Food Pitcairn Island

The 10 most important things one should learn and do whilst on Pitcairn

Hot Water
Trading
Fishing
Pota
Fly a Kite
Unna a Coconut
Down the God
Swimming
Nola Reynolds
Miz T

Cooking - making pota
A pitcairn Delicacy

One of the yummiest dishes you can make and will accompany most other foods is ‘Pota’. Unfortunately now-a-days you see it less and less on the island dinner tables.

It’s made from the leaf of a plant we call ‘Tale’, pronounced Ta-La or Taro as it’s known elsewhere in the pacific.

Tale’s abundant on the island, typically found in the understory of bigger trees, in valleys and can even be found alongside the roads. Although it will grow in full sun, moisture is key in the Taro producing large leaves, in particular the long healthy unfurled leaves used to make Pota.

In the right location the elephant like leaves of the Tale plant can be 6 feet in the air, so you’re easily able to walk underneath looking for those newly unfurled leaves.

Pitcairn Island, Big Flower - Taro Plants
A naturalised stand of
Tale
Pitcairn Island, Big Flower - A new unfurled taro leaf
The new unfurled Tale leaf
Ideal for making Pota

Meralda Warren kindly gave us the nod, a large naturalised plantation of Tale on her land down Bob’s Valley way, had good leaves ready to cut.

Zara was curious after Heather and I tried to describe the dish, so Darrin and Brandon set out following a carefully prepared Pota making recipe, to enlighten them all to this unique Pitcairn food.

Tale leaves
A harvest of newly unfurled
tale leaves

To make a good pot full, you’ll need to gather and fill a whole basket.
I can eat several servings in a sitting, so I insisted Darrin and Brandon fill 2. After a morning cutting and gathering, its straight back to Big Flower to start preparations for cooking.

There are 2 key ingredients you need to make Pota, Tale leaf and fresh coconut cream. Note: I like to squeeze in a little lime juice come time to eat. So try and have a lime or lemon on the table.

Back at home Darrin decides to organise the coconut cream whilst Brandon cooks the Tale leaf.

Much consideration is required in deciding which coconut will be best for the Pota dish. Big, small, round, oval, does it contain milk, doesn't it contain milk… and so is the art of deciding which will ultimately flavour our Pota dish.

Deciding which coconut
Decisions, decisions -
do I go big, small, round, oval?
Cracking a coconut
Carefully tap the outer shell
until cracked
Opening a coconut
Open to expose the inner
white flesh

The chosen nuts are dehusked and cracked open to expose their white flesh.
Once cracked the flesh is una'ed or grated.

Cracked coconuts
When cracking open the nuts collect
the milk (water)
Grating coconut
The tool used for grating the nuts
is called the una.

Once done, the grated flesh is mixed with a little water and then squeezed to extract its cream. The cream is then added to the boiled down Tale leaf.

Grated coconut
The grated flesh
of the coconut

WARNING: COC’NUT CREAM IS VERY YUMMY, but VERY FATTENING!

Drinking coconut milk
Once done, enjoy a glass of the
collected coconut water

Of course don’t forget to collect the coc’nut milk during cracking, which makes for a refreshing drink during the process.

Meanwhile back in the kitchen...

Very carefully unfurl the leaf of the tale gathered, just enough to trim away its centre spine. Once done, the rolls are chopped into 1-2cm lengths. This can be a little laborious given the quantity required, but well worth the time and effort.

Preparing the leaf
Cutting the leaf
Cutting away the spine of the tale leaf
Cutting the leaf
The leaf is then chop into cubed lengths
Tale leaves diced
You need a lot to make a pot fill

After the slicing and chopping is done, place the whole lot into a large pot, add enough water to cover and boil.

Here’s the tricky bit,
you need to boil the leaves long enough until it consistency is somewhat sluggish. This can take 1, 2 or even 3 hours depending on weather conditions at the time the leaf is harvested. If it’s been dry the cellulous makeup of the leaf will be tougher than if it’s been wet, consequently a longer boiling time.
The key is to break down the leaf, releasing its sappy content which is poured off during (a change of water required) or immediately after boiling.

Accordingly to the older folk, too much sap left and it’ll do weird and wonderful things to your digestive system (in particular your rear end, come that time).

Once the boil down reaches consistency, it’s time to add the coconut cream.

Simmer all for approximately 15-20 mins. Once done its ready to serve!

If you have that lime or lemon, I recommend squeezing a little of its juice onto the dish before eating.

Pota served up
The finished product
Zara tries cooked pota
Zara's first try of Pota

So, Zara’s about to try one of the best dishes on Pitcairn – she kind of hesitated at first but gave it the big thumbs up once tasted.

(...she demolished what was otherwise mean't to be my second serve)

As for the boys - a piece of history recorded on the taste buds for life!!!