As a fairly new resident in Hawaii, I’ve really enjoyed combing through local farmers’ markets, ethnic groceries, even supermarket produce aisles to find what’s local and fresh here. Of course one expects to find tropical fruits (papayas, mangoes, dragonfruit, bananas, pineapples) and Asian vegetables a-plenty, and there’s certainly no shortage of these. What took my breath away is the abundance of unexpected delectables that are also grown locally: mushrooms, tomatoes, zucchini, asparagus, strawberries, apples, oranges, and corn (corn?!). (And one of the local papers reports that coming soon…. blueberries from cool volcano slopes!)
Another striking thing about the local produce is the variety that one will find in each category.
Do you like beans? You’ll find Kentucky green, yard-long, flat romanos, wing, sugar snap, and snowpeas.
How about sweet potatoes? They come in three colors – Okinawan purple or white flesh, and the traditional red-skinned yellow flesh (none of these are the orange yams called “sweet potatoes” on the Mainland).
Squash fan? Try zucchini, tongan or upo; or the hard-skinned kabocha.
Then there are the papayas – sunrise (orange flesh) or rainbow (red-orange) , or the unripe green ones for cooking;
and the luscious mangoes — ripe greens, purples, reds, and deep orange Manilas.
And if you like cabbage, you’ve come to the right place – napa, Chinese mustard (also called gai choi, not US “mustard greens”), bok/pak choi (regular & baby sizes, white or green stem), choi sum, Chinese broccoli, green or white head cabbage.
Bananas that are locally grown include regular (Cavendish), apple, WIlliams, and saba (Philippine cooking bananas); but one can also find baby varieties, red eating and cooking varieties (separate types), as well as plantains in many shops.
But the crème de la crème for me is definitely the local mushroom bounty – fresh shiitake, shimeji, enoki and oyster mushrooms . . . . all year long. Mmmm.
The Hawaii Agriculture and Food Products Directory is compiled by the Hawaii Department of Agriculture compilation of Hawaii fruits and vegetables, showing peak availability, month-by-month. In addition to fruits of the tree and vine, there are also eggs, milk, pork and wonderful grass-fed beef — all locally produced.
Other local products to look for:
- coffee, of course, both from the Kona coast and from the other islands;
- fragrant honeys;
- vanilla beans;
- Hawaiian Heritage chocolate;
- macadamia nuts and oils;
- alae sea salt (a wonderful finishing and preserving salt mixed with red clay);
- farm-raised sweet shrimp and white-flesh moi (fish);
- and award-winning goat cheeses from Maui and the Big Island.