Cropping Up

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Workers process cacao beans in Waialua.

Photo: Sergio Goes


Chocaholics, lucky you live Hawaii: Alone among Americans, you don’t have to give up your green credentials to get your cocoa fix. Cacao beans, which make chocolate what it is, only grow in a narrow band of tropical latitude, but they just happen to flourish at 21 degrees north. Although local cacao farming is in its youth, chocolate grown and made in Hawaii is already making its global mark.

The Original Hawaiian Chocolate Factory produces rich, bold, Kona-grown chocolate that has become a favorite with high-end restaurants throughout the United States. On Oahu, Waialua Chocolate, with a deep, cherry base note, is grown on the North Shore and processed at the old Waialua Sugar Mill.

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Photo: Courtesy of OO Farm


It’s been said that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, but, in Hawaii, we’ve usually had to content ourselves with tough-skinned, hard-traveling fruit that can survive a journey of thousands of miles.

Maui’s 8.5 acre Oo Farm is fixing that. It’s growing three varieties that are never seen in our stores (Einsemer, Pomme Anna and Dorsett Golden), along with the familiar Fuji. A fall fruit elsewhere, apples can be harvested over three seasons when grown in Hawaii.

True to the ultralocal philosophy of Oo Farm, you can only get a taste of these apples on Maui, either at the twice-weekly organic lunches served as part of the farm’s tour or at celebrated Lahaina restaurants, Pacific’O and I'O. The owners of those restaurants, in fact, started Oo Farm as a way of supplying fresh, local ingredients to their restaurants. When available, the apples make their appearance not only on dessert menus, but can also crop up as part of a list of local-inspired cocktails.

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GOURMET LUNCH: OO Farm hosts gourmet lunches on Wednesdays and Thursdays.  Call 808-667-4341 for reservations.


Photo: Courtesy of The Big Island Abalone Corp.


Long before Pacific Rim cuisine was a twinkle in its founders’ eyes, abalone was served as a crowning course at local Chinese banquets. In fact, this tasty mollusk is considered a delicacy wherever it’s found. In the 1990s, it all but disappeared from menus as international harvesting bans kicked in. Enter aquaculture: These little critters are tricky to grow, but the Big Island Abalone Corp. is managing it nicely.

Abalone are once again gracing Island tables, this time as a novel taste of the contemporary Pacific. Look for them at 12th Avenue Grill, where they are served as part of a dish that includes homemade gnocchi, H-am-akua mushrooms and snow peas. For more information, see


Figs are a fruit that should either be eaten fresh or not at all. They bruise easily and age seemingly overnight, but if you catch a fresh fig at the height of its ripeness, nothing else can match its subtle sweetness. We kept hearing rumors of figs being farmed and sold locally, but it wasn’t until we came across the handwritten sign at the Blue Lotus Farm booth at the KCC Farmers’ Market that our wish came true. 

Blue Lotus, which is certified organic, produces about 100 pounds a month from its 12 trees. Wait for a good run of sunny days—to ripen, figs need a couple of weeks of solar encouragement—and head down to the market early, like at 7:15 a.m. By 7:45, they’re usually gone, because we’re not the only folks who actually do give a fig. Contact


Yes, you read that right. Elk. There may be no tundra in Upcountry Maui, but Ulupalakua Ranch’s 100-strong herd is doing just fine, thanks, at home on the range on the high slopes of Haleakal-a. Elk meat is lean, and much higher in protein than the meats you find in the supermarket. It tastes good, too. See for yourself: Order a juicy Ulupalakua Ranch elk burger at the ranch’s grill. It’s proven so popular, “We’re expanding the herd,” says Michael Azevedo, Ulupalakua’s menu supervisor. Call Ulupalakua Ranch at 808-878.2561.