by Glen Swartwout

Everything grows at The Shire… well almost everything.  And some things grow faster than we might want, like grass and vines around orchard and garden plantings.  Cultivation is a process requiring our regular attention to help our favorite tasty food plants grow and prosper…



GMO-Free Zone (Photo credit: decorat)

The orchards are planted as food forests, with mixed varieties of fruits and nuts… Sounds much like the rest of Puna, if you add vegetables from the garden! (It’s true, and a joke, too…)  The best time to cultivate and feed plants is around the new moon.  They can be fed nitrogen by urinating just outside the drip line of the plants leaves, stimulating roots to grow out to get the nitrogen they need.  The chicken tractor can also be moved periodically through the orchard areas, keeping it away from main structures so chickens don’t try to roost in them.

Because grasses grow year round and some can grow six or even twelve feet high (most of our cane grass is already gone, thank goodness), and because maile pilau (‘stink vine’) can grow up to several inches in one day under optimal conditions, regular attention to plantings is crucial.  A good goal is to develop a bed of mulch and a ground cover around each tree.  Perrenial peanut or low growing desmodium are good potential choices, since they are both nitrogen fixers.  Nitrogen help feed the tree, rather than competing with it for the same nitrogen, like grasses would.  A good mulch is grass clippings once they are brown from the sun after cutting.  They are usually available close by and can be gathering by the handful in a five gallon bucket.

Some of the orchard trees we have planted so far include:

Abiu (very sweet butterscotch caramel flavor, eaten out of hand – just cut it in half, and spoon out the soft transluscent flesh in the center, avoiding the sticky latex from the firm outer skin.

Acai Palm (an amazing anti-oxidant fruit; need to plant lots more of these in the jungle as an understory crop)

Acerola Cherry (high in Vitamin C)


Avocado (Hawaii has more varieties of avo than any other place in the world!  As we collect more grafts, we can eventually have year round production)

Bamboo (edible shoot variety, in addition to the large structural Guadua bamboo, thick walled and solid core furniture bamboos, black bamboo and Buddha Belly bamboo used for flower arrangement)

Banistereopsis vine (the entheogenic medicinal used in making ayahuasca)

Betel Nut Palm

Brazilian Cherry

Breadfruit (an important staple Hawaiian food; where breadfruit trees are growing, the people do not starve)

Breadnut (the origin of the breadfruit, and the nuts are an excellent source of protein)

Bumpy Lemon (a variety of citrus that is true to seed)

Cacao (source of chocolate, but also the sweet white flesh around the beans is particularly good…)

Cashew (both the nut and the fruit can be eaten raw, just avoid contact with the irritating white latex sap)

Chocolate Pudding Fruit (also called Black Sapote and Chocolate Persimmon, it looks and tastes like chocolate pudding when it is ripe, without the theophyllins and theobromines of cacao, so it is also an excellent chocolate substitute for those who avoid the mild stimulant effects of cacao)


Coconut Palm (loves salt, so a great place to deliver urine)


Curry Leaf (cooked in food for flavor, kind of like Bay Leaf, that is you don’t eat the leaf; the remarkable flavor is what curry is trying to emulate)

Durian (imagine a fruit so amazing that it is illegal to eat in public in its native Thailand… but you either love it, or you don’t)

Eggfruit (a unique texture and flavor slightly reminiscent of boiled egg yolk – very nutritious, and delicious)

Fig (need to plant several varieties)

Grapefruit (the variety with pink flesh)

Guava (large yellow fruit with delicious pink flesh; guava is a fabulous source of beneficial dietary fiber; just don’t try to chew the seeds or you will break your teeth – just learn to swallow them…)

Hibiscus (the edible leaf variety provides protein, but use it sparingly in your dishes or its mucilaginous quality will be overpowering; a pinch of young leaves of the red leaf variety adds a nice citrus like sourness as well as dramatic color to salads, and the seed pods of this plant are used to brew Hibiscus tea)

Ice Cream Bean (Yes, we have one planted in a strategic location, and Heaven knows we only need one… these are tasty treats, but very prolific and they grow huge; a mature tree can cover more than an acre)

Jaboticaba (a slow growing tree with sweet grape-like fruit that grow from the trunk and branches; an excellent resource for hobbit brewmasters…)

Jackfruit (both fruit and seeds are important cancer medicines)

Koa (a native nitrogen fixing tree, or NFT for short, which produces an amazing wood; at our elevation the wood will be blonde due to the pleasantly warm temperature range)

Kukui (an important native tree whose nuts are used for pressing the finest skin oil, and also called candle nut as it was traditionally used for lighting; builds soil, so plant the nuts everywhere through the rainforest!)

Lilikoi vines (the common sour variety is called lemon water, and we also are growing Giant lilikoi, which is picked ripe off the vine and eaten like a melon, as well as sweet varieties from Maui, South America and Jamaica)





Macadamia Nut (excellent protein and EFAs)

Malibar Chestnut (raw and sprouted nuts taste a bit like peanuts, while cooked nuts taste like chestnut)

Mamake (a native that grows extensively along our entrance road, and the Mamake berries are particularly good, as well as being a tonic like the tea made from the leaves)

Mame Apple (this is what Tang was trying to taste like, but it is the real thing, an amazing citrusy fruit with a satisfying crunchy texture)

Mame Sapote (soooooo deliciously sweet, with a salmon colored flesh – just be sure it is ripe enough before you pick one – scratch the brown surface of the fruit, and if it is orange, not green… it will ripen the rest of the way off the tree)

Mango (these will occasionally fruit with extended sunny, mild weather, but look to the sunny coastline for harvesting; the tree is beautiful and the wood exceptional, so a few volunteers still have a place at our elevation)

Mangosteen (need to plant these in the forest)

Mountain Apple (a delicious native Hawaiian fruit)

Mulberries at The Shire

Mulberry (soooo good…)

Naranjilla (one of South America’s most popular drinks; a member of the nightshade family)

Naval Oranges (three varieties, for an extended winter season)

Olive (two varieties that will fruit in our climate)

Papaya (please only plant non GMO varieties – buy large Hawaiian, Thai, Mexican or Polynesian varieties at the health food stores for seeds)

Pau D’Arco (medicinal bark and rot resistant wood)

Persimmon (two varieties that are best grown a half mile apart)

Pomello (a delicious and giant citrus fruit, sweeter than grapefruit, and also known as Jabon)

Psychotria (the medicinal shrub used in making the entheogenic medicine ayuhuasca)



Soursop (may or may not fruit at our elevation, but leaves are a very important cancer medicine)

Star Apple

Star Fruit (delicate fruit, great for juicing)

Suriname Cherries at The Shire

Suriname Cherry (high in Vitamin C)


Tree Tomato (a delicious nightshade that fruits out of reach of most critters, and has a tough skin that resists ovopositation)

Waiwi (strawberry guava and small yellow guava, which are sweeter)

Yuzu Lime (Japanese Citron, a cooking lime)


The first place to gather grass clippings from is all roadways and paths.  The next place is the shoulders of the roadways as these are designed to be parkable space.  That is why we have bananas planted 30 feet apart lining our roads.  The banana roots will extend out about 15 feet from either side, utilizing the entire road area without complaint!  It leaves enough room on both sides to park a car without blocking access.  And whenever driving by, perpetually hungry hobbits can keep both eyes peeled for the first sign of a yellowing banana on each mature rack, a sure sign that it is ready for harvest!

After orchard trees are cultivated and mulched, any extra grass clippings to be composted can always be used to mulch around the bananas, and even the entire bed containing double rows of bananas.  Bananas are grasses, like bamboo, and grasses are heavy feeders.  The bananas are happy to receive just about any organic contributions you wish to make other than animal matter and oils.  Woody materials are also better sent elsewhere, especially around coconut trees, and in particular any coconut circles are idea locations for long term mulching of wood.

Our goal is to plant 1000 bananas, and we are only at about 200, so there is always room for a dwarf or earth hobbit to get a work out digging a nice hole for planting.  The holes are ideally 2 feet in diameter and 2 feet deep, as long as the lava flow in the area will cooperate.  A little convincing with an o’o bar, a pick and a sledge sometimes helps…  Bananas of most varieties have no seeds, so they are propagated vegetatively, by digging up a portion of the root of an existing clump.  These keikis (children) do not necessarily need to have developed stalks, but do need both root ball surface area and a spot that will sprout into a stalk.

Interplanted permaculturally with the bananas, you can find:

Katuk seed pods at The Shire

Katuk (one of the most complete and bioavailable plant proteins; raw or cooked edible parts include immature seed pods which taste like green beans, leaves cut up in salads, flexible shoots as tropical asparagus, and mature seeds for delicious sweetness, oil, protein and crunchy texture)

Mexican Sunflower (this is the bees favorite food, and a prolific green mulch to feed the bananas – just whack it back: chop & drop permaculture style)

Sugar Cane (mostly mulched to feed the bananas, but with a press, we can make our own fresh sugar cane juice)

Tree Spinach


Garden bed construction beginning at The Shire

Biointensive garden beds are being built, with four 50 foot by 4 foot beds under way and another 26 to go!  Some of the plants we grow in garden areas include:

Blackberry (will grow; looking for starts)

Blueberry (several varieties that fruit in our climate)

Blue Flag Iris (medicinal and beautiful)

Camellia (green tea)


Cassava (tapioca root)

Cherry Tomato (small tomato varieties are much more resistant to ovopositation and other issues than their larger relatives)

Chinese Ginger

Citronella (a grass that looks nearly identical to Lemongrass)


Day Lilly (edible flowers – yum!)

Desmodium (a nitrogen fixer, the low growing variety makes a nice volunteer ground cover)

Dragon Fruit flower (Night Blooming Cereus) at The Shire

Dragon Fruit (Night Blooming Cereus)

Ferns (including an edible variety)

Gotu Kola (medicinal herb and an attractive volunteer ground cover)


Malabar Spinach

Mint (assorted varieties)

Miracle Berry (anything will taste sweet after eating one of these – even a lemon!)

Nutmeg (need to plant one!)

Okinawan Spinach

Orchids (many kinds)

Pepper Vine

Pineapple (white is our favorite variety)



Sweet Potato (white, yellow and purple flesh varieties)

Thai Ginger (a spicy edible ginger root)

Thimbleberry (these grow best in partial shade under the trees at the forest edge – very tasty)

Tropical Blueberry (a small tasty fruit slightly reminiscent of a blueberry, on a beautiful blossoming shrub which is a relative of guava and ohia)

Turmeric Ginger (a wonderfully medicinal and edible member of the ginger family)

Vanilla Vine (must be hand pollinated to set vanilla beans)



About doctorglen

Dr. Glen-Martin Swartwout graduated Magna Cum Laude with honors in Environmental Earth Sciences and Chemistry from Dartmouth College, and received his doctorate at the top of his class in Vision Science with honors in Optics as well as Leadership, being inducted into both Beta Sigma Kappa and the Gold Key Honor Societies at the State University of New York in Manhattan, where he trained at the largest outpatient vision clinic in the world. He is the author of over 50 professional papers, books, and software programs. His first professional office was in Tokyo, Japan. See links at

One response »

  1. Yes Banistereopsis vine is a vine that is used in making ayahuasca. It is one of the main ingredients in making ayahuasca tea. It is also named as Banisteriopsis caapi.

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