“Fa’i paka” gluten free
The locally based company, which uses solar energy to dry breadfruit and process it into gluten free breadfruit our has manufactured a new product, which is made from locally grown bananas — the “fa’i paka” that’s in abundance on island, and available year round.
The gluten free breadfruit flour, along with the gluten free breadfruit pancake mix, and now the gluten free green banana flour are manufactured locally by Dream Builders Inc. of American Samoa, which is owned and operated by Rep. Su’a Alexander Eli Jennings, with the help of family members at his home in Pavaiai.
“Right now we’re testing coconut flour,” Su’a said last Friday, as a hint of what’s coming next but declines at this time to give details.
As reported by Samoa News last November, Su’a retro fitted a freight container dehydrator that he developed locally, and was not only moving “more and more to solar power” but it could also be deployed to “remote islands.”
Su’a said last Friday, “we started out with the breadfruit initiative” through the University of Hawaii and processing very well. “But as you know breadfruit is seasonal, so we had to look at what we’re going to do during the off-season,” he explained. “We looked at all the products, all gluten free, and one of them was bananas.”
“I figured bananas were going to be very easy; and bananas are year round. Sure enough we came out with the bananas and did a little more research and found out that bananas are very comparable with wheat flour,” he explained.
“In fact what we did was take out the wheat flour from the recipe and we placed it (fa’I flour) in the equivalency of two thirds. So if it calls for one cup of our, take away the wheat flour and put in two-third cups of banana flour. Everything else is still the same but now you have a non-gluten product,” he said. “So it’s gluten free, and I see a lot of excitement with it. Although the priority to this whole program is breadfruit, and breadfruit in fact is very powerful flour when you make it, you have to do some work with it.”
Because of the breadfruit being seasonal, Su’a said this gave him an opportunity to adjust the dehydration processing machine. “Now we’ve gotten to the point, where the next phase of this operation is to automate it. Right now we’re moving towards automation,” he said, adding that this then will allow the operation to look at green bananas.
“So I took the fa’i paka bananas, because I gure that’s a pretty good size and it’s pretty common,” he said and shared last Friday morning fresh mufns, just out of the oven, made with gluten free green banana our — which tasted great.
One of the big issues for Su’a s healthy eating as well as exercising — which is something he says many local residents are getting in to. “I’ve never seen so many people walking every morning. Tthat’ s more towards our health,” he said. “We have serious health concerns we have to address. This whole project was initiated because of our health situation. We can simply do a change in our diet, utilizing our own crops and get this gluten free product.”
While attending a Commerce Department sponsored seminar — that included local small businesses and entrepreneurs as well as local financial institutions — two weeks ago, Su’a met up with DOC of cial Michael McDonald, who, with his wife, owns and operates South Pacific Water Sports and Fitness Center in Utulei.
McDonald said that what Su’a is doing with breadfruit and now banana our, “is great for us to get behind from the DOC side” as well as from SPW Water Sports “for a number of different reasons the health benfits are obvious but there’ s also tremendous financial opportunities for our entrepreneurs and our farmers.”
The DOC official said it was shared during the seminar as well as last week during another meeting that “import substitution presents a tremendous opportunity for entrepreneurs. We bring in over 90% of what we consume here from the mainland and elsewhere and that’s a lot of money going out.”
“If we start looking internally, at opportunities that exist here... we can grow just about anything — bananas grow all year round. Everything grows well here. If we get much more creative and more efficient in how we approach agriculture here, we can certainly make a dent in that 90% number,” McDonald said.
For example, for the federally funded school lunch program, $3 million a year is set aside to purchase local produce, McDonald said.
“Again, another tremendous opportunity. So the opportunities are there not only for the raw material — like the banana or the breadfruit — and Rep. Su’a has taken the raw material and created three excellent products — gluten free breadfruit flour, pancake mix and gluten free green bananas,” he said. “It takes hard work, creativity, but the possibilities are there.” According to McDonald, DOC is excited about what Su’a is doing and “very supportive of whatever we can do to help him and other entrepreneurs, and business people to get their ideas up and running — we stand ready to help.”
McDonald suggested that local entrepreneurs looking at agriculture should contact DOA and ASCC Land Grant, as a source of information, as they are the experts. “Outside of that, it’ s a matter of networking professionals,” he said and noted for example, that if anyone has traveled to Samoa recently, they will notice value-added products on the shelves.
“One of my favorite products over there is the Samoa hot sauce. They have a lot of different products. Networking with our counterparts in Samoa is a great resource as well,” he said. Su’a said he is planning to hold another food demonstration on the third Friday of the month and “I wanted to spend a lot of time with the farmers so they can see” what’ s being done so far and what’s needed from them. Last Saturday, Su’a was at the Oasis Restaurant for a gluten free flour demonstration.