Hawaiians also gathered shellfish and seaweed to eat. The Hawaiian term i`a referred not only to fish but to all products harvested from the ocean. While men did the offshore and near shore fishing, it was primarily women and children who combed tidal pools and shallow shoreline waters for shellfish, sea urchins, crabs and seaweeds.
Hawaiians gathered a number of shellfish for eating: `opihi, leho, pipipi, puho`okani and `olepe. `Opihi, or limpets, were very popular as a food item, probably the most commonly eaten shellfish in ancient times. `Opihi clinging to shoreline rocks were knocked loose with sharp stones. Gathering `opihi in rough areas was often dangerous, spawning the belief that is was kapu to eat `opihi while a companion was out gathering, lest the companion be washed out to sea. Hawaiians ate `opihi raw or salted, with or without seaweed accompaniment. `Opihi were also cooked in the shell, boiled in a bowl with hot stones. This method also produced a delicious liquid called kai.
Pipipi, or small mollusks, cover the rocks in tidal pools. Hawaiians gathered them during both daytime and nighttime. To eat them, a needle was used to extract the meat from the shell. Pipipi could be prepared several ways: eaten raw, boiled, or wrapped in leaves and broiled. A broth was also made from pipipi, with the shells added for additional flavor.
Hawaiians called cowry leho, poleholeho being smaller cowries and leho referring to larger ones. Other names indicated particular species within the cowry family. These animals were eaten and their shells used for shaping a variety of tools including scrapers and fishing lures. If the leho was to be eaten, the shell was broken to remove the meat. The animal was de-slimed using salt and the meat was wrapped in ti and broiled over hot coals. On Kaua`i, a favorite way of preparing leho was to boil the meat.
Hawaiians harvested puho`okani, or conches, for both their meat and their shells. Shell trumpets, or pu, were made from two types of large shells, the conch or triton and the cassis cornuta
. The long pointed protuberances of the triton shells were cut off to form mouth holes. These trumpets were eight to 11 inches long and four inches wide. The slightly larger cassis
shell trumpets were made by drilling a hole in the flattened top of the cassis cornuta
. Pu produce a large sound that can carry as far as two miles; the volume depends on the method of blowing rather than lung capacity. Not used as a musical instrument, the pu was blown to announce an arrival or to call people to gather for a special event.
`Olepe - bivalves - weren't a favorite food for Hawaiians but their shells were valued for making shell hooks. `Olepe such as pa (light mother of pearl shells) and paua (heavier mother of pearl) were both used in making fishhooks.
Several types of sea urchins were gathered by hand in shallow waters. Wana - venomous sea urchins - were gathered with the aid of a stick to avoid wounds from the spines. Gathered seasonally, wana were considered the most delicious type of sea urchin. To eat them, their spines were knocked off with a stone or stick, the wana was opened by crushing or by putting salt into its mouth and leaving it overnight to make cracks around the mouth form. The five orangey tongues of the gonads were then scooped out, the meat most prized by Hawaiians. They also consumed the fluid from the body cavity and mouth, sometimes using it in a relish to eat with poi or sweet potatoes. Hawaiians also ate the wana eggs.
A smaller urchin - `ina - was the most common type, gathered in both shallow and deep reef waters. The pounded meat of the `ina was combined with salt and water to make a sauce called kai `ina, considered a delicacy by Hawaiians. The reddish lavender kai `ina was eaten with raw fish.
Ha`uke or ha`uke`uke was another tasty urchin, but not as valued as wana. Ha`uke has short or flattened spines. Pincushion urchins, or hawae, have fine short spines; they are the least delicious of the urchins.
Hawaiians gathered and ate a variety of crabs. Known generally as papa`i, they were also identified by species. `A`ama or black crabs were found among shoreline rocks. Hawaiians typically ate them raw with salt but they also removed the meat and preserved it for eating later. `A`ama was a special and sacred food as well as a medicine. Other crabs include the kualoa, a deep sea crab enjoyed as one of the best eating crabs; the `alamihi crab found in muddy flat reefs near river mouths; the kuhonu, a reef crab caught with nets; the `ohiki or ghost crab found on sandy beaches; and the pokipoki and mo`ala crabs. When not eaten raw, crab meat was wrapped in ti leaves and cooked over hot coals. Kumimi was a poisonous type of crab. Though not eaten, it was used as a heart stimulant.
Limu, or seaweed, was an important addition to the ancient diet, especially for commoners whose food choices were more limited than the ali`i. Hawaiians valued limu not only for its nutritional value - providing important vitamins and promoting good health - but also because it added variety to the staple dishes of the Hawaiian diet. Medicinally, limu prevented constipation and was used to treat a range of illnesses including skin problems and asthma.
Women and children gathered limu in shallow waters near shore and on reefs. They harvested limu by hand, storing it in gourd containers tied to their waists. Hawaiians classified seaweeds by category: `ekaha, or red alga, the most abundant type of seaweed; `aki`aki and manauea, two other red algae; and `a`ala`ula, a green alga. The seaweed was most commonly eaten as a relish called limu kohu. To prepare limu kohu, the seaweed was washed then pounded with a pestle to break it into small pieces. It was eaten in small pinches with other food.