Natural Foods from Hawaii: The act of walking up to a tree or bush, picking the fruit, and eating it right then and there (or preparing it to go in a delicious meal) is a new and wonderful thing for us to have discovered. There are so many wild and wonderful foods here, and we know we are just scraping the tip of the iceberg.
This post was originally published in 2007 . It has since been updated for accuracy of links and content.
Here is what we’ve discovered to date:
I remember having one in Edmonton and thinking it wasn’t all that. But once I tried a Hawaiian star fruit right off the vine, I rediscovered it! The trick is to slice off the tips of each spine, which house the bitter fruit. The rest is a juicy explosion of yummy deliciousness that tastes like a combination of apples and grapes.
A favourite tree lurking in many a local backyard, it is a real treat to walk along in the forest and come upon a few avocados lying on the ground, waiting to be made into guacamole!
Known as lilikoy, this stuff grows in abundance. There are a variety of colours and shapes available, and the taste is tart in nature. You scoop out the entire insides, and the large seeds add an interesting crunch. I quite like them, but it isn’t one of Kelly’s absolute favourites.
There are a number of different varieties, but the most common around here are about half the size of the bananas we’re used to in Canadian stores. I can’t eat them myself (I have a mild allergic reaction to uncooked bananas), Kelly loves them to bits.
These puppies grow everywhere, but unfortunately like bananas, I can’t eat these either. The seeds in the middle are often dried and ground up to be used as a seasoning like pepper. The peach-coloured meat is plentiful and has a mild taste not dissimilar to cantaloupe.
They grow wild on just the other side of the road, and although they aren’t currently fruiting, I would suspect they are juicy, bright, and delicious.
Pronounced vee, and often called wi apples, they are a relative of the mango. And consistent with their title, they taste & have the consistency of a combination of mango and apple.
Note: Years later when I lived in Grenada, I believe we called these “golden apples”.
Guavas are actually considered to be weeds by the locals, as they grow in abundance anywhere given a chance. You see lots of guava trees on the side of the road. The pink fruit inside (although you generally eat the skin too) has a sweet and sour taste, and the seeds are very hard and small. Most people don’t bother spitting them out, but they can be a pain to chew through. Although I like guavas, they’re not Kelly’s favourite.
These little pearls of goodness, on the other hand, are hardly un-likeable. Also growing everywhere around here and considered to be weeds, they live up to their name in taste – they are wonderfully sweet like strawberries. They are about the size of a quarter in diameter, and although they too have hard seeds, they’re not nearly as obnoxious.
This cantaloupe-sized green fruit can be eaten a few ways: If you catch it before it falls from the tree the insides are hard and white and you can cut it up and cook it like potatoes. It tastes just like potatoes, except it’s way better for you!
If you let breadfruit ripen, it softens (and sweetens) incredibly, and turns into this mushy paste that doesn’t taste offensive at all, but the consistency isn’t great. The locals here stew it into porridge, but we haven’t gotten into it yet. We prefer them like potatoes!
This was the first odd tropical fruit we experienced here in Hawaii, and my gosh – are they ever good! They are also the size of a cantaloupe, and when ripe are brown in colour with odd soft nubs all over it. They are pretty heavy (about 2lbs for a small one) and very delicate. Cut into it and you’ll find a white pasty pulp with large brown seeds. Dig in with a spoon, and the yummy contents will taste kind of like pudding or cream pie (except with big black seeds, which you spit out)! The consistency for some may be hard to get past, but we managed, and now rolinea is a real treat for us.
We haven’t had (or even seen) any of these yet, but we know they’re available, and even grown on the property. I guess they’re just not in season right now.
I have seen these in stores at home, but never tried them. They are a relative of the lychee. Cut through the red spiny skin, and you’ll find a fruit inside that bears resemblance (in colour, consistency, and even taste) to lychee fruits. The pit in the middle has a woody texture and is a pain to get the fruit off, but it’s still worth it! They’re a treat.
We also haven’t tried this yet as they’re not in season, but apparently they taste just like Juicy Fruit gum!
With a flavour reminiscent of pink bubble gum, we have tried this one, and despite its appearance and name, it’s pretty yummy! The consistency is a little odd, and the colour and seeds bear resemblance to rolinea.
As part of an entire sapote family of fruits, the mamey is one of the most common and the only one we’ve tried to date. We think the flavour is pretty similar to sweet potato casserole, although it was described to us as pumpkin pie. In any case it is certainly squash-like in consistency and taste, even though it is a fruit. Super yummy, but we felt the need to add something to it. We even tried heating it up (apparently not commonly done) and mashing it with some ginger to replicate sweet potato pie more closely. We came close!
These are large grapefruit-like citrus fruits. They’re prized in the Chinese culture, and you can find them in local grocery stores in Canada, usually around fall.
Oranges, Tangerines, Grapefruit, and other citrus
The oranges we have cut into here put Florida Oranges to shame. They’re so juicy, they literally melt in your mouth.
The Tahitian Limes are so sweet you could almost peel and eat them.
The lemons are so big and bright, I have more than once mistaken them for oranges!
The green ones offer a yummy coconut-water, which is light and sweet in taste. There are some people around here who actually drink it solely in lieu of drinking water at all. Those people also have terribly bad teeth, and I imagine are on their way to becoming diabetics too! Nonetheless, it is considered to be nectar of the gods, and I know why.
The brown coconuts are great for their plentiful meat, which we have started to experiment with in our cooking. Stay tuned for another post in which we will explain our coconut sauces, drinks, and even macaroons!
Ginger & Turmeric
There are a number of strains of ginger and turmeric grown here, some which are only grown in Hawaii and are quite valuable. Although there isn’t any on the property that we know of, just up the road is a farm where you can get it for a song. Cooking with fresh turmeric is a real treat, as is the spicy Thai Ginger that has a kick unlike any other ginger.
Note: It was in Hawaii that I learned about the health benefits of turmeric and incorporated it into my routine to stay healthy while traveling.
There is still a huge variety of untouched produce at our fingertips like brain fruit, egg fruit, taro, and others I cannot even begin to pronounce, let alone figure out how to eat. And as they start to come in season, and as we continue to search around the island, we will be sure to share our new and wonderful culinary adventures with you!
3 thoughts on “Natural Foods from Hawaii”
I’m afraid taro is NOT a fruit as you have stated in your “fruit to find list”. It’s more than just another plant in Hawaii. Kalo, the Hawaiian name for the plant, is a vegetable steeped in tradition, ritual and folklore. I found it interesting when Kaui had a taro, or kalo, shortage, there were signs on all the grocery store doors saying NO POI TODAY and people were very upset. The corm or bulb of the plant is what is used to make poi and the leaves are used as wrappings for rice and meat then steamed. The leaves can also be steamed with broth or water and eaten with just about anything. I learned long ago to not make disparaging remarks about the poi given to me, the work and soul that goes into making it makes poi a precious if not particulary flavorful gift. To make faces or remarks at the flavor is to dishonor the spirit of ohana (family) that the giver shares as an honor.
Hope I don’t sound like I’m lecturing, I’m passionate about preserving Hawaiian culture, it came so close to disappearing altogether that getting it “right” is important.
So good to be reminded that it is important to be very respectful when someone serves you their homemade poi? no faces or ungracious comments.
Thank you Charlotte. I have been guilty as described ? no more
Indeed! Honouring the local cultural and culinary practices – especially the love and labour that goes into some things – is important! Great reminder, indeed. 🙂