Iaraj (Cyrtosperma chamissonis - Araceae)

In addition to food from the sea and some edible animals raised or gathered on land, it is plants that provide the core of the traditional Pacific Islanders' food supply. Until recent times in the Marshall Islands, this main source of food has been provided by only a few cultivated plant species, originally introduced by Pacific voyagers in the prehistoric period.

Although the diets of modern Marshall Islanders have in many cases been profoundly affected by new sources of food, both from some newly introduced crop plants and by the importation of foreign foods, the traditional foods of the islands are still very important. In a very interesting essay on a traditional food, mokwan (or jaankun), made from preserved bōb (pandanus) paste, Ione Heine deBrum describes the many meanings that food has in Marshallese culture. Traditional foods such as mokwan could take a long time to prepare, but all the ingredients were available on the island, even the packaging was made from Marshallese plant materials, like pandanus leaves and ekkwal (or sennit), made from coconut fiber. The foods also lasted a long time so they were useful for sailors on long voyages. You can read about mokwan in Marshallese or English. In her essay, Debrum encourages people to take up making mokwan again, for its many health and economic benefits.

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