Saturday, December 1, 2012

Queen Ka'ahumanu Farmers Market

Overhead view of the Queen Kaahumanu* Farmers Market. 

A traditional farmers market is held at Queen Ka’ahumanu Shopping Center in Kahului on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from about 7:00 am to 4:00 pm. When I say traditional, what I mean is the kind of farmers market with traditional style local vegetables and fruits that represent the plantation cultures of Maui. These are fruits and vegetables with a decidedly local and Pacific heritage, including Filipino, Japanese, Okinawan, Hawaiian, Samoan, perhaps even Puerto Rican or Chinese. 

While mainland style vegetables like tomatoes, cabbage, and zucchini are easily available here, there are also a lot of ethnic items like
wriggly green peppers, moringa pods, and banana flowers. Some vendors also sell local sweets like mochi (pronounced mow-chee) balls, banana lumpia (pronounced loom-pee-ah), or Chinese pretzels. Some produce is locally grown, but other items are definitely imported. 

If you don't know, ask. If the vendor says the produce is local because it comes from Oahu, it's okay to be skeptical. Oahu is a distribution point for imported mainland produce. I'm usually skeptical of items like celery and potatoes, which can grow on Maui, but are not as common. I often buy celery from a booth run by Susan. She insists it's local and we've talked about her farm land in Kula. While I have no way to prove it, I've just decided to trust her. 

From left to right: taro stems, okra, and eggplant.
Taro is a beloved Hawaiian food crop. Its stems, leaves, and the tuber can be eaten. The root/tuber is often pounded into poi,
but not all varieties of taro make good poi.
Filipino and other treats: mochi, biko, bibingka, etc. and the more familiar banana bread.  By the way, almost every  roadside stand or farm booth claims to have "famous" banana bread).

Coconut mochi (chewy sweet balls of sweet rice) and lumpia, a Filipino dish.

Garlic (usually from China), araimo
(a type of taro better known in Asia), and papayas.

Wriggly green peppers often used in Filipino dishes and hmmm... not sure what those white pods are to the right, and a big Hawaiian squash called opo or opa, kind of like a very big and firm zucchini.

Okinawan and Molokai style sweet potatoes, much firmer than yams. Okinawan sweet potatoes are a beautiful purple inside.

Familiar tomatoes and less familiar banana flowers shaped like cones.

Apple bananas which are actually a variety of banana that is very firm, like an apple.  Even when they look really brown on the outside, they can still be quite firm and good inside.

Husked coconuts and unripe green bananas, in front of
Hawaiian tapa cloth which is also for sale.

Filipino sweets: biko (which I think is sweet rice and coconut milk), cascaron, which is chewy and sweet and  I don't know how it's different from mochi, and bibingka which is based on sweetened tapioca (also called cassava).

Orchids of many colors, probably okay to take on the plane. 

Another bird's eye view of the farmers market within the mall. By the way, this is the largest mall on the island, with a Sears and Macy's. There is a controversial mega mall being planned for Kihei.

Banana bread, banana fritters, poi mochi
(made of sweet rice and poi - taro paste), and in the far background by the person sitting are sweet Chinese pretzels. 
Some familiar vegetables like celery, carrots, head cabbage and romaine lettuce, and some more Asian vegetables like Japanese or Korean daikon, a gigantic white radish, and bok choy (next to the celery).  
Korean food items like anpan (fried bread), steamed buns,
and mandoo (Korean dumplings). 

Even though I grew up in Hawaii, on Oahu, I never ate banana flower salad or winged beans or a lot of the other things that can be found here. For me, it's still fascinating to explore all the offerings from each booth.

For a "real life experience" of the farmers market, watch the video.

*Note: The spelling of Hawaiian words is very tricky for the internet. The correct spelling includes the Hawaiian 'okina or apostrophe, so it should be Ka'ahumanu, but if you search in my blog under Kaahumanu without the punctuation, you may not find many results!


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