Hamakua Coast Motorcycle Ride March 2, 2009Posted by Aaron in : Uncategorized , 4comments
Since I share a love of motorcycle riding, especially along the relaxing and beautiful roads of the Big Island, I’ll be dedicating some upcoming posts to just that. Helping me as a guest contributor is Aaron Geerlings, fellow riding enthusiast and University of Hawaii at Hilo student. We also have an Aloha Rider page dedicated to this adventure, which includes motorcycle links of interest and a short bio to help you get to know Aaron.
Here’s Aaron’s first contribution about our Hamakua Coast ride:
Hawaii as long been known for its great beaches and lovely weather, but what it’s not known for is its great motorcycle riding. Most think of it as an island (which it is), but one that is lacking in great riding asphalt — well I am here to put that myth to rest. Over the following weeks I will be introducing you to some great places to ride, eat and relax here on the island, so suit up and enjoy the show.
Our first ride took us from Hilo, Hawaii up the Hamakua Coast on the Mamaloha Highway that winds along the eastern side of the island. It was simply a stunning day. We couldn’t have asked for better.Our first detour along the way was the 4 mile scenic route along the old Mamaloha Highway. This is a beautiful detour that winds along lush forest, waterfalls, Onomea Bay, smoothie shack and a botanical garden.The road is almost completely covered by plants in some areas, giving a feeling as though you are riding through a living tunnel, and in a way you are — just watch for the moss growing on the road as it is very slippery and can lead to some un-fun sliding.
Onomea bay is absolutely amazing (it can be seen in the first video linked at the end), and to think they once unloaded freight from ships there! After we enjoyed the view for a few minutes we continued on past the botanical gardens to What’s Shakin smoothie shack, where we met Tim Withers who owns and operates it with his wife Patsy. Here we interviewed Tim about his upcoming Baja races and his feelings about Hawaii motorcycle riding.
After our fantastic smoothies we continued our ride along the coastal route before coming back to the highway. It was a true detour.As we continued along the highway enjoying the great view, wonderful asphalt and the gorgeous day, we came in contact with one of the few speed traps on the island. Between two 55 mph zones there is a 45mph zone. It isn’t very big so people don’t seem to slow down, so the police sit on the side of the road and enjoy the easy prey as they fly by. But we easily missed this trap as having lived here for quite some time we knew the secrets. Riding through the gulches can be a lot of fun — long wide sweeping turns allow a lot of space to lean and drag your knee. The rest of the ride was uneventful other than the great view and wonderful weather.
We finished the ride at an amazing home overlooking an amazing bay. We relaxed and enjoyed the view before heading back.
This was an amazing ride that covered approximately 120 miles. Although this could easily be added-to if you explored all the various side roads that wind through farms, forests and orchards, it was a fantastic ride in the middle of February.
Stay tuned for the next entry that I can hopefully do this Sunday if the weather holds out. I also hope to take more stills, but this time our still camera broke at our first stop, and all we had is the video camera.
HERE ON THE BIG ISLAND – Hilo’s Palace Theater October 14, 2008Posted by Kelly in : Uncategorized , 1 comment so far
HERE ON THE BIG ISLAND
By Kelly Moran
Hilo’s Palace Theater
Back in the 1920s, going to the movies was a big occasion. People dressed up to see and be seen; they chatted in the lobby, about the latest films, and enjoyed a sense of being guests in a fabulously decorated . . .
The Palace Theater in downtown Hilo, which opened in 1925, is one of only two “picture-palaces” still open in Hawaii. (Honolulu lost its exotic Waikiki Theater to demolition, leaving only the grand Hawaii Theater near Chinatown.) As with other surviving picture-palaces around the country, nowadays, a not-for-profit organization – the Friends of the Palace Theater – is responsible for upkeep and restoration. And like those other theaters, too, the Palace hosts film-festivals and classic movies: on Halloween night, it will screen the 1920 silent “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” with live theater-organ accompaniment.
But Hilo’s Palace does much more than just show films: with 450 seats, it’s an important local venue for theatrical presentations, a variety of performing artists, and even community meetings.
Take musicals. For the seventh year in a row, the Palace is presenting a full-scale Broadway-style musical (last year, it was “The Wizard of Oz”), with a huge cast of local actors, including children and teenagers. If you can get to Hilo in the next two weeks, you’ll be able to see “Once Upon One Nodda Time.” It’s a pidgin-inflected musical of fractured fairy-tales, wherein the Three Little Pigs are chased by a huffing-and-puffing mongoose; Snow White gets both a poisoned apple from “The” Wicked Queen and a poisoned papaya from “Da” Wicked Queen; and there’s a croaking chorus of (what else?) cane-toad bufos and coqui frogs.
Performers who make concert appearances on the Palace stage range from Honolulu slack-key stars to internationally renowned classical violinists to world-music percussionists. Every Wednesday at 11 a.m. there’s a 45-minute program of Hawaiiana that’s free for kids. And one evening last month, the Palace hosted a town-meeting on the subject of downtown improvement projects, with real-time opinion polling by electronic touch-pads. (FYI: most people want to see new housing built downtown, and a naturalistic park along the Wailuku River.)
In short, there’s no place in town like the historic Palace Theater. And Hilo is darned lucky to have it.
HERE ON THE BIG ISLAND – Seeing Hawaii When You Aren’t Here October 6, 2008Posted by Kelly in : Uncategorized , add a comment
HERE ON THE BIG ISLAND
By Kelly Moran
Seeing Hawaii When You Aren’t Here
People have a tendency to see what they want to see. And if you want to be in Hawaii, don’t be surprised if more and more things start you thinking of Hawaii.
I don’t mean the ads and articles in travel magazines. Whether you’re a longtime subscriber (to what I heard a frequent-flier call “travel-porn”), or just back-date browsing in a waiting-room, those articles and ads are deliberately intended, designed, tweaked and polished for the purpose of making you think about coming here.
I also don’t mean “Hawaii 5-0,” or “Lost,” either. Nor the mystique of “tiki” that has likely propelled a million visitors into the Pacific. Ever since Trader Vic’s first opened, thousands of bamboo-torches have lit up back-yard bars. And upscale establishments with superficially thatched roofs (like the Tonga Room in San Francisco’s Fairmont Hotel) have been popular for decades.
No, not those things. It’s little things I mean. You’ve just seen a mai-tai on a passing tray, and suddenly you think of the first mai-tai you had on your first visit to Hawaii. There’s a palm-tree on the breast-pocket of someone’s sport-shirt, and you remember looking up under a real one, to see if the nuts might fall. (Actually, in Hawaii’s public parks, coconuts are removed so they don’t.) Your menu has a less-familiar Hawaiian word, like “haupia,” and because you know that means there’s coconut in it, you start wondering what an airline ticket costs now. Maybe it takes only hearing or reading the word “coconut” . . . ?
There’s a wonderful feature in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin’s online edition called “The Search for Signs of Hawaiian Life.” People send in digital photos from all over the world — pictures of mainly (and literally) SIGNS: for restaurants, shops and other businesses that somehow echo things Hawaiian. There isn’t much surf on the Adriatic coast, but here’s a picture that a friend took, just outside of Dubrovnik, in Croatia. Makes you want to hang ten, doesn’t it?
Incidentally, in light of my recent blog asking if you are ready to live here, a new book may be a cautionary tale. It’s called “Off the Grid Without a Paddle,” by Lynne Farr, who moved to the Big Island with her husband before they had really checked the place out.
HERE ON THE BIG ISLAND – Overnight Accommodations September 25, 2008Posted by Kelly in : Uncategorized , add a comment
HERE ON THE BIG ISLAND
By Kelly Moran
When it comes to picking a place to stay, whether you’re on vacation or searching for a home, there are almost too many choices here!
RESORTS. Many visitors want a resort experience, with a (full or modified) “American plan” under which all or nearly all activities and meals are included in the room rate. The Big Island’s resorts are on the coast of South Kohala: green oases in the district’s otherwise black lava landscape. Golf courses are abundant, but (compared to resorts on Maui and Kauai) the beaches are small and are typically augmented with swimming pools and ponds. Typical of the South Kohala resorts is the Waikoloa Beach Marriott.
Most resort hotels are mid- or low-rise buildings, with function rooms for conventions. But there’s one prominent exception: guests at Kona Village stay in thatched huts, called hales, that are fully modern inside, but (deliberately) have no phones or TVs.
HOTELS. Hilo doesn’t have resorts, but it does have a string of hotels on Banyan Drive, with extensive views of the bay and the ocean. The tallest are the Naniloa and the Hilo Hawaiian; a smaller alternative is Uncle Billy’s Hilo Bay Hotel.
Close to Downtown Hilo, the Dolphin Bay Hotel and the Wild Ginger Inn are modest in size and price.
There are dozens of small hotels in and around Kailua-Kona; but for a truly “local” experience, there’s no place like the Manago Hotel, in Captain Cook: a family enterprise for over 80 years.
B&Bs. A Bed-and-Breakfast is, essentially, someone’s house with nice guest-rooms. If you don’t want the all-inclusive resort experience, and don’t need the guest services of a hotel, then a B&B is ideal, especially if you want to stay in a town with no other kind of visitor accommodations, such as Pahoa, Volcano, Naalehu, Honokaa, or Hawi. Start your search for a B&B at the Bed & Breakfast Online website.
Probably the most celebrated (and, arguably, the most beautiful) B&B on the Big Island is Shipman House, in Hilo, originally the Victorian mansion of a prominent local family, where Queen Liliuokalani and author Jack London were house-guests.
Vacation Rentals. If you’re going to be here for more than a week or two, consider renting an apartment. You’ll be on your own for all meals, with kitchen facilities ranging from plain to fancy, and for housekeeping, with services ranging from full to none.
And if I may make a suggestion . . . do consider my own vacation rental apartment in Hilo, which I call the Lehua Honeymoon Suite.
HERE ON THE BIG ISLAND – Are You Ready to Live Here? September 16, 2008Posted by Kelly in : Uncategorized , 1 comment so far
HERE ON THE BIG ISLAND
By Kelly Moran
Are You Ready to Live Here?
Many people dream of living in Hawaii. Take a few vacations here – maybe even just one – and the idea will certainly cross your mind. But whether you do move here, or just keep dreaming about it, is up to you, because living in Hawaii, full-time, is not for everybody.
In my last blog, I talked about relocating your pets. Now I want to talk about relocating yourself. I can help you do it. But I want you to come with your eyes open. If you are serious about living here, full-time, there are some aspects of life here that you should keep in mind.
The Climate. People who move to Alaska are people who trulyenjoy wintertime. If you move to Hawaii, your favorite season had better be summer, because unless you live more than 2,000 feet above sea level, you’re going to be hot most the time.
And probably wet, too. You may not want to live on the rainy, windward side of the Big Island, but with the exception of our desert-like leeward shoreline, this island is also very humid. Granted, we don’t have a wet-blanket humidity, like Florida or the Gulf Coast, but there’s always moisture in the air, and you should be prepared to deal with mold and mildew.
The Cost. If the reason you like summertime is because you can beat the heat with air-conditioning, remember that electricity on the Big Island already costs nearly 40 cents a kilowatt-hour, and is sure to go higher. Although there are now State income-tax incentives to install solar hot-water systems, many homes here still have electric water-heaters and ranges. Add in what your hair-dryer or your power-tools will consume, and you can expect your monthly electric bill to be gigantic.
Stroll through a local supermarket; most necessities are more expensive here than on the Mainland. And as the price of oil climbed, this past year, fuel-surcharges raised the cost of shipping. And the price of airline tickets. Getting you here also costs more, now, than ever before.
The Isolation. This is something you may not be able to plan for. Hawaii is a very big island, as islands go. But it’s no continent. There are only so many places to drive and things to do, here. How many trips will you really take to the beach, the volcano, or the summit of Mauna Kea? You’re going to spend a lot of time at home, staring out your window at the ocean or the tropical foliage; and believe it or not, you could get bored. You might contract what local folks call “rock fever,” and yearn to get the heck away!
The People. Unlike everywhere else in the U.S., it’s perfectly acceptable, in Hawaii, to talk about race. Nearly everyone here has a multi-cultural background. The various ethnicities of beauty-pageant contestants are proudly and publicly announced. A dinner guest may turn to another and say, “You look Polynesian – are you part-Hawaiian?” (On the Mainland you would never hear: “You’re rather dark – is someone in your family Black?”)
Local people – strangers, even – may ask about your ethnic background. If you are Caucasian, it’s not enough to shrug and say you are a haole – they can see that! You must be prepared to elaborate (“My mother is a German Jew and my father is Polish,” or whatever.) And you will hear plenty of ethnic jokes based on stereotypes; they’re rarely cruel, but they are popular, and you’ll have to take them in stride, especially if it’s your ethnicity that’s being laughed at.
In a multi-cultural environment, too, not everyone will speak English well. You’ll have to get used to hearing “Pidgin”, especially among youngsters. And you must be prepared to slow down, when talking with shopkeepers, service people, and even government officials.
I don’t want discourage you. But living full-time in Hawaii is more complex than it may appear to be when you’re here on vacation. The reality is: some people who move to Hawaii . . . move back.
HERE ON THE BIG ISLAND – Bringing Fido and Felix to Hawaii September 10, 2008Posted by Kelly in : Uncategorized , 1 comment so far
HERE ON THE BIG ISLAND
By Kelly Moran
Bringing Fido and Felix to Hawaii
“What about my dog and cat?” a friend asked. “Can they move to Hawaii with me, too?”
These Islands are unique in many ways, but one is that there has never has been a case of rabies here. Since Territorial days, in 1912, the authorities have actively discouraged people from bringing carnivorous mammals here, on the remote chance that they might be infected. And until 2003, this was enforced by a four-month quarantine for all arriving pets (except guide-dogs for the blind). If an animal showed no signs of rabies after 120 days in a Honolulu facility (housed and fed there at the owners’ expense, of course), then it could be released. Owners could visit their pets every day, but that was inconvenient unless they lived nearby, or at least on Oahu.
But most people are unwilling to leave Fido or Felix behind, even with a trusted friend or neighbor. So, what does bringing them here involve? Read the State’s rules-and-regs, and the answers to frequently-asked-questions for all the details. But the basic requirements are that a pet must have had at least two previous rabies vaccinations. A blood sample must be submitted for evaluation, to ensure that it’s free of rabies. And the pet must have an identifying “microchip” to link it with its blood sample.
This means you can forget about bringing a new puppy or kitten. After even the minimum number of shots and checkups that they need to qualify for admission, a dog or cat will be almost a full year old.
There are now quarantine stations on Kauai and the Big Island, and a “five-days-or-less” quarantine option, based on veterinary certification. But still, arriving pets may first have to spend about two days in the Honolulu facility – it’s the only port of entry – to ensure that they meet all the medical requirements.
What about bringing in other animals? Well, wolves and dingos are prohibited, but mainly what Hawaii absolutely does not want here are snakes. Recently, a few brown tree-snakes have hitchhiked here on military transports from Guam, but – fortunately – they have been captured before they could escape and go wild. While they might (might) put a dent in the coqui frog population, they would more likely wipe out the last ground-nesting native birds, and pose a threat to local people, who have never before needed to watch out for snakes in the wild. This proscription is thought to have been instigated by missionaries in the 19th century, who didn’t want the biblical tempter hanging around. But even back then, it was understood that snakes would drastically upset what we, nowadays, call the “fragile ecosystem” of Hawaii.
So, don’t complain about the lengthy quarantine period. It keeps us all safe. And it has also had the (fully intended) consequence of encouraging local adoption. The Islands are teeming with feral cats and dogs who have run away, or who have been deliberately abandoned. Shelters operated by the local Humane Societies, and the various private animal shelters, all offer free or very low-cost spay/neuter services; they do not allow any animal to be adopted without having first been sterilized. And wherever you go, you’ll see bulletin-boards and classified-ad pages offering free cats and dogs. But there are still more potential pets here than there are potential owners.
Anyone who is contemplating a move to Hawaii ought to give serious thought to acquiring their pets here.
HERE ON THE BIG ISLAND – Is Hawaii Still a Nation? September 8, 2008Posted by Kelly in : Uncategorized , 1 comment so far
HERE ON THE BIG ISLAND
By Kelly Moran
Is Hawaii Still a Nation?
Something happened in the 1890s, that has not yet been fully resolved. Last month, while most people in Hawaii were celebrating the 49th anniversary of Statehood, political activists briefly took control of Iolani Palace, in Honolulu, claiming it as the seat of a native Hawaiian government that had been illegally overthrown.
Was it illegal? After King Kalakaua died, his sister Liliuokalani became queen. She wanted to change some laws regarding land ownership, and extend the voting franchise to ordinary Hawaiians who did not own property: actions which would have undercut the disproportionally large influence that a few haole merchants had gained under her brother’s (admittedly sometimes careless) reign. So in 1893, a committee of Honolulu merchants persuaded a U.S. Marine commander to lead a company of armed men from their ship in the harbor, to surround Iolani Palace, while the merchants went inside and formally deposed Liliuokalani.
Furious, Liliuokalani sailed to Washington DC, and persuaded both President Grover Cleveland and many U.S. senators that her overthrow was illegal and should be nullified. But the merchants had allies in the Senate too, and considerable influence in the American economy, regarding the sugar trade. Within a few months, there was a brief armed putsch in Hawaii, which failed to restore Liliuokalani to the throne. Brought up on charges, she was convicted of knowing about the insurrection but failing to report it, and sentenced to house-arrest.
In Washington, despite five years of lobbying and debate, the Senate could not resolve the issue of her sovereignty; and in 1898, President William McKinley – an advocate of American’s “manifest destiny” to grow ever westward – annexed Hawaii.
Whether the queen was a victim or a tyrant, and whether annexation was a blessing or a curse, is still debated today. To make her case in Washington, Liliuokalani wrote her autobiography, Hawaii’s Story (Mutual Publications, facsimile edition, 1990); and many subsequent books have followed her lead and taken her side.
The annexationists’ case is especially well made by Thurston Twigg-Smith, grandson of one of the merchant committee’s leaders, in Hawaiian Sovereignty: Do the Facts Matter? (Goodale Publishing, 1998).
Feature films have never covered the drama, but The Trial of Liliuokalani is a provocative stage play – first mounted in Hawaii, in the 1970s – that playwright Maurice Zimring based on court transcripts.
A bill has now been introduced to the U.S. Senate, by Hawaii Senator Dan Akaka, that would grant native Hawaiians much the same status under law as Native American Indians have today, including the right to form a quasi-governmental organization. It has plenty of opponents, who claim it would create a race-based division of the citizenry; and the “Akaka bill” was tabled in the last congressional session. But Hawaii’s Republican governor favors the bill; and passing it is now a plank in the U.S. Democratic Party’s election platform.
It’s possible, therefore, that when the 50th anniversary of Statehood rolls around, next August, the nature of the day’s events may be rather different than they have ever been before.add a comment
HERE ON THE BIG ISLAND
By Kelly Moran
Architectural Gems of Hilo – The Art Deco Years
In the years between the first and second World Wars, the architectural styles that were all the rage first came to public attention in a 1925 Paris exhibition of “arts decoratif et moderne” – decorative and modern arts. The term “Art Deco” was coined fifty years later, so it encompasses both the highly “decorative” style of the 1920s, that often features elaborate terra-cotta tile work; and the “modern” style of the 1930s, that has hardly any ornamentation at all, and seems almost to be “streamlined.”
Hilo has some wonderful examples of the former, and only a few of the latter; but if you’re a fan of Art Deco, they’re all worth a look.
Starting on the Bay front, on Kamehameha Ave., what is now a charter school and a multiplex-movie house still has its original “Kress” department store sign, and a busy frieze of blue-and white terra-cotta tiles.
A block away, at the corner of Kalakaua St. stands the Pacific Tsunami Museum, which was originally a Bank of Hawaii. Like many bank buildings, it’s in a “Greek Revival” style, with tall columns.
But the details – love those eagles! – are Art Deco all the way.
The Palace Theater, in the first block of Haili St., is a 1925 “picture palace” where, besides movies, theatrical and musical programs are now presented. It has a nicely tiled lobby (where its original projector is on display); and there’s a local preservation group, the Friends of the Palace Theater for the building’s ongoing restoration.
Around Kalakaua Park, several fine structures stand out. On Kalakaua St., the first building you come to was originally the front-office for the local telephone company,
and it has (I think) the most beautiful terra-cotta tile work in town.
Today, though, it serves only as an extension of the newer structure behind it, and it’s filled with telecommunication equipment; so no entry is permitted.
But you’ll want to go inside the building next door, which – though not as fancy – has the same basic form. The East Hawaii Cultural Center, at 141 Kalakaua St., is an art gallery on the main floor, and a performance venue upstairs for concerts, theater and dance. Walk up (there’s an elevator if you need it), and go out onto the second-floor lanai, which has nice vintage floor tiles, and a great view of the park. This charming building was originally Hilo’s central police station!
Along the makai side of the park stretches a lovely pergola and reflecting pool which is Hilo’s memorial to the fallen in war. Unlike pergolas that imitate European styles, however, this one is definitely moderne.
And where the Park touches Waianuenue Ave., stands one of the three “streamlined” 1930s structures in town. The Carlsmith Building (a law office) has plain white sides, practically no ornamentation, and a hexagonal window overlooking the park.
Rare for this rainy climate, but consistent with the dictates of the moderne style, it has a flat roof.
The two other 1930s buildings in town are: the main fire station, at Kinoole and Ponahawai Sts. – though you’ll have to look hard to see the streamlining;
and the office building for the old Hilo Iron Works, where Kam Ave. crosses the Wailoa River.
Though only two stories high, it was obviously designed to look like a skyscraper (well, like the base of one, anyway). There’s not much of its original interior décor left, but it is open to the public, with an art gallery and small offices inside.
HERE ON THE BIG ISLAND: Battling Those Weed Trees June 25, 2008Posted by Kelly in : Uncategorized , 1 comment so far
HERE ON THE BIG ISLAND
By Kelly Moran
Battling Those Weed Trees
A few months ago, I wrote about a tree that was brought here from Brazil
and that has gone terribly wild. It’s officially psidium cattleianum, but commonly called “strawberry guava”or waiawi (“vy-vee”), and it’s extraordinarily invasive: seeds from the fruit sprout easily wherever they fall, and are spread by birds and pigs; if the tree is cut down, it quickly regenerates from stumps and fallen branches, ultimately forming a dense thicket in which nothing else grows.
Researchers estimate that waiawi is now entrenched in more than 800,000 acres on the Big Island, and though its range may ultimately be limited by drier microclimates and higher alititudes, it is still in-filling where it’s already established, especially in Hamakua and Puna, where it squeezes out practically everything else, especially native and endemic species. It also draws fruit-flies, expanding their range, which frustrates efforts to cultivate more desireable fruit.
To fight this weed tree, the Hawaii Dept. of Land and Natural Resources, the Hawaii Dept. of Agrictulture, and the Forest Service of the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture propose to introduce a Brazilian insect called tectococcus ovatus,which severely weakens – but doesn’t kill – waiawi. It tunnels into the leaves, forcing the tree to make “galls” that contain the pest, instead of making new leaves. This is expected to slow the spread of waiwai, allowing people more time to cut thickets down and keep them down. The insect has no wings, and can move to adjacent trees only on the breeze; moreover, tests prove that it can live only on strawberry guava and on no other plant; so the release of this biological control agent is considered very safe.
Waiawi does have some practical uses. The fresh fruit, being in the guava family, are easily made into tasty jams and jellies; the wood, like other fruit-woods, makes an excellent smoke for curing meat and fish; and the trunks – if thick and straight enough – can turned into hardwood poles. So there is a small vocal contingent here, mainly in Puna, that objects to introducing tectococcus, in the name of “saving” the waiawi.
But, the USDA counters this misguided effort by pointing out that, if anyone actually wants to cultivate waiawi, or keep wild stands from being infected, they can do what farmers do for any other orchard crop: i.e., protect it with ordinary (preferably organic) insecticidal spray.
There is another invasive weed tree here that was introduced about the same time as waiawi; but it is currently being decimated without human intervention. The rose-apple (syzygium jambos), though not quite as aggressive as waiawi, tends to spread out more, and to form dark “tree-tunnel” arches over back-country roads. The fruit is rather dry: its “rose” being more of a scent than a flavor.
But rose apple trees are being attacked by a “rust fungus” disease that kills new growth and thereby starves the tree of energy. In a couple of years, many stands of rose apple will be bare and dead – and likely will be overtaken by waiawi, which is often found in the same areas.
There is a small but real danger that this rust could spread to other trees in the same (myrtle) family. The worst-case scenario would be a jump to native ohia. So Hawaii forest managers are urging the state to restrict new imports of nursery trees and other plant material that can harbor the rust. For more information about the rust,
HERE ON THE BIG ISLAND – The First Fruits of Summer June 18, 2008Posted by Kelly in : Uncategorized , add a comment
HERE ON THE BIG ISLAND
By Kelly Moran
The First Fruits of Summer
Subtropical Hawaii does have seasons; and in the late Spring and early Summer, two of our best fruits come ripe: lychee, from China, and mango from the Indian subcontinent.
Anyone who patronized Chinese restaurants in bygone days may remember eating sweet, dried “litchi nuts,” which are to fresh lychee as raisins are to grapes, or prunes to plums. Lychee are almost never found in the wild: they’re raised in orchards of distinctive small trees with wavy, light-green leaves, that require nurturing to produce quality fruits in quantity.
Ripe lychee are about the size of golf balls, with red, rough-textured skin that you peel off by hand. The translucent white fruit tastes like an especially juicy grape. At about twenty to the pound, you can expect to pay three dollars for a pound of lychee. The original Chinese varieties had large seeds; but twentieth-century agronomists developed varieties with small, “shriveled” seeds, that enable each fruit to have more meat; so you may see those labeled “small seed,” in farmers’ market stalls, and they may be priced a bit higher. Like cherries, canned lychee retain almost all of the fresh fruit’s flavor; so if you can’t get to Hawaii during lychee season, buy a can from the “Asian” section of Mainland supermarkets.
Around this time of year, too, local farmers offer a related fruit called longon. Smaller than lychee, and with a stiff, brown skin, the fruit is much sweeter, though in a cloying sort of way; some people construe it as being rather more aromatic than flavorful. Later in the year, another relative, called rambutan, will come ripe: it has a “hairy” skin, and a taste similar to lychee though not as juicy. Rambutan also has a longer season and a longer shelf-life, so it has become extremely popular in local orchards.
The smallest mangoes are the so-called “common” variety, and they are easily spotted from the roadside. The tree is long-lived and enormous: 80 feet or higher, with 30-foot spreads, dark leaves tinged with red, and an abundance of small fruit that depend from long stems. Saplings can sprout from fallen fruit, but in general, wherever you see a mature tree now, there is or was a settlement there.
Mangoes are related – believe it or not – to poison ivy and poison oak. If you have never eaten one before, you’ll quickly discover if you are hyper-sensitive or allergic to them: you may develop a swarm of (harmless) red welts around your lips that local folks call “mango mouth.” With most people, however, this does not happen.
Common mangoes can and do ripen into sweet, juicy delights, but a few varieties have a taste reminiscent of turpentine. The trees being so big, common mangoes are also hard to pick – you need a long pole with a net or basket on the end – and may well have been stung by fruit-flies before you can even get to them. So, many are picked before they’re ripe and turned into chutney, or prepared as savory treats: local recipes for “green” mango famously include marinating the slices in soy sauce (shoyu).
It’s the cultivated mangoes that are the most consistently sweet, and while there are, technically, hundreds of varieties, they fall into just a few general categories that you’ll find in local farmers’ markets right now.
Closest to “common” in size and taste, with the same greenish skin color, are the slightly elongated “cigar” mangoes. Several varieties are larger and longer still, but have a distinctive yellow-orange skin, much like the color of the fruit itself. (In other countries, such as The Philippines, these are the mangoes that are commercially dried and packaged; and except for the absence of juice, dried mangoes taste almost exactly like fresh mangoes.) The largest mangoes are the Hayden variety, which can grow big enough for two people to share. Expect to pay about fifty cents for a common or cigar mango; a dollar apiece for the larger yellow type, and three or four dollars for a giant Hayden.
All mangoes have large, flat seeds; here’s how to get the most meat out of them: Slice the fruit the “long” way, close to either side of the seed, to yield two cupped-hand-shaped halves. Set those halves aside and peel the strip of rind from around the seed; slice off whatever meat you can, into a bowl, and then (as local folks do) suck the rest of the meat from the edges of the seed before discarding it. Now, for each of the two halves, make tic-tac-toe on the flat side with a knife, but don’t pierce through to the skin. Turn the half-mango inside-out, and you produce neat chunks of juicy mango that you can peel or slice off, into your bowl.