Kokua Market: looking for local? Find it here
Left: Tin Roof Ranch eggs; right: kiawe flour
Kokua Market is the only grocery store on the island to carry organic beef from Molokai (Puu O Hoku Ranch), lamb and goat from Big Island (Kahua Ranch and Kapapala Ranch, respectively), eggs from the North Shore (Tin Roof Ranch), pork from Kahaluu (Shinsato Farm) and lots more local products not found in any other market. One of Kokua's most unique items: kiawe flour that Vince Dodge in Waianae grinds from dried kiawe bean pods. It's gluten-free and has a wonderful molasses and coconut aroma. Michelle Karr-Ueoka, of MW Restaurant, uses it to make graham-cracker like crumbs in her strawberry cheesecake dessert.
Kokua's general manager, Lynette Larson, helps stock Kokua's shelves and says the reason the little grocery store can carry such a wide and unique variety of local products is because of its very size. "Being smaller is a huge advantage for us," she says. "For local producers, we don't make them jump through a bunch of hoops. As long as they have the licensing and basic insurance in place and are making good quality products with the kind of ingredients our co-op owners want, we give them a shot. We really want to support farmers and producers and an overall sustainability mission. So, literally, someone can walk in the door or call me and they could have their product on our shelves the next day. After that, the product has to keep its spot." In other words, sell.
Think of Kokua as a permanent farmers market, open regular hours and also stocked with pantry staples.
Selection of local beef, goat, lamb and pork at Kokua. Note that all meat is frozen.
Larson has a story for every local product on Kokua's shelves:
– wildflower honey from George Hude, who's been supplying Kokua for over thirty five years. He harvests only when needed, making his honey possibly the shortest days-to-spoon batch you'll taste unless you have your own beehives.
– Kokua's fresh fish selection is a new offering. Kokua discovered one of its cashiers used to work on Alaska fishing boats; he was appointed Kokua's fishmonger and he now goes to the auction himself to supply the market's cases. Come on Monday and Friday lunch, Wednesday evenings or Sunday, and the deli will fry up your fish on the spot.
– Sky Kombucha: kombucha on tap, by Dave and Shannon Yarber, who just passed their bar exams for their day jobs, but brew kombucha on the side at Kokua's certified kitchen. It's available by the ounce.
So if you're looking to cook with more local ingredients this holiday season (and beyond!), a trip to Kokua Market, Hawaii's only natural foods co-op is a must.
Kokua Market, 2643 S. King St., 941-1922, kokua.coop