Program.
    In addition to her work with the County, Ms. Cevallos has also worked in the social service sector, providing outreach and capacity-building support for culture-based education, community-based stewardship, and economic diversification initiatives on Hawaiʻi Island. She has also managed public relations and political campaigns for the United Nations Center for Human Rights and Amnesty International, coordinated special events and student activities at the Seattle Center and the University of Washington, and owned a small business.
    Cevallos holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications and a Master’s Degree in Political Science. She is a passionate runner, swimmer, biker, and surfer and resides in her hometown of Hilo with her husband and three sons.
A NEW DIRECTOR OF DEPARTMENT OF INFORMATION & TECHNOLOGY will take the helm on May 15 at  Hawai'i County after working at the Planning Department. A statement from  the County says
Robert Ewbank "has over 20 years of hands-on technical and supervisory experience. As Director of the Department of Information Technology, Robert will focus on providing users and clients with a stable computing environment that maintains confidentiality, integrity, and availability.
    "Robert brings extensive experience with IT systems and supervision in various settings, as well as years of experience in county government. His appointment reflects the County’s commitment to providing the best possible technology services internally and externally."
    Mayor Mitch Roth said, “We are thrilled to have Robert Ewbank join our team as the Director of the Department of Information Technology,” said Mayor Mitch Roth. “Robert’s experience and expertise make him the ideal candidate for the position, and we look forward to working with him to continue to improve technology services for the County.”
     Ewbank takes over the post held by Scott Uehara who transitions to Civil Defense to work on emergency communication systems.