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By Lavonne Leong
Bet you didn't know Hawaii could produce these foods.
If you think eating local will limit you to mangoes, fish and poi, read on. Our state’s multiple climate zones and fertile soils mean that a wide variety of crops are possible. Here are eight products of the land that surprised us.
Strawberries, raspberries and blueberries—the sweet avatars of summer in northern climate zones—need a spell of sweater weather to grow. That’s why they flourish in Upcountry Maui, where the cool mountain air produces berries that are every bit as delectable as their continental counterparts.
Chauncy Monden of Kula Country Farms uses the farm’s sloped, high-elevation location to marvelous advantage, rotating growing strawberries in higher fields in summer and lower ones in winter for a year-round supply of fruit. This summer, Kula Country Farms also began offering seasonal blueberries and raspberries at its roadside stand across from Rice Park.
Find Hawaii-grown strawberries on Oahu at select Times and Safeway markets, and at the Nalo Farms booth on Saturdays at the KCC Farmers’ Market. You can also taste them at Downtown at the Hawaii State Art Museum, in Kula strawberry shortcake. For more information, visit www.kulacountryfarms.com.
Pohole (fiddlehead ferns)
The crisp, tender tips of fiddlehead ferns (known as pohole on Maui, hoio on the Big Island and warabi in Japan) are as local as it gets: Many of the edible ferns that grow wild here are Hawaii natives. Until recently, though, if you had a jones for pohole, you had to pull some strings—the location of wild pohole patches was often a closely guarded secret.
Rene and Eileen Comeaux of Hana Herbs and Flowers have made it their mission to bring pohole to the world, with 5 irrigated acres that ensure the type of reliable, year-round supply that restaurants and distributors need. H-ana Herbs sends 200 pounds of fiddleheads a week to places like Alan Wong’s Restaurants, where they are used in salads and stir-fries.
For more information, or if you want to order some for yourself online, visit www.hanaherbs.com.
Spices: Nutmeg, Clove and Cinnamon
These days, a whiff of nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves whisks many of us back to the peaceful holiday feasts of our childhood. But before they scented our pumpkin pies, wars were fought over access to these pungent spices, which were once literally worth their weight in gold. Today, spice trees thrive on several of Hawaii’s small farms. The Big Island’s Wailea Agricultural Group is one of the first to offer up a harvest. In the late summer and fall, its staff brings fresh, whole nutmegs, often still encased in a lace-like covering of mace, to the KCC Farmers’ market every first and third Saturday of the month. Cloves are also available, cinnamon is on its way—and you won’t have to draw your sword to have at them.
For more information, visit www.waileaag.com.