Farmers’ Market Finds – Kauai Edition

Happy New Year! … a little late, I know.

Bill and I spent the New Year holiday in Kauai. As a self-described fruit aficionado, I made it my mission to sample as much of Kauai’s tropical bounty as possible. Here’s a summary of my findings – the good, the bad, and the funny.

Banana Joe's

The Good:

  • Pineapple (1 for $10) – Pineapple was at the very top of my must-eat-in-Kauai list. Bill and I bought this one at a fruit stand called Coconut Corner in Waimea. We felt like suckers paying $10 for a pineapple, but at least it turned out to be sweet and juicy. 

Pineapple

  • Papayas (3 for $5) – Papayas were bountiful at the farmers’ market, so I bought three. Never mind that I had never tried a papaya before. Fortunately, I found them quite edible. The flesh was very sweet and reminded me vaguely of cantaloupe.

Papaya

  • Honey Tangerines (2 for $3) – Citrus fruits were not on my must-eat list since they’re so plentiful on the mainland, but these honey tangerines looked so good at the farmers’ market that I had to get them. They tasted as juicy and delicious as they looked.

Tangerines

The Bad:

  • Poi (Oy!) – Poi is a distinctly Hawaiian food made by mashing the starchy corms of the taro plant into a thick, gooey paste. It was Bill’s enthusiasm about trying taro that brought us to the Hanalei Taro & Juice Co. However, this large cup of thick, purple goop was a little more than we could handle. We did have fun brainstorming other non-food uses for the substance.

Poi

The Funny:

  • Rambutans ($3.50 per bunch) – Rambutans may be having a bad hair day – everyday – but that didn’t stop us from enjoying the delicious fruit protected by its wild, frizzly shell. Admittedly, the fruit inside kind of looks like an eyeball, but it’s quite a tasty eyeball! For those who are familiar with lychees, this is in the same family and has the same general structure, consisting of an outer shell, the fruit, and the pit. For those who stared quizzically at the word “lychee” or have only eaten lychees out of a can, the fruit’s taste and texture reminded us of a peeled grape, albeit with a large, woody pit inside.

Rambutan

The eyeball – I mean fruit – is inside:

Rambutan inside

  • Finger Bananas ($3.50 per bunch) – Apple bananas (a rather squat variety of banana that is sweet and tangy) are ubiquitous in Hawaii, but I thought I hit the jackpot when I came across these less common finger bananas at the farmers’ market. The woman who sold me these bananas said that they grew in her backyard and that they were so sweet that they tasted like cookies. (Cookies!) However, she cautioned that I should wait one day to try them so that they would be fully ripe. Bill and I waited anxiously overnight and ran salivating to the fruit bowl the next morning to see if they had transformed into cookies. They still looked like bananas, but we were undeterred, figuring that they could still taste like cookies despite their decidedly banana-like appearance. They tasted like … bananas. Granted, they were good bananas, but Bill is a cookie connoisseur, and even his sophisticated palate could not detect any hints of cookie in the finger bananas.

Finger bananas

So that’s a summary of my fruity findings. I’ll end this post with a few tips for those who follow me in the quest to find the most delicious fruit in Kauai:

  • Go to Banana Joe’s! We didn’t make it to Banana Joe’s Fruit Stand until the final day of our vacation, so I was unable to partake of the wealth of tropical produce offered there. They even had these short, golden pineapples that were supposed to be super sweet. I suppose we’ll have to go back someday to taste them.
  • Don’t even think about bringing non-approved fruit back to the mainland. My dad recalled eating the most delicious mangoes in Hawaii many years ago, so I was determined to procure a Hawaiian mango at any cost. That cost turned out to be $7. (That’s right. I paid $7 for a normal-sized mango at a farmers’ market.) Tragically, the mango failed to ripen by the end of our vacation, so I was left with the option of eating an unripe mango or taking it home with me. Although my research suggested that I was not prohibited from bringing a mango into California, the USDA people at the airport confiscated it “because it was fruit.” I’m no longer bitter, but I hope the mango was when the USDA people ate it. (Of course, there are ways to bring “approved” fruits (especially pineapples) back to the mainland. See this link.)
  • Be open-minded about the appearance of coconuts. Bill and I were accustomed to the appearance of cartoon coconuts – you know, those spherical things with shaggy brown “fur” that always fall out of trees and onto unsuspecting people’s heads. So we were surprised to learn that actual, fresh coconuts are smooth, yellow-green, and oblong (as in the picture below). According to this post, it’s not until you peel them and dry them out for a while that they become brown and furry.

Coconut Corner

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