A Rare Fruit Holiday

'Best of Both Worlds' was the theme of the Festival of Fruits hosted by Hawaiian Tropical Fruit Growers(HTFG), in conjunction with Californian Rare Fruit Growers(CRFG).

The State of Hawaii consists of a number of islands, and as part of the conference, visits were made to plantations or orchards on various islands.

We arrived one week before the fruit conference was due to commence, and fortunate enough to able to visit historical site such as Pearl Harbour which was shut down by federal government a week later due to some domestic political standoff back on US mainland.

Friday, 27th of September
Prior to the start of the conference, we visited the Lyon Arboretum, part of the University of Hawaii. On its 194 acres site, it maintains something like 5,000 tropical plant species of edible and ornamental plants. Here's a link to Friends of Lyon Arboretum newsletters.

After lunch we headed out to Frankie's Nursery. We had a guided tour of the nursery, had a fruit sampling and also opportunity to buy some fruits in season and fruit trees as well. Here we saw a large collection of tropical and sub-tropical fruit trees.

In the evening we were treated to a wonderful dinner at the Kapiolani Community College(KCC) put together by the Culinary Institute of the Pacific which is part of the KCC.

Saturday, 28th September
Some of us had the opportunity to visit the KCC Farmers Market early in the morning before the start of the conference. The market is fairly close to where the conference was held.

The proceeding of the conference was very informal in my opinion. Not knowing the individuals from both the CRFG and HTFG, it was hard initially knowing who is who. Keynote speaker was Chris Rollins, who is the founder of the South Florida Tropical Fruit Growers. Jim West spoke about Fruits of Ecuador, lots of which are new to western world. Roger Meyer spoke about how he started with Jujubes (Chinese Dates) and his later dealings with Kiwi fruit.

We had lunch, then most of us then attended breakout sessions on topics such as:

Later, some of us had to head down to the pier to catch the cruise due to leave port in the evening. HTFG did a good job scheduling the activities after the conference to coincide with the cruise schedule of the Norwegian Cruise Company. Some of us chose to fly to Maui.

Sunday, 29th September
Arrived Maui Island in the morning, had an early breakfast on board cruise ship. A few vans came and picked us up to depart for Hanna(2.5 hr), the vans were driven by Master Gardeners of HTFG.

Visited Ono Farms and some wonderful fruit tasting and a guided tour of the farm. It is a 50-acre certified organic, family-owned and operated farm. Chuck and Lilly opened up their house to let us all in for more fruit tasting because of their membership of the HTFG. I tasted one of the best home-made jams made by Ono Farms, something special, I thought, was one of Surinam cherry with a dash of chilli.

We then adjourned to the National Tropical Botanical Garden's Kahanu Garden, where we can see many different varieties of bread fruits are grown. This has now become a research centre for bread fruit, Breadfruit Institute. We had lunch here under huge marquee, set up in this magnificent garden setting.

After lunch we were given a tour of the Kahanu Garden which is the home to Pi'ilanihale, a massive lava-rock structure that is believed to be the largest ancient place of worship (heiau) in Polynesia. This awe-inspiring cultural site is registered as a National Historic Landmark. Check out this link and click on the Images button to view some of the images of the place of worship from the air.

Here is where one can see how the traditional Polynesians crops in addition to breadfruit (ulu), such as taro, sweet potatoes and bananas are grown in the garden. After the tour of the garden, we're given a traditional send off with a beautiful oral recital by a native Hawaiian lady.

In the evening not sure of the venue, we had dinner and sampled some amazing 'ulu' salad, Thai curry 'ulu' and pie made by 'ulu' with texture like cheese cake. We also sampled some tropical fruits grown by Ono Farms.

Monday, 30th September
After a good night sleep back at the cruise ship, we were up again for another day of excitement. We had a visit to the Maui Gold Co Ltd pineapple plantation.

We were shown around by Doug MacCluer on the plantation how pineapples are grown and harvested. We had opportunity to sample freshly harvested pineapples from the field; they were so sweet, and some of us armed with a pocket knife had a free rein cutting own pineapples for tasting. How good is that?

The growing and harvesting of pineapples is still a very manual endeavour. We witnessed harvesting of pineapples on the field, picked by hand and transported onto a truck via a series of conveyors. Later we were shown the packing machinery and cool room. We were told that the very same crew which picked the pineapples, pack the pineapples. I suppose this gives ownership to the crew.

We had packed lunches at the packing shed rest area, and this is where I met a local lady, Teresa Allred, who told me that she grows mangoes and durians on her farm. We were back at the cruise ship for dinner and early departure for the big island, Hawaii.

Tuesday, 1st October
The political problem on the US mainland had affected our tour this time because the USDA Repository was closed, but we managed to have an excellent ground tour of a large collection of tropical fruit trees in the same ground under the University of Hawaii.

Cruise ship people were the first lot to arrive, and we were shown a large sample of tropical fruits complete with labels on long tables. We were later joined by people who flew in from island of Maui.

Some parts of the ground here we can see is built on volcano rocks, and we were told of various volcanic soil types. Soursop, longan, rambutan, starfruit, mangosteen and durian trees were some of tropical fruit trees we saw. David Longacre, a local HTFG member who also has his own farm, was one of the two guides we had on this tour. He told me he welcomes people to visit his farm full of tropical fruit trees.

We later had packed lunch at a zoo just next door. After lunch we adjourned to a tour of a farm owned by Oscar Jaitt.

In addition to a display of tropical fruits, he also has a number of books on South American tropical fruit trees for sale. He is obviously a very knowledgeable person, and has a large collection of rare fruit trees. We were told that he has recently acquired another block of land somewhere to expand his collection of fruit trees.

We had an early van trip back to cruise ship for dinner and set sail for Kona. The cruise ship hugged quite close to the coast around the southern tip of the big island of Hawaii, and we could see the glow of volcanos from a distance. In fact, the cruise ship turned off most of the lighting on board to allow us to watch the spectacular view.

Wednesday, 2nd October
Arriving in Kona, we were taken ashore by tender from cruise ship. We were taken again by vans to the original chocolate factory, where cacao is grown for their own chocolate making. We were given a talk by the owner while sampling their chocolates and later a tour of their cacao plantation. The owner claimed that they are the only people who makes chocolates from their very own cacao that they grow; it seems everything is made on site.

Later we left for GM Ranch which has a good collection of sub-tropical fruit trees. I'm not sure if this 'ranch' is owned by Ken Love who is the President of HTFG. The tour was conducted by Brian Lievens who is a horticulturist himself and an active local member of the Big Island (Hawaii) Chapter of the HTFG.

Had lunch at Bishop Museum which I think is also the Amy B.H. Greenwell (Ethnobotanical) Garden. According to a brochure I picked up at the centre, the late Amy B. H. Greenwell's family started ranching in Kona in the mid-nineteenth century. She wrote many articles on botany and ethnobotany, and she often joined Bishop Museum archaeologists on their field work. She left the garden property to Bishop Museum in 1974.

This is where a Hawaiian traditional farming system and their crops can be seen. They have a number of horticultural books for sale, and this is where I bought a book on taro. I would have bought more books if not for the weight I have to lug back to Australia.

Thursday, 3rd October
The cruise ship sailed north to Island of Kauai, which is the northern most island of State of Hawaii, and is the oldest island of all Hawaiian islands. As usual, we were picked up by vans to visit a coffee plantation which was previously sugarcane.

At the visitor centre/shop, we had opportunity to sample various blend of coffee that were available in hot water flasks. We were given a tour of the plantation, a few patches of sugarcane were kept just to remind us it was a sugarcane plantation. Few of us are lucky enough to be shown how coffee harvesters are used to minimise labour.

Later we visited the NTBG/Allerton Garden, also known as Lāwaʻi-kai, is a botanical garden, originally created by Robert Allerton and John Gregg Allerton, located on the south shore of Kauai, Hawaii. A series of garden rooms unfold between the Lāwa`i Stream and the cliffs of the Valley. The sound of water is in abundance in pools, miniature waterfalls, and fountains.

Bob was our driver and guide to the botanical garden. We sampled berries from Miracle fruit, and later we were given Mexican limes and they tasted very sweet. Not sweet itself, this miraculous fruit, consumed fresh and allowed to coat the mouth, alters your tastebuds so that any sour thing you eat tastes sweet. The effect lasts for an hour or two.  The beauty of it is that it only removes the sourness 'acidity' from what you are eating; the natural aroma and taste remain. Later we also sampled some pumelos, and they tasted very sweet probably due to the effect of miracle fruit.

We were shown a number of good specimens of Moreton Bay Fig tree with huge buttress roots. The garden was also dotted with some bamboo specimens and orchids. We had lunch under the marquee in the garden of the botanical garden. I could see bread fruits had been barbequed and there was a table of locally grown fruits for sampling. Some of us had sweet coconut juice for drinking from a local member who helped us out with a machete.

I was eyeing the durians that were on the table because I knew Ken Love (HTFG CEO) loved his durians too. In the end I took some durians from the table and shared with him amicably. One regret that I have in hindsight was I did not taste the barbequed bread fruit; I was probably preoccupied with tasting the durians.

Friday, 4th October
It's a free day today, we had a choice of visiting a local nursery and landscaping business owned and run by Lelan Nishek, a local Chapter member of the HTFG. We decided to go on a local tour to the Waimea Canyon, organised via the cruise ship. We boarded a tour bus around 8.00am. We stopped at the Hanapepe lookout for a photo shoot.

Our bus driver/tour guide gave us a bit of history about early landowner families, the Robertsons and Sinclairs. Later we had a stopover at a store called Mariko, and it's here most tourists picked up the souvenirs before heading to our final destination.

Waimea Canyon is quite impressive. More links below:

On the way back, we were shown local Hawaiian salt making by the sea. We passed through coffee plantations again before heading back to our cruise ship.

The cruise ship departed from port early today around 2.00pm, and the ship made a special cruise to the east coast of island of Kauai, past the Napali coast, which is spectacular to watch.

Saturday, 5th October
The cruise ship arrived back at Honolulu, and that concluded our trip of a lifetime. We decided to stay one more day to soak in Hawaiian sunshine before heading home to Perth via Sydney. Honolulu to Sydney is a 9-hour non-stop flight, and another 4 hours from Sydney back to Perth. It had been a long trip but a worthwhile one.

Yong Loon

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