As promised, I’m working my way through those cover photos, and it’s time to give you the scoop on those fruits in the top right corner. My husband and I went to Hawaii this winter, and spent a week on the beautiful island of Kauai. This is the oldest of the main Hawaiian islands, and quite possibly the greenest. Known as The Garden Isle, Kauai has beautiful botanical gardens, huge state parks (with great hikes!) and farmland. Before going, we heard we should check out the farmer’s market. Most cities I’ve live in have a farmer’s market, and once per week some local farmers set up shop in a parking lot. Silly me…I thought this would be the same. Kauai has dozens of farmer’s markets! We found a flyer that broke it down by area of the island, and even if you were only looking in one compass direction, there would still be at least one per day.
Over the course of the week, we visited three markets. First, because we were curious, then because we were hooked on the fruits we just don’t get on the mainland. Even the fruits we do get imported just taste better – they were on a tree earlier that day! Since it is award show season, I’ll tell you about the fruits we enjoyed in a similar fashion.
The award for sweetest surprise goes to LONGANS
Don’t judge a book by it’s cover, and don’t judge all fruit by the outside. At one table, I saw a bowl full of little potato-looking things. They had rough skin, like a root veggie, and didn’t have the bright tropical colors of so many other fruits. The vendor encouraged me to try one of these “dragon eyes”, so I bit softly to get through the skin, and it revealed a super sweet fruit similar to lychee or maybe a really sweet grape with no skin. Inside of the sweet fruit, a dark seed peered back at us through the sweet flesh, and we saw how this fruit got it’s name. We got a bag of these, and enjoyed these little guys in small doses – the sweetness really hit me!
The award for creamy cousin of a mainland usual goes to BLUE JAVA BANANAS
One vendor called us over to try her ice cream bananas. My husband asked why they were called that, and she explained these small bananas are extra creamy. She wasn’t kidding! Although they are only 4-5 bites, each bite tasted sweet and creamy. It put the bananas from our morning cereal to shame. If your climate allows, grow your own! Amazon sells these plants online.
The award for coolest looking fruit goes to RAMBUTAN
I first saw a rambutan on a faded poster in a deli about a decade ago. I wasn’t really open to trying to new things, and didn’t even wonder what it was. Years later, when I was in the Middle East, a colleague pointed them out in a market. Now I was curious, and I was even open to trying one of these hairy little monsters on my colleagues promise that it would be good.
We saw piles of bright red rambutans at the markets, so we got a bag and had fun cutting open the 3-D outer layer to get to the fruit. This is even more of a mild flavor than the dragon eyes, and just the right sweetness. These didn’t last long at all!
The award for strangest fruit to eat like corn on the cob goes to STARFRUIT (and my husband, for his interesting approach)
Starfruit is one of those fruits you see garnishing fruity martinis or decorating a fruit tart…but I never really gave much thought to just enjoying it on it’s own. We saw a stand with starfruit, and picked up a few. I sliced one into 1/4 inch cross sections so each piece looked like a star. My husband ate the whole fruit, one ridge at a time like the typewriter/corncob motion. Proof there is no wrong way to eat a starfruit. To each their own!
The award for bringing us to Hawaii goes to the freshest PINEAPPLE we’ve had in a while.
Prior to my sugar detox, I was buying a few pineapples per week. I could snack on it like it was my job. I would also spend some serious dough on pineapples! A few days before we left for Kauai, I noted that the pineapple I was eating would be the last one that would have to come to me. Next one, I would come to the pineapples! The markets had pineapples for a buck or two, and they were so sweet and soft. Even though this isn’t a new crazy fruit, I recommend getting your fill on fruits we get on the mainland, simply because they are really fresh and delicious (and you won’t have to pay for their plane ride!)
A tour guide on one of our excursions told us about sugarloaf pineapple. This is a less acidic, sweet white pineapple that we never had the pleasure of trying. One website said there are only three farmers on Kauai that grow sugarloaf pineapple, so ask around, and hopefully you can taste it!
…And the award for the best shakes goes to SOURSOP
We were first introduced to soursop in Costa Rica. After a long hike, we stopped at a roadside restaurant for some casados and the owner offered up guanabana. We weren’t familar, and he said “you know, like…sour soap.” This sounded terrible, but he insisted it was good, and we try to keep a real “say yes” attitude on vacation. He walked into the yard and picked a big green prickly fruit from a tree, and took it in the kitchen. A few minutes later, he came out with a glass of frothy white stuff. I cautiously took my first sip, and was so pleasantly surprised. It was sweet, and thick like a milkshake. I think I ordered one with every meal for the rest of the week.
When we came across a large green fruit at one of the Kauai farmer’s markets, I asked if that was a young jackfruit, and the vendor told me it was soursop. “SOURSOP?!” my husband and I both exclaimed – causing the vendor to jump back a little bit. We were REALLY excited to see it again. We bought one, and back at the hotel, we cut it open and put the fleshy white fruit into the blender. Making sure to take out all the seed was a pain – there is probably an easier way. We added coconut milk and a few ice cubes, and blended up fabulously fresh shakes.
There were a few other fruits we tried, but I won’t waste your time with anything that didn’t impress us. The most important thing to know is that ALL the fruit grown on Kauai is amazing and fresh, and many of the farms are GMO-free zones, so produce from The Garden Isle is pretty wonderful. That website referenced above did mention that much of the fruit in grocery stores is from big corporate farms, and we even noticed that fruit was being brought in from Chile and other countries – so read labels and ask around to make sure you are getting great locally sourced fruits!
One last way we enjoyed all these great fruits, was on top of Shave Ice. Don’t mistake this for some gas station sno-cone. Hawaiian Shave Ice (from the vendors we visited) is topped with homemade non-GMO fruit syrups, fresh diced fruit, and haupia coconut foam. DEE-LISH.
I’ve you made it to the bottom of this post, you deserve a treat. Book yourself a flight to Kauai today!