The following is a sampling of some of Hawaii's best produce.
No tropical island is complete without them. There are more than 70 species in Hawaii, with hundreds of variations. Some are for peeling and eating while others are cooked. A “hand" of bananas is great for munching, backpacking, or picnicking. Available everywhere — and cheap.
Brought from South America, avocados were originally cultivated by the Aztecs. They have a buttery consistency and nutty flavor. Hundreds of varieties in all shapes and colors are available fresh year-round. They have the highest fat content of any fruit except the olive.
What tropical paradise would be complete without coconuts? Indeed, these were some of the first plants brought by the Polynesians. When a child was born, a coconut tree was planted to provide fruit for the child throughout his or her lifetime. Truly tropical fruits, coconuts know no season. Drinking nuts are large and green, and when shaken you can hear the milk inside. You get about a quart of fluid from each. It takes skill to open one, but a machete can handle anything. Cut the stem end flat so that it will stand, then bore a hole into the pointed end and put in a straw or hollow bamboo. Coconut water is slightly acidic and helps balance alkaline foods. Spoon meat is a custard-like gel on the inside of drinking nuts. Sprouted coconut meat is also an excellent food. Split open a sprouted nut, and inside is the yellow fruit, like a moist sponge cake. “Millionaires salad” is made from the heart of a coconut palm. At one time an entire tree was cut down to get to the heart, which is just in the trunk below the fronds and is like an artichoke heart except that it’s about the size of a watermelon. In a downed tree, the heart stays good for about two weeks.
This island staple provides a great deal of carbohydrate, but many people find the baked, boiled, or fried fruit bland. It grows all over the islands and is really thousands of little fruits growing together to form a ball that can be as big as a watermelon.
These are some of the most delicious fruits known to humans. They grow wild all over the islands; the ones on the leeward sides of the islands ripen April-June, while the ones on the windward sides can last until October. They’re found in the wild on trees up to 60 feet tail. The problem is to stop eating them once you start!
This truly tropical fruit has no real season but is mostly available in the summer. Papayas grow on branchless trees and are ready to pick as soon as any yellow appears. Of the many varieties, the "solo papaya", meant to be eaten by one person, is the best. Split one in half, scrape out the seeds, and have at it with a spoon.
Known by their island name of liliko'i passion fruit make excellent juice and pies. The small yellow fruit (similar to lemons but smoothskinned) is mostly available in summer and fall. Many grow wild on vines, waiting to be picked. Slice off the stem end, scoop the seedy pulp out with your tongue, and you’ll know why they’re called "passion fruit".
These small, round, yellow fruits are abundant in the wild, where they ripen from early summer to late fall. They're often considered a pest — so pick all you want. A good source of vitamin C.
The king of nuts was brought from Australia in 1882. Now it’s the states fourth largest agricultural product. These nuts are creamy in color, crispy in texture, round in shape and about the size if a marble, slightly sweet, and available plain, roasted, candied, or buttered. Until the year 2000, Hawaii produced more of these nuts than anywhere else in the world. Now it follows Australia in total production.
Called nuts but really small fruits with thin red shells, litchis have a sweet, juicy white flesh that tastes somewhat like a green grape that surrounds a hard inner seed. Rambutan are similar in flesh but have a soft spikey and somewhat thicker red covering.
Along with the above, you’ll find pineapples (including the white, sweet, and less acidic Sugarloaf variety), oranges, limes, kumquats, thimbleberries, and blackberries in Hawaii, as well as carambolas (star fruit), wild cherry tomatoes, and tamarinds.