There’s a lot that makes Hawaii unique. We have incredible beaches, a rich, fascinating culture, and wonderful people who truly embody the spirit of Aloha. One of my favorite aspects of my home state, though, is the fruit! Really. I am not sure what I would do if I couldn’t pop down to the farmer’s market, or even just my own back yard, and have such a huge variety of delicious tropical fruits. Not all are indigenous, or even native, to Maui, but they have certainly found a way to flourish in our tropical weather. Here are my top five favorite fruits grown on Maui!
- Apple Bananas
If you’ve been to the grocery store on Maui, you might’ve scratched your head a little in the produce section. You saw the normal bananas, but then, maybe right next to them, were smaller, fatter, spottier ones. When you have a chance– get those! The small, usually organic “apple bananas” as we call them are native to Southeast Asia, but are grown both commercially and at people’s homes in Hawaii. They have a smooth, creamy texture, and a flavor that will totally ruin you for other bananas– tangy, sweet, and extremely tasty. Their skin tends to show those brown spots easier than conventional bananas, but even if they look over-ripe, they’re probably just right. Give them a try!
I just love how these little fruits look. Deep-red and distinctively “hairy,” I can understand why you might be wary of them, but you’ll definitely want to give them a try if you see them at a fruit stand or farmer’s market. Beneath the spiny exterior is a white, juicy fruit, sort of like an oversized grape. They have a sweet and sour flavor that is highly addictive. I put them in the fridge for a cool, refreshing treat on a warm afternoon.
Sure, you probably have mango in the grocery store at home sometimes, but if you have a chance, get some locally-grown mango while you’re here, and taste the difference. Insanely juicy, soft, and beautifully fragrant, Maui’s mangos are simply divine. You may see some commercially-grown, imported varieties in the grocery store, so my suggestion for a good local one? A fruit stand on the Road to Hana. You’ll see plenty of them; some are bigger operations, with friendly people selling local items in addition to fresh fruit, but you’ll see many more of the smaller, family-run stands. They work on the honor system, so be sure to bring some cash on the way to drop a few bucks in the box in exchange for fresh fruit and flowers; prices are posted, and are generally very reasonable. Just another thing that makes Maui so special!
You might know them as passion fruit, but in Hawaii, these little gems are known as liliko’i. You’ll see a few of the more-familiar purple ones here and there, but most of them are a pale, butter yellow. Once they’re split open, bright orange pulp with dark brown seeds can easily be scooped out with a spoon. Feel free to eat it as is, but if you find it too tart, there’s a ton of great uses for liliko’i. The brown seeds are edible, so scoop it right into a cocktail shaker for the start of a great tropical drink. You can also mix it with yogurt, or top vanilla ice cream with it. They grow right outside my front door, and I love straining the juice and adding it to homemade lemonade for a refreshing, island-style treat.
If you’re at a farmer’s market or swap meet on Maui, and you see these tiny lime-esque fruits, you should buy a bag. Also known as the Philippine Lime, these little citrus fruits are one thing I almost never pass up. Green on the outside, orange in the middle, they’re not (as some people think) the same as key limes. Cut one open, and you’ll get a get a wonderful whiff of a tangerine scent. They’re best sweetened and made into a sort of limeade (a labor-intensive process, but worth it!), and are slowly finding their way into Maui’s culinary landscape. Find them served in place of limes in seafood dishes, or even muddled into creative cocktails. Pick some up, and squeeze them in tea, water, or your own mixed drinks for a little tropical flair.
Of course, there are so many amazing fruits I didn’t mention here, so please, stop by a farmer’s market or fruit stand at least once while you’re here. Pick up something you’ve never seen before, and try some of the delicious, healthy fruits (and vegetables!) we enjoy every day on Maui.