Sunny Savage has been Maui’s wild foods advocate for the last decade, hunting her way around the island and organizing events like beach foraging picnics and hikes. Savage also wrote the book Wild Food Plants of Hawaii. Now Savage has a new food truck, called Savage Kitchen, that she’s passionate about, and the menu will focus on eating invasive species as gourmet nutritious dishes and drinks.
“I will never forget the first time I over-harvested wild plants,” she says. “I was devastated. I was emotionally upset. It was a massive lesson to always take what I needed. When I came to Maui nine years ago, I got on all my plant websites and reached out to many people to figure out all of the foraging plants and medicines you can eat here. When you live on an island, over-harvesting wild plants is a big deal. We live in a small closed system–we can’t really afford that. We are caretakers of this sacred aina. I had to get my groove on and settle in to what I could feel good about. So this whole invasive species thing is something I finally feel I can really get behind. We have invasive species that are directly on the front lines threatening some of the most unique eco systems on the planet. And we can eat them! Not all of them, but there are several that we can eat.”
Savage has set up a Kickstarter that outlines her vision. She needs $30,000 to set up the business, and that includes an app for identifying foraging plants in the wild. The kickstarter has 11 days to go, and has raised a little over a third of what she needs. The kickstarter has lots of incentives and prizes for those that donate.
“I really want to focus on my top five plants,” says Savage. “Spiny Amaranth, this is a global invasive. It’s on every continent except for Antarctica. It’s glyphosate-resistant. We don’t want it around. It’s spiny and it hurts. But it’s also incredibly nutritious. The other one I want to focus on is haole koa. I have partnered up with Jaime from Maui Tempeh and we’re going to make a haole koa tempeh. Third is the rubus, thimble berries and Indian black berries. These make the brambles you can’t get through. We are going to use these leaves to make tea and eat the berry so the pigs can’t spread this anymore. Wild ginger, the kahili ginger, grows at really high elevation and is wiping out native forests. In addition, I’m going to add other hedychium to the list. If you want the water to run mauka to makai, then we need to clean out our rivers. These invasive wild ginger are choking our rivers. So let’s eat it. Let’s use this medicine. It’s right there! I can ferment, use the flowers. I can distill the rhizome and make a tonic.”
She’s still contemplating number five. It’s between the Strawberry Guava and the Banana Poka.
Savage will be hosting a full moon Grand Finale potluck on March 12 at the Baldwin Beach pavilion at 6pm. Bring a locally sourced labeled potluck dish and a musical instrument or games for the kids. For more on her Kickstarter and upcoming events, go to Sunnysavage.com.
Savage Kitchen Facebook Page
Grand Finale Wild Food Kickstarter Party Event Page