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Poi is a Hawaiian word for the primary Polynesian staple food made from the corm of the taro plant (known in Hawaiian as kalo). Poi is produced by mashing the cooked corm (baked or steamed) until it is a highly viscous fluid. Water is added during mashing and again just before eating, to achieve a desired consistency, which can range from liquid to dough-like (poi can be known as two-finger or three-finger, alluding to how many fingers one would have to use to eat it, depending on its consistency).
Poi made from taro should not be confused with
- Samoan poi, which is a creamy dessert created by mashing ripe bananas with coconut cream.
- Tahitian po'e, which is a sweet, pudding-like dish made with bananas, papaya, or mangoes cooked with manioc and coconut cream.
History and culture 
The bowl of poi was considered such an important and sacred part of daily Hawaiian life that whenever a bowl of poi was uncovered at the family dinner table, it was believed that the spirit of Hāloa, the ancestor of the Hawaiian people, was present. This is because Hawaiians believed that the taro plant, or kalo, was the original ancestor of the Hawaiian people. Because of that, all conflict among family members had to come to an immediate halt.
Although a huge variety of people around the world eat taro, only Hawaiians make poi. Hawaiians traditionally cook the starchy, potato-like heart of the taro root, also called the corm, for hours in an underground oven called an imu. An imu is also used to cook other types of food such as pig, sweet potatoes and many more.
Shortages in taro production in recent years due to pests and labor shortages have also resulted in shortages and higher prices for poi in Hawaiʻi. At the same time, innovations in poi production have resulted in poi that stays fresh longer and tastes sweeter, but such products generally sell at a premium price and require refrigeration.
Taro was highly important to the Hawaiians. The reason for this is because they associated taro with their gods and their story of establishment. Taro is also used for medicinal purposes.
Poi is made from the fourteenth most farmed produce in the world: taro.
Poi has a paste-like texture and a delicate flavor, with a pale purple color that derives from that of the taro corm. The flavor changes distinctly once the poi has been made. Fresh poi is sweet and edible all by itself. Each day thereafter the poi loses sweetness and turns slightly sour, due to a natural fermentation that involves lactobacillus, yeast and Geotrichum. Because of this, some people find poi more palatable when it is mixed with milk and/or sugar. The speed of this fermentation process depends upon the bacteria level in the poi. To slow the souring process, poi should be stored in a cool, dark location (such as a kitchen cupboard). Poi stored in the refrigerator should be squeezed out of the bag into a bowl, and a thin layer of water drizzled over the top to keep a crust from forming.
Poi can cause constipation, so it is best to balance by eating fruit.
Kalo is low in fat, high in vitamin A, and abounds in complex carbohydrates. This is key because it tells us that taro is easy to digest, especially for people with delicate stomachs.
An Associate Researcher at the University of Hawai'i, Alvin Huang, said that if a person substitutes their daily carbohydrate intake with poi, they would probably lose weight.
Sour poi is still quite edible with salted fish or lomi salmon on the side. Sourness is prevented by freezing or dehydrating, although the resulting poi tends to be bland in comparison with the fresh product. For best thawing results place in a microwave with a layer of tap water over the surface of the frozen poi. Sour poi is also used as a cooking ingredient, usually in breads and rolls. It has a smooth, creamy mouthfeel.
Other uses 
Poi has been used as a milk substitute for babies born with an allergy to dairy products because of its nutritional value. It is also used as a baby food for babies with severe food allergies.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Poi (food)|
- The History of Poi
- "Powered By Poi" Maui No Ka 'Oi Magazine Vol.11 No.4 (July 2007).
- "Kipahulu Kitchen" Article about community commercial kitchen in Kipahulu, Maui, where poi is made. Maui No Ka 'Oi Magazine Vol.10 No.2 (April 2006).