During our visit to Kapolei Library, Branch Manager Stacie Kanno recommended The Maui Book of Lavender (Watermark, 2008) for us to read and review. I had previously heard about the Maui lavender farm on one of my trips to the Na Mea: Native Books store at Ward Warehouse (they sell products from the farm there). Then the weekend after we got our book recommendation, @watermarkhawaii Twittered about the book and how AKL- Ali’i Kula Lavender Farms and Watermark Publishing would attend the Hawai’i Woman Expo. So we went to the expo, met the nice folks of Watermark, bought lavender goodies for moi, and even sampled some of the ono-licious lavender food items AKL produces and sells. It all happened quite serendipitously!

As a long time lover of all things lavender, usually of the Yardley or L’Occitane variety, I was pleased to read this book and explore the business of lavender farming right here in the islands. Since I am the bigger fan of lavender (Alex not so much) it was decided that I would do the review of this quirky, heavenly smelling book… yes it really does smell like lavender!

Thoughts of The Maui Book of Lavender:6a00d8341c59a653ef01116841f376970c-800wi

This book is quite an eclectic mix of things. 1 part gardening, 1 part cooking,  1 part home remedy, 2 parts spiritual and inspirational.

It is a book about a journey that manifests its spirit through growing and nurturing all living things, through collaboration, inclusion, creativity and the belief in things greater than us.  This is a book about nurturing your spirit as it relates to working and being connected to the land.  By coming back to the land, we are re-connected to our source, to each other and ultimately to ourselves. (from the Introduction)

Aside from being a book about the only lavender farm on Maui and one of Hawaii’s most successful AgriTourism ventures, it’s a real reflection of Hawaiiana because of the values that are emphasized throughout its pages. Love of the land, community and spirit; finding opportunity in obstacles, are all intrinsic values in the Hawaiian culture, and according to the authors it’s the reason why AKL Farms has been so successful.

The book itself is an example of the ohana work ethic of AKL Farms. It’s a collaboration by farm co-owner, lavender grower and artist, Ali’i Chang; co-owner and Marketing & Promotions Director, Lani Medina Weigert, with the expertise of established Hawaiiana author Jill Engledow. They created the book to share their unique business experiences as a guide and form of encouragement for other local entrepreneurs.

The book begins with a brief history of lavender, how it was used around the world and how it came to Hawaii. This part isn’t drawn out with mundane details. It’s fairly short, only divulging the necessary details about lavender, but there are some great pictures including a handwritten list that Queen Liliu’okalani compiled of her plants in the gardens at Washington Place, one of course being a “lavender bush” (I couldn’t stop staring at her meticulously organized list, she had such fine penmanship!).

The section following the short history of lavender is all about Ali’i Kula Lavender Farms. It was nice to read about how Ali’i Chang was raised to appreciate the land, learning from his kupuna how to make things grow and how he retained that knowledge and practiced those skills as an adult. He sought help in the community and with the expertise of Lani Weigert and her creative genius in Hawai’i AgriTourism they were able to build a lavender farm that promotes organic living, energizes local businesses and strengthens the community.

After that, it’s pretty much all fun! Recipes for appetizers, main dishes and desserts, as well as how to use lavender to enhance beauty and hygiene. There’s even a large section that shows you how to grow lavender at home or use it in craft making projects! As far as the recipes go,  I’ll definitely try my hand at the “Lavender Chicken & Feta Meatballs” or the “Lavender Eggs Benedict” (by the way, this section of the book is dangerous because it really makes you ono for grinds). You can visit the Ali’i Kula Lavender website for recipes or check out this article in Hawaii Magazine for the “Lavender Lilikoi Chicken” recipe.

Speaking of lilikoi, while we were at the Hawai’i Woman Expo we sampled the lavender lilikoi jam, which I was a bit disappointed in. I love lilikoi, but it’s such a strong flavor even for lavender. It kind of overpowered the floral notes of the lavender so it pretty much just tasted like lilikoi, which was still okay by me. We also tried the lavender brownie, which was delicious and surprisingly had a bit of a spice to it. It’s definitely worthy of more exploration!

In it’s fantastic location, with its thriving plants and welcoming hosts, Ali’i Kula Lavender celebrates life and living things, beauty and sweetness, healing and growth. (pg. 121)

Kinda makes us want to take a trip to Maui soon. Maybe we can visit a library while we’re there.