We may not have the variety of vibrant flowers that you will find in farmers’ markets in the Pacific Northwest, but there is something to be said about the access to tropical fruit!
My childhood home is nestled in a jungle. Ok, that’s an exaggeration, it wasn’t always. Through years of overgrowth, the jungle has taken over. My parents grew all sorts of plants. Pulling up to our house, you would immediately notice the wall (it was a fence) of Surinam cherries, stalks of tall orchid plants, and a large monster of Bougainvillea. Looking closer, you’d see a small garden of carrots, green onion, Hawaiian chili pepper and lemongrass. Walking around to the back, you’d see a large Money Tree, kalamungay, a star fruit tree, and a trifecta of large shade trees fruiting lychee, avocado, and jackfruit. Clusters of banana trees, adorn the corners of the yard along with ti leaves in green and red. Coming around the other side, a unique sight, a mountain apple tree snaking up a retaining wall, too tall for us to reach the fruit, but perfect for our elevated neighbors to snag a shirt full of pommes. There’s an old trellis once the support for bunches of the tiniest grapes you’ve ever seen, now displaying a collection of colorful orchids in all shapes, colors, and sizes. Below this, large basins filled with water lilies. We used to have an outdoor shower, now it’s the watering system for an assortment of potted plants. There’s a small path with a hopscotch game paved in the concrete that is obscured by a short plumeria tree on one side and an ‘Ohi’a Lehua tree on the other. So even when the plants weren’t overgrown and all over the place, it still felt like a jungle to me.
Even with the variety of fruits we had growing in our yard, my mom used to wander around Chinatown during her lunch break and come home with exotic fruits like pitaya and rambutan, and bags full of tamarind. It was always exciting to see what she would find. Granted some of these were probably imported from Thailand or wherever, but I knew people who had this stuff growing in their yards (imagine their jungles!). This was maybe 20 years ago.
Today, I’m sure you could still walk into Chinatown and find this sort of stuff, but with Farmer’s Markets popping up routinely, why risk being chased by rats and homeless people? Also, it’s become hip to uncover the unusual. Look at brussels sprouts, kale and quinoa. Acai bowls have a permanent space on menus at every cafe. No one eats iceberg lettuce anymore because mesclun greens and arugula is much more flavorful. Instead of finding a harvest of pitaya (which isn’t difficult, many stalls at the farmer’s market offer both white and pink varieties), you can find “pitaya bowls” loaded with granola and sliced fruit!
If you’ve never seen pitaya — dragon fruit — in real life, you will think I played with the color options on the image. Well, I can’t say I didn’t, but it was only to make the picture match what I had in front of me. My camera on the “normal” setting made the colors appear muted and dull. It really was this vibrant fuchsia! It stains like crazy, but why wouldn’t you want hot pink lips (and fingers, and blouse, and pants, etc)?
I hope if you’re ever in Hawaii, you stop at any one of our Farmer’s Markets (they not only have fresh produce, but some stalls offer fresh-baked goods and/or specialize in prepared food items that will knock your slippahs off) or cafes to try the locally grown foods.