I’m a huge fan of farmer’s markets, and if I HAVE to go shopping, I much prefer to patronize local growers and traders than huge megasuperwhatevers. Here on Maui there are a few small farmer’s markets that pop up in parking lots, at beach parks, or just off the side of the main highway. In most cases, they’re just one or two small growers that have their produce on tables behind their truck. Those guys tend to move around a lot, so if you see one, stopping is a good idea. It’s a bit harder to find one that is stationary and regularly timed since they rarely advertise.
The one thing they all have in common is delicious produce picked at the peak of ripeness, and you can’t beat it for flavor. I’m also a bit of a nut for organic produce, and that’s very hard to find at supermarkets.
Just be sure to bring your own reusable bags – Maui County does not allow plastic bags to be sold at any foodstore. I never travel without a couple of lightweight grocery bags, and a large selection of mesh fruit and veggie bags. Two years without store bags is my running record, and one of the ways I’m trying to be green. Every little bit helps.
There’s one particular market near our condo that runs three times a week. It’s run by a local organic market in Honokowai, and they’ve converted their parking lot to hold tables and awnings. The market is from 7:30 to 10:00am Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays – get there early because the good stuff goes fast. The tables are full of boxes of local fruits, vegetables, breads (including gluten free), salsas, guac, spreads, dips, local honey and whatever you can think of. They also give free samples of some of their more luscious fruits to entice the punters to buy more.
And before I get inundated with email, no, I don’t cook while on vacation. This stuff is for breakfast and lunch only. That I do fix, while Vlad and Alexei enjoy their kona coffee and guava juice on the lanai. They take ME out to dinner, so it’s all good.
Our usual haul includes:
- Maui Gold pineapple – it has a lower acid-content than the usual kind that you can find on other islands, or on the mainland. The fruit is a deep gold and is incredibly sweet. Don’t cut out the core – that’s the sweetest part of the fruit and is edible. Eaten with the tarter portion, it creates a nice flavor mix.
- Papayas - There are two types of papayas sold locally. Regular Hawaiian papayas have a deep orange-gold color inside and are yellow-green mottled on the skin when ripe. Sunrise (or strawberry) papayas have a similar skin, but the inside is a peachey-red color – just the color of the sun as it rises over the ocean. Both are best eaten with a wedge of lime squirted over the top. Scoop out the seeds, squeeze the lime in the cavity, and devour. Ambrosia!
- Apple-bananas. These little bananas are 4-5 inches long and have a slightly apple flavor. They’re very different from the ones you get on the mainland, and once you try one, no other banana will satisfy you. They’re high in potassium and absolutely delicious.
- Lilikoi (passionfruit). These little fruits are best when perfectly ripe. Don’t let them over-ripen – the taste is just not the same. It can be tricky to find the ones that are ready to eat. Have one of the experts show you the best ones to buy.
- Dragonfruit – the yellow-skinned ones with the white flesh are my favorite. I got hooked on these pretty fruits in SE Asia, and the local Hawaiian variety is just as good as the ones I used to devour in Thailand and Malaysia. Peeled and sliced, the white flesh with black seeds are slightly tangy and very refreshing on a hot day – they have a kiwi-like flavor that is lighter and a bit sweeter. Careful of the red dragonfruits – they’re a bit sweeter than the white, and are great in salads, but the juice stains and WILL NOT COME OUT of clothes. Yes, I did learn that the hard way. I go with the whites since I’m basically a klutz, and tend to wear what I eat.
- Kula greens – these baby lettuces are grown on the cool slopes of Haleakala and are full of flavor.
- Heirloom tomatoes – the volcanic soil in Hawaii produce some of the best tomatoes in the world. Try one and you’re spoiled. Wow.
- Local cheeses, dips and spreads. We usually indulge in the garlic-olive cream cheese for morning bagles, as well as the tapenade, and spicy and pineapple salsas. The tapenade this market sells is superb. Just the right amount of garlic, and a great mix of olive types – all locally grown. Add some crackers and lunch and evening appetizers are thereby taken care of for the duration of the trip.
- Local honey – there are a whole lot of very happy bees on the Islands, and the beekeepers make some of the best honey in the world from the tropical flower nectar they produce. One of my favorites is the honey made from macadamia nut flowers. Try it. Trust me, you’ll take home a few jars.
- Local breads – home-baked sweetbreads and locally baked breads abound at these markets. Our favorite is a sweet pineapple bread made by a very nice lady who lives in Napili and sells her wares at the market. She also has a series of gluten-free breads that look pretty good. Haven’t tried them, but they seem to sell well.
When you visit a farmers market, just don’t be surprised when you go up to the checkout table if the guy tells you that you need to bag your own stuff because he’s “just not feeling it today”. This is Hawaii, where Hang Loose is not just a term, it’s a lifestyle.
Home again, home again, jiggety jig. Time to make a really good breakfast for the boys.