Kauai isn’t called “The Garden Island” for nothing. Its warm temperatures, nightly rainfall, and sun-filled days all work together to produce some of the juiciest and sweetest fruit imaginable. When in Hawaii, here are some fruits to look out for at the local farmers markets and grocery stores:
Mango – Summer in Hawaii means one thing: Mango season. There are several different varieties grown in Hawaii, the most well known being the common, haden and rapoza mango. Mango is called the “King of Fruits,” is full of nutrients that provide many health benefits, it’s often forgotten how healthy it is when it tastes so good. Kamaaina (locals) know that mango can be enjoyed many different ways, from pickled mango to tree ripened and juicy. Diced up mango salsa is a true compliment to fresh fish tacos. Dried, dehydrated mango make a delicious and hearty snack.
Lychee – Brilliant bursts of bright red berry-like fruit, hanging in clusters among the green leaves of a tree, are a sign that Lychee season is beginning. Lychee, pronounced lie-chee, originated in Asia and was introduced to Hawaii in the late 1800’s. Peak season for lychee is from May through August. Lychee has a hard skin that must be peeled away to reveal the white fleshy meat of the lychee. These little pieces of heaven require growth in places that get a lot of rain. Each succulent bite may cause fruit juice to get all over your mouth, hands and possibly clothing. Trust us, it’s worth it!
Papaya – One of the only year-round tropical fruits, papaya is the perfect morning fruit to get charged up for the day. Eating papayas regularly are said to promote a healthy digestive tract – we just eat them because they’re delicious and filling. Hawaii offers a number of papaya varieties, the most common being the sunrise papaya, which when cut in half reveal a beautiful red orange flesh. Papaya is often picked green and ripens into a yellow within a few days of picking. When buying papayas, it is best to get each papaya in a different stage, i.e., green, green yellow, and yellow, to avoid having them all ripen at once.
Starfruit – Starfruit is a yellow citrus-like fruit with that can be eaten entirely and resembles the texture of a grape. When cut into the slices, the shape resemble a perfect star, making it a wonderful snack (kids love them!) or a beautiful garnish to a colorful salad. Starfruit is available from September through April, with just a short break between crop season.
Rambutan – Rambutan often has people scratching their heads in wonder when they first come across it. The skin of the rambutan is a hard, red shell with “hair” spiking out of it. Eating rambutan is an art that takes practice to perfect, a knife is not necessary to pull away the tough skin, but strength is. Inside of its shell is a white, milky flesh with a round pit in the middle, that is similar to a lychee. Rambutan is a newly introduced exotic fruit to Kauai and most abundant from October through March.
Guava – From a distance, a guava tree might be mistaken for a lemon tree. It’s shape and color largely resembles a ripe lemon. However, a guava is in no way like a lemon, with soft edible skin and a pink flesh full of hundreds of little seeds. Every part of the guava is edible, even the seeds. Guava juice is unofficially the Hawaii state juice, it’s sweetness has a flavor that you can easily get hooked on; with no acidity like orange juice. Guava can also be made into a wonderfully sweet jelly and it’s wood is often used for smoking meats. Guava can be found in two separate harvest periods, one from crop ripening from August to December and the second from January through April.
Lilikoi – The amazing passion fruit tastes as exotic as its Hawaiian name, lilikoi. This fruit has a tough outer skin that when cut open reveals a pulpy flesh filled with up to 250 seeds. The lilikoi grows on a vine and is at its peak for harvest during the months of July through January. While tart in flavor, there are so many ways the lilikoi can be used. It can be pressed into a juice, made into jam or jelly, baked into a chiffon pie, blended into a tropical margarita…the possibilities are nearly endless and the taste is always pleasing. It just tastes like Hawaii!
Kauai Sugarloaf Pineapple – Let’s start by saying this is not your average pineapple. Imagine the sweetest pineapple ever known to man with little to no acidity and you get the Kauai Sugarloaf Pineapple. This pineapple is smaller in nature to normal pineapples and bears a white flesh meat. Sugarloaf Pineapple grows year round and takes 12 to 18 months to mature. The Kauai Sugarloaf Pineapple is such complete perfection that you will likely not share and in fact, hide it from those you love.
Our theory is the stranger the fruit looks, the better it tastes. Local farmer’s markets offer access to fruits that are rarely available in grocery stores. In Poipu, the Shops at Kukui‘ula holds a weekly market on Wednesday afternoons with vendors scattered throughout the shopping center and the County of Kaua‘i holds its weekly Sunshine Market on Mondays at the Kōloa Ball Park. Leave the apples, pears, and oranges at home and indulge in some of nature’s candy.