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French Polynesia

 

 

 

 

Fruits and Vegetables

The Breadfruit-tree

The uru was without doubt the fruit most typical of the pre-European Polynesian diet.

After Cook's voyage, its fame spread rapidly to all the English colonies and many planters saw in this tree a providential means of feeding their slaves at a very low cost.  The famous adventure of the mutineers of the Bounty was indelibly linked with the breadfruit plants Bligh had been charged to transport from Tahiti to the West Indies.

The name maiore is also in common use.  It comes from the era when the king's name was so tapu it could not be pronounced.  One of the great chiefs chose "uru" as his title and they had to find a new word to describe the breadfruit-tree.

If conditions are favorable, a single tree will produce fruit three times a year for about fifty years.  The healers used to use the latex from the bark to plaster fractures, sprains and rheumatism and they still do so today.  In early times, this glue was used for capturing birds.  But most of all, the bark of the young branches was destined to be made into very light-colored tapa (see page 65) and the trunk to be hollowed into small single canoes.

Thanks to certain food conserving processes, the fruit could prevent famine, or allow Polynesians to undertake long voyages.  In this case, two kinds of mash were prepared: the poipoi where the uru was cooked in the ahimaa, and the mahi where fragments of pulp were cooked after they had been left to ferment in a trench covered with leaves and soil.

The Coconut Palm

It is only in relatively recent times that this tree has dominated Tahitian scenery, since people only began planting it systematically about a century ago.  Before this, there were more breadfruit-trees than coconut palms in populated areas.  

Today, gracefully curved over the white sand, it reminds us of holidays.  But for the Polynesians it was an all-purpose tree which they planted throughout the islands.  

Every part of the haari, from the highest palm-frond to the farthest root was used either treated, or in its natural state, for daily living.  

The developing nut and the heart of the young sprouts are the edible parts of the coconut palm.  The heart, which is very tender, can be eaten as a salad, and the nut supplies water and the famous coconut milk.  The latter is obtained after squeezing the grated pulp.  The palm-fronds, once woven, make mats, roofing-tiles, hats, sun-shades and baskets.  The ni’au, or secondary ribs, are used for making skewers and brooms.  The husk covering the nut, whose fiber can be plaited or twisted into rope, was used by early Polynesians for binding all manner of things together.  Even today, this husk provides a very fine vegetable ochre used for all kinds of decoration.  The trunk is still used occasionally as a building material and the bark and roots become ingredients of traditional medicine.  Finally, the dried flesh produces oil once it has been squeezed.  This product is important in the fabrication of monoi, perfumes and some soaps.  It takes twenty coconuts to produce three liters of oil.

For more general information on French Polynesia, go to:

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We have included French Polynesia in some of our specials to the South Pacific, eg. our Kontiki Voyage and South Sea Dream Voyage. Another option is to create your own package to French Polynesia by utilizing the seperate travel components, like hotels, flights and excursions on the islands.

For a legal wedding the legal requires in French Polynesia that you remain at least 30 days in French Polynesia before the marriage. In practice this means you may only have a ceremonial wedding in French Polynesia (see also Tiki Village).


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