Exotic Tropical fruit from Hawaii
It’s fun to try some new and exotic tropical fruit from Hawaii when visiting the islands and getting them directly from a roadside stand or farmers market. Hawaii is blessed with warm and temperate weather for growing a variety or tropical fruits yearly and produce more cycles of fruit per year. The variety of tropical fruit covers the gamut from commercially viable fruit like bananas and piExneapples to new unusual varieties of fruit including rambutan, cherimoya, dragon fruit and lychee, fruits that are more commonly found in southeast Asian countries. When tropical fruit are in season in Hawaii like mangoes, go out and try it because it will be fresh and truly delicious, also you’ll be supporting a local farmer or a farmers market when you are buying this fresh and locally grown. When visiting the islands it’s easy to find a variety of fresh fruit grown locally and offered in grocery stores, farmers markets, roadside stands or even growing wild along the side of the road if you care to climb and harvest them yourself. Finding some tropical fruit in season and trying something you are not familiar with is a fun and a delicious experience while visiting the islands.
Here are some of the more common to more unusual tropical fruits found all over Hawaii:
Did you know that there are over 70 different varieties of bananas grown in Hawaii? Bananas are year round crops grown in Hawaii and they grow well in the lush and wet zones throughout the state. Eaten raw or cooked, bananas are packed with vitamins B6, potassium and fiber. Here’s a bit of trivia, did you know that bananas are not trees but really part of the herb family from the genus Musa? Ever try some of the smaller but yet flavorful Hawaiian bananas called apple bananas or manzano, these bananas are usually half the size and fatter than the Williams variety that is more common around the world. The apple bananas here are sweeter and delicious raw or even cooked into a dessert or savory dish.
A very popular fruit grown throughout Hawaii, Lychee has a relatively short fruit season and when it happens, everyone seems to have lychee fruit to give away or sell very cheap. Harvest season in Hawaii typically happens in May to June timeframe. When the fruit is ripe and bright red, it is relatively easy to pull apart the leathery and thorny skin. Left for more than a few days and the skin gets tougher and harder to peel. Flavor is sweet, juicy with fruity taste to the translucent skin. Get them while they are in season and you can practically eat the whole bag in one sitting.
When this is in season, mangoes grown in Hawaii are oh so delicious and sweet. With over 60 different varieties grown on the islands, it’s a favorite tropical fruit to eat when there’s a lot of places to purchase or even harvest the mangoes yourself. Mangoes are bursting with protective nutrients and vitamins, the content depends upon the variety and maturity of the fruit. When the mango is green the amount of vitamin C is higher, as it ripens the amount of beta carotene (vitamin A) increases. June through October is when mango season occurs in Hawaii, it’s a nice long harvest season so you you’ll have some time to eat a lot of locally grown mangoes during the harvest season.
Pineapples are grown mostly in small farm lots and sold in farmers markets when they are nice and fresh. There are two types of delicious pineapples from Hawaii, yellow and white. We all know how sweet the yellow pineapples are through the Dole pineapple brand, but have you tried the really sweet white pineapples from Hawaii? They are highly perishable and have a short shelf life which makes it difficult to ship so its rare to find white pineapples outside of Hawaii. If you spot them at the local farmers market or roadside stand, make sure you buy one, they are simply delicious and super sweet when ripe. From cutting the tops and planting to flowering and fruit it takes about two and a half years to bear fruit. Grown in every backyard in Hawaii, it’s one of those plants that are so easy, anyone can grow their own pineapples with almost no care or maintenance to growing the plant.
Papayas seem to grow so easy in Hawaii, you can see them everywhere, even growing wild on the side of the road. Papayas are some of the most nutritious tropical fruits and are loaded with nutrients including, vitamins A, C, E and K, anti-oxidants and calcium, beta carotene, lutein, magnesium and many healthy minerals. This delicious fruit was called ‘Fruit of the angles’ by Christopher Columbus because of its health benefits to preventing colds and flu, helping in digestion, lung and eye disorders and even preventing heart disease. To pick ripe papayas, look for skin that is turning from green to yellow with some give on the flesh but not too soft, you can also pick them a little firmer and place them somewhere cool until they ripen.
A very popular exotic fruit grown in Hawaii that doesn’t last very long at the local farmers market or a neighbors fruiting tree. These colorful and hairy looking fruits are easy to open by just pulling apart the skin from the middle and then eating the white flesh from the large seed inside. Look for rambutan that are brightly colored from orange to red and avoid those that are starting to brown. Rambutan are flavorful and packed with vitamin C, manganese along with calcium, iron, potassium and other healthy minerals.
There’s nothing like having fresh coconuts on the islands including drinking the coconut water and savoring the delicious white flesh of the coconut meat. Coconut water and the meat of the coconut are both delicious and filled with anti-oxidants, vitamins C, B and E and rich in potassium, iron, magnesium and phosphorus. Coconut milk, the creamy milk made from squeezing the meat is also popular as a drink or served in mixed drinks or used as an ingredient for cooking and baking purposes.
Dragon fruit is a colorful fruit and quite nutritious, with a sweet tasting fruit with a combination of kiwi and pear flavor. When the dragon fruit is ripe, it’s both sweet and crunchy. The fruit is filled with anti-oxidants and fiber and has lots of vitamin C, phosphorus and calcium in each serving. To pick a ripe dragon fruit just look for bright red colors and no browning spots on the fruit, press the flesh for a little give just like a kiwi and you should find a nice one to eat.
- Jack fruit at the farmers market
When it is ripe, jackfruit can look menacing and heavy, in fact they can easily weight in at over five pounds or more in certain varieties. The fleshly meat covers the seeds buried inside which are also edible when it is boiled. The white fruit tastes like a combination of pineapple and lychee fruit when it’s mature. Jackfruit can also be cooked in a green state like a vegetable and is used as a meat replacement in many asian vegetarian curries.
Surinam cherries are called many names including, Pitanga, Brazilian or Cayenne cherry and they have a cherry-like taste ranging from sweet to very sour. The red or black color fruit tends to be sweeter and the yellow or orange-colored fruit is usually sour. These cherries are eaten raw or made typically into jams or jellies. The fruit is also packed with vitamins A and C and is a good anti-inflammatory, relieves hypertension and stomach pain.
Considered the Queen of tropical fruits in Asia, mangosteen originates from southeast Asia and is relatively new to Hawaii. If you can find some mangosteen for sale at local farmers markets usually from July to September time frame, you should try them because harvests are fairly limited and the fruit is delicious. White, juicy segments (think like an orange) in a thick purple skin, the fruit tastes like a combination peach, mango and lychee. The fruit is high in antioxidents and when combined with the skin and other juices, it is marketed as a powerful drink and cancer fighting properties.
A strange looking fruit with bumpy yellow to black skin, rollinia is ripe when the skin starts to just turn black and is getting soft. With white colored flesh and marble sized seeds, the fruit taste similar to cherimoya and custard apples. Rollinia fruit has a relatively short shelf life, so when it starts to ripen, it must be eaten quickly for its soft and sweet fruit.
Very well loved or hated for its stinky smells, Durians are called the king of fruit in asia where this tropical fruit originates. Some consider the smell fragrant while others think it is foul like sewage. Despite the smell, the creamy flesh is custard like with a vanilla overtones. You can find durian fruit during the summer season in Hawaii at farmers markets, roadside stands and specialty markets all around Hawaii.
The longan fruit along with lychees are very popular fruit but have a short shelf life in Hawaii. So when they come into season on the islands, they usually get eaten up quickly. The taste of longan fruit is jelly like, succulent in consistency with a tart to sweet taste like lychee. but the longan fruit are usually smaller and have a dry taste compared to lychees, which are wet and messy. The longan fruit in Chinese is called the dragons eye – when it’s peeled it resembles a huge eye with the black seed resembling the center eyeball.
A few more Hawaiian tropical fruits
Here’s a photo sampling of some of some other favorite tropical fruits that are found seasonally at most farmers markets in Hawaii.
Soursops are very strange and prickly fruit that are usually about 6 inches up to almost a foot for a really large fruit. Originating from Central and South America, the fruit is rich in anti-oxidants and vitamins and is supposed to be a cancer preventative fruit, although it has not been extensively tested for being a cancer cure. It is very popular in nectar, fruit drinks and smoothies.
Starfruit grow very well in Hawaii and bloom and fruit almost year round depending on the location and soil conditions. Also known as Carambola in many Southeast Asian countries, starfruit is a native to many of these countries including the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand and Malayasia. The fruit has distinctive ridges that when sliced resemble a star shape and tastes like grapes with a citrus and apple overtone. They are used mostly eating raw, as cooking ingredient like a stir fry and as a juice or nectar.
Cacao pods and fruit
Fresh cacao pods
Fresh cacao have a nice white meaty flesh that has a nice flavor combination of pineapple, mango and citrus. Unfortunately, the fruit is rarely sold unless it is available whole at farmers markets or roadside stands throughout Hawaii. Some farms actually dry the pods and use the fruit into a juice or even a fermented drink.
Hawaiian native raspberry
These are some of the Tropical fruit from Hawaii that can be found for sale across Hawaii at different harvest cycles during the year. You can find many of these for sale at roadside stands, farmers markets or even some of the larger grocery chain outlets on each islands. There are many tropical fruits grown in Hawaii but not featured here because they are not commercially viable or rarely available and sold to the public. Have you tried any other tropical fruits grown in Hawaii and how did it taste to you? Please share with us in the comment section below.
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