Shining there at the sea’s edge
Me he pai pu`u ala i ho`opuu `ia
Clustered like little hills
`O ka `opihi hälala
The giant Opihi
In old Hawaii Opihi were said to have grown as large as oranges because, with their great respect to the ‘Aina and refraining from all greed and waste, Hawaiians picked only what they needed. In those days Opihi lived longer and grew bigger than today, when they grow only to about the size of a golf ball.
Opihi are small cone shaped limpets which cling to the rest cry shorelines of Hawaii. Extraordinarily strong by nature, they survive during the hot and dry periods of low tide and the pounding waves of high tide. Up to this day Opihi picketrs risk and often loose their lives picking these delicious shells. The best Opihi with the yellow meat are found on the rocks where the waves are the roughest. Always aware of the unpredictable dangers of the ocean, Hawaiians made sure to never turn their backs to the water while using a stick to pry the Opihi off the rocks.They referred to Ohihi as’he ia make’ meaning ‘ a creature that could cause death’.
Opihi was and is Hawaii’s favorite Pupu (snack). It is often eaten right out of the shell. In old Hawaii the oval shaped cells with their sharp edges were always saved to be used as a tool for scraping, peeling and scooping.
Today Opihi shells are also used to make beautiful jewelry like pendants or earrings.
Unique to Hawaii, Opihi play a key role in the marine ecosystem by keeping shoreline algae growth in check.