Star-Bulletin Features

Wednesday, January 30, 2002

Euricka Alugas takes her noni without complaint when it's mixed in a fruit drink at Ola Pono Spa Cafe.

Noni may be nasty,
but you can
hide the taste

Behind its odd flavor are
benefits for health

By Betty Shimabukuro

Noni is a nobby little thing, compared to which the ordinary household potato is a beauty queen. Tastewise, noni's nasty. Taking a sip is a lot like licking the dirt off a rock.

It's one of the injustices of life that so many things that are supposed to be so good for us taste so bad.

But it need not be so, says Barbara Fahs, and owner of Hi'iaka's Healing Herb Garden in Keaau on the Big Island. "You shouldn't be taking anything if it makes you hold your nose when you take it or brush your teeth after you take it."

Chef Mark Alan Burson adds noni to a pitcher of freshly juiced juice.

Now that noni has grown from home remedy to spa food, making it palatable has grown especially crucial.

Mark Alan Burson, a Hilton Hawaiian Village chef who oversees the resort's Ola Pono Spa Cafe, offers noni in several drinks, but its taste is well-disguised. Left alone, he says, "it's very disgusting, actually."

Not the kind of thing you offer to people who have come to your establishment to be massaged and pampered.

Noni has been used throughout Polynesia for generations to treat ailments from sore throats through tuberculosis. In the last few years it has entered the holistic mainstream.

"It's got a weird flavor, but you get used to it," says Diana Williams, an Ola Pono employee who's been taking a couple teaspoons of straight noni juice daily for two years. "It doesn't bother me anymore."

Noni is not the most attractive of fruits, or the tastiest.

For the more squeamish, though, Fahs and Burson both suggest hiding the true nature of noni behind a veil of fruits.

Traditionally, the noni fruit is fermented to make a pungent juice. It can be purchased commercially, though, from health-food and drug stores.

In her line of work, Fahs researches all manner of healthful plants, but she says she's been most impressed by the versatility of noni.

She's been taking it for three years. "I have arthritis and I take it for that on a daily basis. I've noticed the difference. My general health and stamina seem good. I never get colds anymore. I just think it's a very healthy thing for people to be taking."

This is her formula for a noni drink that doesn't bite back:

Noni Elixir

1/2 medium fresh noni, unpeeled, chopped in chunks, or 1/2 cup noni juice
1/2 small mango or 1/2 papaya, peeled, seeded and chopped
1/4 cup dried apricots
1 cinnamon stick (1/2 teaspoon ground)
1 whole clove (1/4 teaspoon ground)
1 vanilla bean (1/4 teaspoon extract)
Brandy, as needed to fill jar
4 tablespoons molasses or honey

Place noni and fruit in a large, clean jar. Noni should fill about 1/3 of the jar. Add fruit and spices. Fill jar with brandy and close lid tightly.

Shake elixir daily. After 2 to 4 weeks, strain and add molasses. Mix well. Store in a dark glass container, in a dark place at room temperature. Or, refrigerate for storage over 6 months. Makes 1 pint.

Note: For an alcohol-free preparation, use cider vinegar.

These recipes from chef Burson would work with or without the squirt of noni juice, since the taste is absolutely camouflaged. If you're not into noni, consider these as a flavorful way to make a dent in your five-a-day fruit-and-vegetable requirement.

The concoction requires a juicer, but if you don't have one combine commercial juices, then run through a blender.

Ginger Binger

3/4 of a medium carrot
1 green or Fuji apple
1 teaspoon ginger root
1 teaspoon noni juice

Juice fruits and ginger, then stir in noni. Makes 1 8-ounce serving.

Paradise Punch

1 pineapple wedge
1/2 orange, peeled
2 large strawberries
1 teaspoon noni juice

Juice fruits, then stir in noni. Makes 1 8-ounce serving.

Nutritional information unavailable.

Online: For more information on noni, visit the Hi'iaka's Garden Web site, .

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