Friday, February 15, 2008

Stop and Smell the Pandan Wangi

The next time you’re feeling frazzled driving through the streets of Honolulu, take a break and head on up to the Lyon Arboretum, nestled deep in the heart of Manoa Valley. It’s an easy drive and within minutes away of the all hustle and bustle you can stroll through a misty tropical rainforest, breathe in fresh O2, hear the rejuvenating sounds of a bubbling stream and songbirds performing their lusty arias. Tension just melts away as you gaze upon the renovated ancient lo’i or a quiet pond, smell the sweet perfume of plants in love. Ahh.

Speaking of love, I fell head over heels for this patch of pandan wangi, Pandanus amaryllifolius, planted beneath native Hawaiian loulu palms (Pritchardia sp.)

The incense-like scent was so powerful the pandan signaled its presence long before it came into view. I couldn't help but take several deep, relaxing breaths here. Pandan leaves add rich flavor to many Thai dishes; they're also used to make scented water for religious ceremonies.

Weaving between the pandan were betel vines (Piper betle); their dark green, glossy, heart-shaped leaves were my favorite Valentines of the week.

If a man walks in the woods for love of them half of each day, he is in danger of being regarded as a loafer. But if he spends his days as a speculator, shearing off those woods and making the earth bald before her time, he is deemed an industrious and enterprising citizen.
--Henry David Thoreau

So. Here we are. Just sit, and breathe.


Anonymous said...

How can I get a plant of Pandan leaves? I would like to grow myself at home for cooking.

Janice said...

Well, I guess that depends where you are. I got one from a local nursery on the Big island. My favorite Thai lunchwagon lady at the Hilo farmer's market had a cute little keiki in a pot as decoration for her outdoor table. If you can't get it through a friend or local nursery, ask around the Southeast Asian community -- offer an exchange, and meet new friends!