Uncle Ricky Rocker
Born: New Jersey
Lives: Hawaiʻi Island
- Living in the wild in Hawaiʻi for 3 ½ years
- Living in Pohnpei for 6 months
- Creating a totally self-sufficient farm in South Kona
First Introduced to ‘ulu: In 1968 (20-years-old)
By: "Hunger introduced me to ʻulu. and also Aso Manu, a Tongan who taught me about basket weaving, imu making, ʻulu preparations, fishing techniques etc. in exchange for me teaching him how to speak English."
By way of: “He [Manu] is a REAL ʻulu ambassador. He would make an imu every week with about 7-10 ulu and 2-3 chickens. that would be what he would eat (plus fish from spearing) until his next imu.”
Ric Rocker LOVES ‘ulu.
“ʻUlu is the greatest food plant on the earth,” he said.
Ric came to Hawaiʻi in 1968 and lived in the wild for three and a half years without using U.S. currency. He lived solely on fruit, occasionally supplementing with ripe ʻulu if there was nothing else to eat.
“When I came back into the world the first foods I ate were fish (that i speared) and ʻulu,” Ric said.
Ric yearned to live in a place where people still lived in the “old style way.” In 1973, at 25-years-old, he stumbled upon Ponape, before it became modernized and renamed Pohnpei.
“There were no tourists or white people outside of the airport town of Kolonia,” Ric said. “I was adopted by the Nanmarki (vice king) of Madolenihmw (one of the five districts in Ponape).
At the time foreigners were only allowed to stay on the island for two weeks, but Ric was privileged to be able to spend six months living in the small village of Enibus. There were no stores and very little money. Instead, the island was rich in coconut and ‘ulu trees, or, to Ric, “the trees of life.”
“On islands like Ponape they were basically all you needed,” Ric said. “ʻUlu is the only carbohydrate that does not have to be planted annually. When a child is born in Ponape its parents plant seven ʻulu trees and seven coconut trees to begin to sustain the child for its life. Because 'ulu only has to be planted once and grows so easily, over the course of its 50+ year lifespan, it yields more food for less labor than any other crop. It is virtually bulletproof, and so ʻono.”
During that time Ric discovered several varieties of ‘ulu. Since he was there during ‘ulu season, and the Ponapeans lived entirely off the land, he enjoyed it for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day. When the ʻulu ran out they would eat kalo, uhi, cassava and ʻuala.
Ricʻs uhi "foot" circa 1975 in Honaunau
He became totally immersed in Ponapean traditional culture and developed a deep reverence for these indigenous crops and their preparations. Sometimes he would help make marr – fermented ʻulu that was stored for times of hurricanes or tropical storms when their crops were destroyed – other times he simply enjoyed preparing ʻulu pulehu-style, cooked in an open fire.
“I basically learned everything I know about life and plants in those six months,” Ric said, “and have been eating 'ulu as a serious part of my diet for the past 50 years.”
Uncle Rickyʻs Recipe: ʻUlu Cooked in “Real” Coconut Milk
‘Ulu Recipe-Ready Packs
Now you can have our peeled, cored, steamed, and frozen ‘ulu delivered directly to your door! Available as a 5 pack or 18 packs.