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Hawaiian Grown Maile Lei


photo: josh fletcher

It’s graduation season again, and happy parents and friends will be draping grads with maile lei—a warm Hawaiian tradition. They might not realize, though, that their maile probably came from the Cooke Islands or Tonga. Big Island farm Mahiai Ihi is trying to bring commercial maile back home, establishing two acres of plants in 2009, and harvesting its first crop late last year. It’s now able to produce 60 to 100 lei a month, which are quickly snapped up by individuals, Kamehameha Schools and even hula halau in Japan. Executive director Kealii Lum says, “People are happy to give a Hawaii-grown maile. It’s a thing of pride.” For more information, visit mahiaiihi.org.


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Honolulu Magazine March 2018
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