Just as love is everlasting through the summers and the winters, the sacredness of the ti leaf, Ki to Hawaiians, transcends time.
In ancient days, the kahuna, the healing priest, traditionally wore a ti leaf lei as an emblem of high rank and power, a sacred symbol to the gods and a metaphor for strength and courage.
Many continue to believe that Ki will keep away evil spirits and bring good luck. The graceful green leaf needs a lot of water, grows plentiful as a hedge or shady background plant, and is used for decorations, hula skirts, and leis. Break off a branch, and it is a natural fan. The roots of the plant were grounded by ancient Hawaiians to make candy and beer.
Hawaiian warriors would toss a ti leaf into the river to see if it was safe to cross. If the leaf sank, there was danger; if it floated, they would move across. Modern travelers place ti leaves in their suitcases to make sure their bags arrive to their destination.
Just as Islanders long ago wrapped fish in ti leaves before cooking on hot coals, today pork and fish are wrapped to make laulaus, a special food featured at luau celebrations. The smooth, waxy leaves are not eaten, but provide insulation and add a distinctive, juicy flavor.
As with all of Nature's treasures, make sure you only pick the ti leaves you will need. To prepare for use, you must remove the midrib, or bone, from the center of each leaf. Turn the shiny side down, cut into the bone about five to eight inches from the beginning of the stem.
Do not cut all the way through or make a hole in the leaf. Work the bone out with both thumbs, pushing up on the broken bone and pulling the top of the leaf down. Carefully push and work toward the stem until you can peel the bone away. Your ti leaf is ready, as is your luck and love!
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Love is a wreath to be worn always.