Kauai Farmer's Markets

Stopping to assess our market haul and for Blythe to have a tomato snack 

Stopping to assess our market haul and for Blythe to have a tomato snack 

This will come as no surprise, but the farmer's markets here are incredible.  The tropical climate means a year-round growing season, so even thought it is technically winter, the markets are stocked with fruits and vegetables.  About half of the produce I could find at home (tomatoes, kale, greens, squash, garlic, beans, broccoli, cauliflower, herbs, carrots) and the rest is never in season in Colorado or I've never heard of it!  

We've been to most of the farmer's markets on the north and east side of the island (here is a schedule of all the markets) and our favorites our Waipa (Tuesday at 2:00 PM), Hanalei (Saturday morning), Kapa'a (Wednesday at 3:00 PM), and Kilauea (Thursday at 4:30 PM in town and Saturday at 9:00 AM at the mini-golf course).  You'll find food vendors and some arts and crafts as well.  I'll buy juice at the market, as well as local honey, eggs (surprisingly expensive given the number of chickens on this island), some meat, and some baked goods.  As far as produce goes, the following is a rundown of my favorite finds and the most obscure (some of which taste good and others that are obscure for a reason):

Favorite Finds:

Rambutan (and Lychee and Longan) - These win for the coolest exterior (bright pink with small spikes) and for great taste.  They taste similar to a lychee or a longan (and I actually prefer longans because they are easier to eat - they are pictured below, both in the shell and out).  Blythe and I could eat these every day, all day!  You peel the rough exterior of the fruit (the shell) and are left with something that looks a bit like an eyeball that you eat, spitting out the pit.

A closer look at rambutans - they really are quite pretty.

A closer look at rambutans - they really are quite pretty.

Lilikoi or Passion Fruit - Tart and with a fun texture thanks to the tiny seeds inside this fruit.  The more wrinkly the exterior, the better the seeds/fruit inside!  I prefer these with a pink exterior (I think they are sweeter).  To eat a passion fruit, you slice them in half and scoop out the seeds inside.

The passion fruit is pictured in the bottom left of the fruit plate (between 6:00 and 9:00).  

The passion fruit is pictured in the bottom left of the fruit plate (between 6:00 and 9:00).  

Pineapple - I'm sure you can get one of these in your local grocery store, but I'm willing to bet they taste a lot better here.  We learned on a farm tour that each pineapple takes two years to grow!  

Dragon Fruit - Dragon fruit has a pretty neutral flavor, but I love it for its vibrant color.  Blythe is drinking a dragon fruit lemonade in the photo below - check out how pink it is!  

Dragon fruit lemonade - check out that shade of pink!

Dragon fruit lemonade - check out that shade of pink!

Edamame - I hadn't seen edamame on the stem ever prior to the Kilauea Farmer's Market.  It was so easy to make - you pluck the pods from the stems and steam them for about 8 minutes, sprinkle with sea salt, and serve.  Delicious!  

Starfruit and Apple Bananas - Blythe and I both love starfruit.  It doesn't have a strong flavor, but we slice it and B loves the star shape of each slice and it has a nice, tangy crunch.  As for apple bananas, you'll find them at every market.  I'm not a big banana person, but these are harder and have a better flavor than the Cavendish, which is what you'll find in American supermarkets.   Since there is a banana crisis brewing, maybe apple bananas will be the replacement?  They are about 1/2 the size of a Cavendish.   

When you find a good starfruit, there is no time but the present for eating it.

When you find a good starfruit, there is no time but the present for eating it.

Papaya - Papaya was my favorite as a child and continues to be so now.  It has a mild flavor, but there is just something about it that I love.  Below are two varieties - the classic papaya has seeds but I found the larger one at a market here and was surprised to open it and find there were no seeds!

You'll also find a plethora of avocados (and a range of varieties and sizes), oranges and tangerines (numerous varieties), lemons, limes, pomegranates, macadamia nuts, and coconuts! We did find mangoes at the most recent Hanalei Farmer's Market but before that I hadn't seen them (I think this might just not be the right season because they are usually available in abundance).  At the Waipa market, I saw acai berries for the first time ever.

Blythe and Rob love to get a chilled coconut at the market.  The vendor will cut it open and give you a straw so you first drink the coconut water.  Once the water is gone, he'll cut it open for you so you can eat the flesh.  It's a refreshing snack for sure.

Moving on to the obscure!  Most of these I've never seen outside of Hawaii.  We are up for trying most things so I've noted where we tried and where we passed!

Eggfruit - this is everywhere and I wish I liked it, but I think it tastes like sweet potato but in the worst way possible.  

Eggfruit - this is everywhere and I wish I liked it, but I think it tastes like sweet potato but in the worst way possible.  

Chico - I felt like this was false advertising. This tasted faintly of cinnamon and brown sugar, but mostly it just didn't taste good.  Also, we paid $5 for ONE at the farmer's market but they were $1 each at the grocery store.  Probably because they aren't very good...

Chico - I felt like this was false advertising. This tasted faintly of cinnamon and brown sugar, but mostly it just didn't taste good.  Also, we paid $5 for ONE at the farmer's market but they were $1 each at the grocery store.  Probably because they aren't very good...

Bilimbi - This one surprised me!  These taste like extremely tart and crisp... cucumbers?  Really, they taste more like a lemon or lime but with the texture of a crisp cucumber.  These were surprisingly delicious and I could see them being used in Southeast Asian cuisines.  

Bilimbi - This one surprised me!  These taste like extremely tart and crisp... cucumbers?  Really, they taste more like a lemon or lime but with the texture of a crisp cucumber.  These were surprisingly delicious and I could see them being used in Southeast Asian cuisines.  

Black Sapote - I was intrigued, but not enough to buy one and there weren't samples.  After being burned by the Chico, I passed...

Black Sapote - I was intrigued, but not enough to buy one and there weren't samples.  After being burned by the Chico, I passed...

Ice Cream Bean (the long green bean above the avocados and ginger) - These beans contain a thick, white pulp that tastes like vanilla and has the texture of cotton candy.  This one is odd, but not bad.

Ice Cream Bean (the long green bean above the avocados and ginger) - These beans contain a thick, white pulp that tastes like vanilla and has the texture of cotton candy.  This one is odd, but not bad.

Star Apples - We ate these chilled and they are tangy and have a subtle flavor.  Definitely worth trying!  It's really hard to compare some of these fruits to anything because they are unique and I can't come up with anything similar...

Star Apples - We ate these chilled and they are tangy and have a subtle flavor.  Definitely worth trying!  It's really hard to compare some of these fruits to anything because they are unique and I can't come up with anything similar...

Soursop - People describe this as a combination of strawberry and pineapple but with a sour flavor.  I'm not convinced and I don't love this, but they are fun to look at.

Soursop - People describe this as a combination of strawberry and pineapple but with a sour flavor.  I'm not convinced and I don't love this, but they are fun to look at.

Taro - Grown in paddy fields all over Hawaii, this is a root crop that is a dietary staple in Hawaiian culture.  I've only ever had taro made into poi, which is good although bland.

Taro - Grown in paddy fields all over Hawaii, this is a root crop that is a dietary staple in Hawaiian culture.  I've only ever had taro made into poi, which is good although bland.

The next time you are in Hawaii (on any of the islands), make your way to a farmer's market!  It's the best way to find out what's growing, meet a few locals, and undoubtedly try a few new foods.