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):
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.