David and Michelle’s five-acre farm in Waimanalo was an established orchid business when they bought it in 1999. The orchids were raised for the blossoms, which were sold to lei-makers. They continued with the orchids for about five years, fighting destructive birds and disease. Farming is not an easy life. The final blow was the beginning of an endless supply of cheaper, pesticide-laden blossoms from Thailand. They converted the use to horse boarding stables. David built an arena for that. Now the focus is back to agriculture, with a large variety of tropical plants being raised for sale to landscapers and nurseries.
Many years ago, the previous owners planted fruit trees to feed their family. These trees are scattered haphazardly over the entire property. The trees include: mango, lychee, papaya, banana, guava, breadfruit, avocado, macadamia nut, coconut, starfruit, soursop, and mountain apple. I never knew about the macadamia until this week. Michelle says the dogs will get fat, scarfing up the mac nuts and avocados, now that they’re in season.
Without further ado, I present:
The Fruit Trees
Bananas are technically not trees, but plants. In Hawaii, we talk about “banana patches”. You seldom see just one banana plant. That’s because each banana, before it produces its fruit and dies, sprouts a crop of babies around its base, the next generation.Banana plants.
These are two mature lychee trees which provide shade in the front yard. I love lychees, but these old-timers only produce every other year, and are so humongous that the fruit is hard to reach even with a picker. The adjacent tree with brighter-green leaves is a starfruit, which is laden with fruit in season, but never when I am here. Sadly, no one in the Hawai’i family likes starfruit. I do, but then I know that you have to let the yellow fruit turn brown around the edges; that means it has evolved from tart to sweet, with a refreshing perfumey flavor.Two huge lychee trees in the front yard.
Here’s the mango on the right overhanging the guest quarters and deck, with the lychee trees behind it. The mango is so old it seldom produces much fruit, which is alright because they bounce off the metal roof below, creating a thunderous noise, and can damage the roof if they don’t roll off. In front of the mango is a macadamia nut tree (closest to the fence). If you look carefully, you can see the top of the starfruit tree sandwiched between the macadamia and lychee. The bright heart-shaped leaves spilling down the hillside by the guest room and deck are taro, a carbohydrate staple of old Hawai’i. It’s commonly served baked, boiled or cooked and then pounded into poi. Poi is non-allergenic, a good food for babies with delicate digestive tracts. Slightly aged poi has more flavor than fresh, which some say tastes like library paste.Lychee, mango, starfruit and macadamia nut trees.
This year, the avocado tree has a bumper crop, and they are delicious! We’re making guacamole for a party on Friday, eating buttery slices on toast, using them for huevos rancheros and of course in salads. Avocado season is a happy one.Avocado tree.
Breadfruit, ulu in Hawaiian, was an important staple in the diet of the ancient Hawaiians. It remains popular with Polynesians today and some native Hawaiians getting back to their roots. The Tongan guy who trims the coconut trees charges half what others demand, plus all the breadfruit he can pick. Quilters will recognize the leaves and fruit as one of the most common Hawaiian quilt patterns.Breadfruit tree.
Coconut palms are everywhere in Hawai’i landscapes. When they get very tall, they become a hazard, as falling bunches of coconuts are dangerous. The nuts get too high to reach, and they need to be trimmed off. Years ago, we used to make a delicious coconut-caramel syrup using the low-hanging coconuts from the shorter Samoan-variety trees in our yard. Back then, you couldn’t find canned coconut milk in markets; you had to make it from scratch. That syrup would be easier to make now.Coconut Palm.
Next comes a noni tree. The curious knobby fruit with white flesh is said to have almost miraculous healing properties. Or so say those who sell noni juice online. Here, the fallen fruit are favorites of the wild chickens and peacocks. There is one friend who comes over to pick them. She ages them into a stinky, allegedly healthful concoction. Who knows about its medicinal properties, but the tree is pretty and the poultry like the fruit.Noni tree.Noni fruit.
Stay tuned for photos of the soursop and mountain apple trees. My camera battery is recharging.