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

Advertisements

“Empty bowl with gunk still in it” and “Do potatoes have thoughts?”

VegEdibles’ Greatest Hits

I’m guessing that many of my fellow bloggers are familiar with the obsessive desire to check how many hits your blog gets. I’ll admit that I am among them. It’s not that I have any delusions of food blog fame; I’m just doing this for fun. But it makes me happy when people read my posts, and I find it especially gratifying when my blog has been useful or entertaining to someone. Here is a recent snapshot of my blog stats:

Some of these hits are from faithful VegEdibles followers. My genuine thanks go to those of you who follow the blog. I really appreciate your support, even if you’re just a lurker. This post, however, is about another cohort of VegEdibles visitors who stumbled onto the blog through Internet search engines. I thought it would be interesting to share some of the search terms that have (mis)directed people to VegEdibles.

Common search terms:

  • “Fennel anatomy” (21 hits): It seems that I am not alone in my state of profound fennel befuddlement. “Fennel Follies” described my misguided attempt to cook with fennel for the first time. Seven individuals have been linked to the post after searching for “fennel anatomy,” while 14 additional people found the post through related searches.

  • “Pickling experiments” (13 hits): Let’s face it. People like to pickle things. As I discovered while writing this post, pickling is downright fascinating! Luckily for Bill, however, I’m not likely to experiment further with home pickling in the near future.
  • “Mint chocolate balls” (12 hits): The picture of mint chocolate “balls” in this post was deemed foodgawker-worthy, propelling VegEdibles to food blog fame, albeit fleeting. I’m guessing these hits may have been from people who had seen the picture in foodgawker and were looking for the recipe. Interestingly, one of the hits was somebody looking for: “sticky balls recipe for dogs.” Although they may look like dog treats, these snacks are for people. (Don’t feed chocolate to dogs!)

  • “Granola not clumping” (11 hits): Apparently, clumpy granola eludes many a home cook. I can empathize with the frustration of the 11 people whose search terms related to the quest for the Holy Grail of homemade granola. Check out this experiment in which I tested different granola clumping methods.

  • “Are produce delivery boxes worth it?” (1 hit): Okay, this was only a single hit, but it sure made my day. I might have actually helped this person by writing this post discussing organic produce delivery and comparing various produce purchasing options.

And now, some downright bizarre search terms:

  • “Empty bowl with gunk still in it” (1 hit): I’m thoroughly amused that VegEdibles attracted someone on the verge of discovering the concept of dish washing. Perhaps this instructional article from wikihow.com outlining the 24 steps (yup, 24!) of dish washing would have been more helpful. I wonder if this picture of Bill’s empty bowl from this post about liquid hummus is what led them here.

  • “Do potatoes have thoughts?” (3 hits): VegEdibles doesn’t typically explore the metaphysical realm, but three separate searches related to potatoes and thoughts have converged on this blog. For the record, the three search terms were: “Do potatoes have thoughts?”, “deep thoughts about potatoes,” and “potato offended.” Perhaps I did offend the potatoes that I used to make Hasselback potatoes.

  • “What can you sook that would disguise hemlock as an ingrediant” (1 hit): Whoa, buddy! VegEdibles does not endorse in any way the use of hemlock as a poisoning agent! If you’re reading this, please rethink your motivations for trying to poison someone…and don’t mention that you used my blog as part of your research.

Farmers’ Market Finds

As summer gives way to autumn, the produce from these adjacent seasons is starting to intermingle. The strawberries, peaches, and watermelon remain, but now there are also apples, grapes, and figs at the farmers’ market.

I was less ambitious with the “surprise” ingredient this time, as I’m still recovering from the fennel follies. Here’s what I got:

The low-hanging fruit (i.e., stuff that we can eat with minimal preparation)

  • Summer squash and onion – Make not-so-artful arrangements, then grill them as usual.

  • Apples and Plums – I picked out an assortment of apples (mostly Fuji and Gala). The yellow ones are plums. I regret not getting more apples, as they are disappearing quickly.

  • Grapes and Corn – Eat them.

The experimental subject (i.e., stuff that will inspire new recipes)

  • Portabella mushrooms – Okay, you caught me! These were not from the farmers’ market. Also, they’re not a particularly challenging “surprise” ingredient, but there was a recipe I wanted to try with them. Stay tuned.

A Trip to the Farmers’ Market…

“…to pick out food I don’t want.”

After exploring my produce purchasing options in a recent post, I decided to give the farmers’ market a try for a while in lieu of produce box deliveries. Always supportive, Bill agreed to accompany me. To maintain a “surprise” element and to continue experimenting with new-to-me fruits and vegetables, we agreed to look for something new and interesting. When I reminded Bill on Sunday morning that it was time to go to the farmers’ market, he summarized his job as follows: “to help carry things and pick out food I don’t want.” But he was a good sport, and he was actually the one who found our mystery ingredient for the week.

The low-hanging fruit (i.e., stuff that we can eat with minimal preparation)

  • Summer squash – We got these in the produce box last week, and they were really good grilled. I learned that this squash is sometimes called pattypan squash, but I think they should be called “flying saucer” squash.

  • Tomatoes – We went a little overboard with tomatoes. But they’re so, so good. I picked out the large, red and green one because it looks like it has several more tomatoes growing out of the bottom – that’s good value for your money.

  • Grapes – These are from the Topete Family Farm, and I think they are Autumn Royal grapes. They are very sweet and delicious, and they’re quite different in flavor from the grapes at the store.

  • Peaches, Nectarines, and Corn – Eat them, and enjoy summer produce while it lasts!
  • Celery – Ants on a log, of course!
  • Potatoes – Make Hasselback potatoes as Bill’s reward for going to to the farmers’ market with me.

The experimental subject (i.e., stuff that will inspire new recipes)

  • Fennel – I realize that fennel is more of an autumn/winter vegetable, but it was at the farmers’ market. Stay tuned for a fennel frenzy.