Pioneering UH food scientist left legacy of knowledge
HOW TO become immortal: Write a reference book that remains the go-to source for a particular type of information even decades after you go to press.
The cookbook world has a few venerable publications like this -- high on my list would be "Some Fruits of Hawaii: Their Composition, Nutritive Value and Use in Tested Recipes," first published in 1936 by Carey D. Miller, Katherine Bazore and Mary Bartow (University of Hawaii Press).
It is a weighty title, so these days it is known by the shorthand, "Fruits of Hawaii," which is enough to get the point across.
I have two inherited copies -- a hardcover reprint from 1955 and a paperback from 1976. When I get questions about the use of such fruits as guava, passion fruit, lychee, mountain apple, soursop or Surinam cherry, I head straight to these books. No sense mucking around elsewhere.
COURTESY UNIVERSITY OF HAWAII
Carey D. Miller's white lab rats were a part of her nutritional research.
So it was when Elverta Yoshida e-mailed in search of a recipe for starfruit. Her request dovetailed with an announcement from the University of Hawaii about the legacy of one of the "Fruits of Hawaii" authors -- Miller, a pioneering food scientist and UH professor.
I did find a recipe for a starfruit sorbet in the book, but before I get to that, Miller deserves our attention.
She spent 36 years with the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, hired in 1922 to head the new UH home economics department. She helped build that department while writing 70 publications and conducting extensive research on food and nutrition.
OK, so all that's not too sexy, but here's the thing: In those days, most of the science in this area had to do with the majority population (i.e., Caucasians) and their dietary traditions.
"Ms. Miller was the first to do nutritional analysis on native Hawaiian foods and ethnic foods as they were consumed here in Hawaii," says Gladys Sato, a trustee of the scholarship fund set up in Miller's name. "She published her findings on foods consumed by the Japanese and the Filipinos, which included nutrient data of the foods, along with recipes that were used at that time. ... She researched dental and health conditions of our local population, and questioned the high salt content of canned soups."
Her curiosity went in all kinds of directions, as evidenced by some of the papers she wrote: "The Influence of Foods and Food Habits Upon the Stature and Teeth of the Ancient Hawaiians," "Dental Caries of Rats Fed a Rice Diet," "Foods used by Filipinos in Hawaii," "Nutritive Value of Macadamia Nuts" ...
Although out of print, all these papers are listed on amazon.com. You can put them on a wish list and with luck the great communal beast that is amazon will turn them up. (For a sure thing, order the 2002 printing of "Fruits of Hawaii" for $13.57).
Miller died in 1985 with no heirs, assigning the bulk of her estate to providing scholarships for budding nutritionists. Last year, 20 years after her death, her trust was terminated, with all remaining proceeds distributed to 11 charities, from the Bishop Museum to the Pacific Orchid Society. One of those beneficiaries, the Hawaii Dietetic Association, plans to continue the scholarship awards, which have totaled $335,000, to 161 students, since Miller's death.
NOW, back to the initial question about starfruit, also called carambola. According to Miller, et al, the fruit probably came to Hawaii with Chinese immigrants or sandalwood traders.
It comes in sweet and sour varieties that both make refreshing juices, but tend to turn bitter when the fruit is cooked or canned. Starfruit is not recommended for making jelly.
To make juice, cut 15 to 20 fruit into small pieces and press through a sieve or squeeze through cheesecloth. Add cold water and sugar, if needed, and serve over ice.
Or use the undiluted juice in sherbet:
Sour Carambola Sherbet
1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
1/4 cup cold water
7/8 cup sugar
2 cups boiling water
1-1/2 cups sour carambola juice
1-1/3 tablespoons lemon juice
Sprinkle gelatin over cold water and let stand 5 minutes.
Add sugar to boiling water and boil 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add gelatin, stirring until dissolved. Cool to lukewarm.
Add fruit juices. Freeze in an ice-cream maker.
Nutritional information unavailable.
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