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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, September 5, 2003

These berries' miracle is a sweet one

By Heidi Bornhorst

Q. I have to take some very bitter medicinal herbs to treat lung cancer. I went up on the roof and picked some miracle berries and now I eat them first, and it makes the bitter medicinal herbs taste palatable. Could you share that solution with your readers?

— Betty Ho, Nu'uanu

A. I had forgotten about this fruit, which makes everything taste sweet. It was very popular and everyone "had to have one" back in the '70s and early '80s.

I remember working with a woman at Kubota nursery in Manoa. She had eaten some and then went to drink her pau hana beer. It tasted terrible! She dumped it out and got a new one.

It, too, tasted "off." Then she realized the miracle berries were doing their job and making everything sweet.

Taking it with bitter herbs is truly akamai. This is something we could all grow again. Who ever gets enough fruit to grow and eat?

It is a small red fruit with a seed inside. You can buy a plant at your favorite plant shop or get a fruit from a friend and grow the seed.

Q. With water restrictions looming above us, shouldn't we all xeriscape our gardens? Wouldn't native Hawaiian plants be good for this?

— Jody Smith, UH Manoa

A. Yes, now more than ever it is time to think about xeriscaping. This fancy word really means wise water gardening. It doesn't have to mean cactus and rocks for us here in Hawai'i, nor does it mean you NEVER have to water or maintain your garden. Just be akamai about how you use our precious island water.

You can learn a lot about this kind of gardening by visiting the Halawa Xeriscape garden run by BWS. They have a lot of info on the methods of xeriscaping, from reducing lawn area (manicured lawns are huge consumers of water, fertilizer and in some cases, pesticides); checking and repairing your irrigation system or watering sparingly by hand, and the use of groundcovers and mulches. Soil preparation is key for a successful xeriscape.

Plant selection is another key for xeriscaping and using less water in the landscape. Native Hawaiian plants from our coasts and dryland forests are some of the best candidates we have for our Hawaii gardens.

Some of the best native for xeriscaping include 'akia, naupaka kahakai, wiliwili, 'ilima kahakai, kolokolo kahakai, and 'ihi, the native Portulacca. Some with potential that we should plant and research more are anapanapa kukuku, or Colubrina asiatica; 'ulei, or Osteomeles anthyllidifolia, and dryland trees like 'ohe kukuluae'o, or Reynoldsia sandwicensis.

Two native trees that we know are winner for the urban landscape are the native soapberries. Manele, or Sapindus saponaria, is a tough and handsome tree. Lonomea, or Sapindus oahuensis, which is native to Kaua'i and O'ahu, is another winner. These trees have pretty durable seeds, which are also good for lei making.