When one pictures the ideal Hawaii vacation, it usually includes sandy beaches, sunshine, cool drinks and delicious foods. Though the Hawaiian Islands are replete with award-winning restaurants, some of the most scrumptious foods can be plucked right off the trees or vines. Sampling some of the locally grown tropical fruits will certainly add a hint of wild island flavor to your vacation. Whether you pick up these fresh island produce at a farmers’ market, have them in the form of a refreshing, exotic juice or pick them right off the branch or vine on one of Hawaii’s foremost farm tours, there are probably no other better ways to enjoy Hawaii’s flavorful and succulent fruits.
Dragon fruit: The spikey exterior of these fruits can be colored red, green, purple or magenta, with white flesh and black seeds on the interior. The dynamic coloring makes this fruit a favorite garnish for dishes at upscale restaurants and in tropical fruit salads. Both low in calories and high in vitamins, mild-flavored dragon fruits are an excellent addition to any meal. For die-hard dragon fruit fans, the Kona Dragon Fruit Farm on the Big Island is a must-visit.
Banana: The beloved banana is a timeless classic, growing in a peak season from June to October. In ancient Hawaii, bananas had certain rules in the kapu system, in that women were not allowed to eat these sweet fruits. Though there are a number of varieties of banana plants in Hawaii, the tart apple banana is the favorite choice among local people and is the best kind of banana for drying since the color doesn’t change when dehydrated.
Pineapple: Ever since James Drummond Dole established the commercially successful plantation in the early 1900s, the pineapple has become the fruit most commonly associated with Hawaii. Some of the best known Hawaii-grown varieties are the smooth cayenne, the Hilo and the Kona sugarloaf which is known for its distinctive sweet flavor. At one time, Hawaii was the leading producer of pineapples in the world and big corporations like Dole and Del Monte had large processing and canning operations in Hawaii. Today, pineapples are still grown in Hawaii, but only for the fresh fruit market.
Coconut: As in most tropical environments, the coconut has been used as a traditional staple in Hawaiian culture. Coconut is used not only for its raw meat and dried chips, but also for its nutritious coconut milk and copra. The famous Hawaiian custard-like dessert called haupia is made from coconut and is served many places offering traditional Hawaiian dishes.
Mango: This fruit tree is often grown in residential front yards in Hawaii. Fresh mango has always been a popular snack or dessert in the Aloha State. The two most commonly found types of mangoes in Hawaii are the haden and the pierie. Besides eating them raw, mangoes can be enjoyed in dried and preserved forms or as flavorings in syrups, chutneys and salsas.
Guava: The guava is an extremely healthy fruit, filled with fiber, potassium, vitamin A and has nearly four times as much vitamin C than an orange. Guavas trees fruits can be often found in backyards, in the forests or commercially grown in small farms. As they have an abundance of small seeds, most people in Hawaii enjoy guava in the form of juices, jams and jellies.
Breadfruit: This starchy fruit can often accompanies main dishes as a sweet side order with savory meats. It is best eaten cooked and can be mashed like a potato, sliced, grilled, baked, roasted or boiled. Breadfruit trees can be found throughout Polynesia and its fruit is considered a traditional staple in Samoan culture.
Passion fruit: Called lilikoi in Hawaii, passion fruit is arguably one of the most favorite types of juices to be found in the Aloha State and is often used as a key ingredient in many dessert recipes. Additionally, lilikoi is often used in syrups, sauces, jellies and jams. As in the case with guavas, the lilikoi fruit has an abundance of small seeds; so it’s often better to consume it in juice or preserved forms.
Papaya: The orange-hued papaya can be sliced in salads, served as a side to main courses or added to brunch plates and seasoned with fresh lime juice. This fruit also has medicinal values that aid in digestion and can also be used as a topical ointment for rashes and burns.
Starfruit: This fruit, also called the carambola, has a distinctly unique star shaped figure. The meat of the starfruit contains vitamin C, potassium, and is relatively low in sugar. However because of certain types of acids found in the fruit, it should be avoided by those with kidney stones or kidney disease or eaten in small portions. Because of its unique shape, the starfruit is often used as a garnish or roasted as a decorative side and is a must-have on any tropical fruit list.
Mountain apple: While red in color, it’s really not an apple and is not shaped like one. Unlike regular apples, it does not have a crunchy feel when you bite into it. Instead, it has a softer but still very succulent sweet taste. Mountain apples are from the syzygium family of flowering trees and the Hawaiian name of this fruit is ōhiʻa ʻai. The mountain apple is referred to as a canoe plant as it was originally brought by the ancient Polynesians who originally sailed to Hawaii by canoe.
Lychee: This fruit tree was first brought to Hawaii in the late 1800s from China. It was then a very popular fruit tree and continues to be enjoyed by many people in Hawaii today. While some lychee is grown commercially the vast majority of the lychee fruit is grown in local backyards. The plant bears the best and most fruit in wet weather conditions. The fruit itself is covered in a leathery but relatively thin red skin. The fruit inside has a silky, translucent white color with an oval black seed in it. Lychee is very sweet, succulent and delicious