Find Your Next Favorite Fruit or Vegetable at the Variety Showcase on November 25

Taste in-development, new and ancient varieties of Hawai‘i crops at the matchmaking event for breeders, farmers, chefs and eaters.
Photos by Shawn Linehan


Love Lies Bleeding, Hot Biscuit.


Devotion, Eleonora, Emma, Genovese, Obsession, Passion, Prospera, Thunderstruck.


These aren’t names for perfume, but plants—the first set for different varieties of amaranth, and the latter for basil. It makes you wonder if seed breeders are a lovelorn lot, turning their brooding over love to breeding in plants. That is, if one thinks about seed breeders at all, which most of us don’t.


FROM THE 2018 HONOLULU VARIETY SHOWCASE: Chocolate and cacao (bred by Skip Bittenbender from UH Hawai‘i)


But Lane Selman, founder of the Culinary Breeding Network and an Oregon State University agricultural researcher, hopes to change that by connecting breeders, farmers, chefs and eaters. She’s teaming up with Jay Bost, a Waimānalo “farm coach” with GoFarm, an ag training program, for the Variety Showcase on Nov. 25. The gathering pairs breeders and farmers with 24 chefs and food makers—including Mark Noguchi of Pili, Nik and Jennifer Lobendahn of Overeasy and Aaron Lopez of Mid-late Summer—to highlight in-progress, novel and ancient crops. “Part of it is getting to blow people’s minds,” Bost says, “and get people excited about the diversity that exists.” Expect a tangy Thai Red roselle (an edible hibiscus) prepared by Leeward Community College culinary students; and a still-being-tweaked hot pepper that’s a cross between a wild plant from Oaxaca and an heirloom variety from the southwest U.S., fermented into a hot sauce by Juicy Brew. 


SEE ALSO: Mid-Late Summer Has Made More than a Hundred Flavors of Ice Cream, Including Burnt Hay, ‘Ulu and Grape 

  Variety Showcase Nov. 25

Sweet potato, presented by Ted Radovich and Michael Kantar From University of Hawai’i and prepared by Ignacio Fleishour, Makana Market & Deli


Think of it as a glimpse into the R&D of your next favorite vegetable or fruit. The R&D here, though, is via plant breeding the old-fashioned way—by swapping pollen of two different plants of the same species (the obsession with love and mating is beginning to make sense)—as opposed to genetic modification. So far, the Culinary Breeding Network has held Variety Showcases in Portland, New York and its first in Honolulu last year.


Breeders select for many different traits, including disease resistance and flavor. For the geeks: The eight aforementioned basil are new varieties bred at the UH College of Tropical Agriculture for basil downy mildew resistance. For the eaters: the chefs at The Nook will be preparing pesto highlighting Amazel, while De La Mesa farm will be sampling micro versions of Passion, Devotion and Obsession. And if you fall in that part of the Venn diagram where the two overlap, it’s like you were bred for this event. 


SEE ALSO: Masa Hawai‘i Grinds Heirloom Corn for its Handmade Tortillas

Variety Showcase Nov. 25


Bost himself is obsessed with breeding corn, having been mentored by James Brewbaker, who was instrumental in establishing corn as one of Hawai‘i’s major crops. Bost—who has experimented with more than a hundred different corn varieties from Nigeria to North Dakota and says things like, “for my final project for the Plant Breeding Academy, I’ve got a bunch of blue corn lines and land races that I’ve been selecting on for a few years”—recently nerded out with Ray German of Hawai‘i Masa over “Brewbaker’s corn kingdom.” For the Variety Showcase, Bost will show off some sweet corn as well as corn types suited for pozole, masa and tortillas. German will prepare a corn flan with cotija cheese essence and smoked chili oil, plus a sweet tamal with charred corn husk cream and cacao nibs, wrapped in banana leaf. 


SEE ALSO: 50 Shades of Yellow: A Banana Library on the North Shore

Variety Showcase Nov. 25
From the 2018 Variety Showcase: banana varieties, grown by Gabe Sachter-Smith


In addition to new breeds, the showcase is expanding to include interesting varieties of crops, such as iholena bananas, coral-colored and creamy, grown by Gabe Sachter-Smith and prepared for the event by Ed Kenney of Town; and the emo amaranth, from the edible to ornamental Love Lies Bleeding, grown by Rob Barreca and Laarni Gedo, and prepared by Harrison Ines of XO. Also expect PoHu oyster mushrooms that taste of almonds; moi kea, an old kalo strain; and tangerines and mamaki brewed by Beer Lab into an IPA and kombucha, respectively. Maybe you’ll find your next love. Or signature fruit. Is that a thing? It should be. 


$40, Nov. 25, 5:30 to 8:30 p.m., at Ohi‘a cafeteria at Kapi‘olani Community College,