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Hawaiian Produce

Written By Culinary Pen on Tuesday, October 26, 2010 | 3:13:00 AM

Carla and I just got back from our honeymoon in Hawaii! We had lots of delicious meals and fruits, but especially loved visiting the farmer's markets and seeing tables full of exotic fruits and vegetables. All in all, Hawaii is a strange mash-up. Driving down the road, there would be a bunch of retirees playing golf on your left, while on the right field hands tied up bundles of cut sugar cane. There were fabulous hotels and run down homes with plastic sheeting for windows. Even the topography was strange, as the islands are basically the above-ground tops of otherwise underwater mountains. So while the beach was that *classic Hawaiian beach*, the land looked more like Arizona as you went up, complete with mesquite trees and lots of dry fields of scrubby grass and red dirt. Higher up, as the clouds dropped off more moisture, you had pine trees and ironwood, which made us feel like we were back in Pennsylvania.

As much as I'm used to seeing apple trees, I was still shocked to see many yards (rich or poor) had their own fruit trees. I just didn't expect to see someone picking grapefruit from their front porch, or avocados, guava, bananas, or limes. Unfortunately the grapefruit and avocados weren't ripe. Carla, the tropical fruit bird that she is, found out it was rambutan season! We ate about 3-4 pounds of rambutan from the farmer's markets, popping the clear, jelly like flesh out of the rubbery rind. The seeds looked like almonds, but we were told they were midly toxic if you ate too many of them.

Rambutans were the stars of our trip, produce-speaking, but we also gained a new respect for papaya. Most of the papaya I've eaten has been bland pap with a less appealing texture as supermarket honeydew melon and about as little flavor. In Hawaii the papaya was sugar sweet, spoonably tender, and remarkably consistent. Many restaurants also made a creamy salad dressing spiked with the papaya's peppery seeds. We also had tasty snacks made of rice beaten into a paste, then mixed with cassava, taro, or sugar. They were then wrapped in banana leaves and grilled. It had the texture of the Powerbar, but with a more natural flavor.

We also had wine made by a company that crushes Maui Gold pineapples and ferments the juice into a sweet, but slightly crisp, golden wine.

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