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Taro is grown abundantly on Kauai, having been farmed in Hawaii since ancient times.
Both the root and the leaves can be eaten, but only after they’re cooked. We became familiar with the crop when we lived on St. Vincent, where the leaves are used to make callaloo, a spinach-like side dish or soup. I still crave callaloo soup.
Hanalei Taro and Juice Co. prepares all-things taro and I ordered a taro hummus sandwich and was surprised the hummus was purple! Apparently taro comes either white or purple. The sandwich was fine, served on a bun and topped with lettuce, carrots and tomato as well. I also couldn’t pass up a banana taro mochi cake.
Slightly chewy and gummy like a mochi but with bits of purple taro and sweetened with banana, it was strangely addicting.
Taro chips are similar to potato chips and are made at Taro Ko Chips Factory. We searched out the factory and found this little shack.
It was Sunday and we were disappointed it was closed. This could have been a fun stop.
With shave ice competing for their attention, I couldn’t even talk Remy and Simon into the taro and tropical fruit smoothies at Hanalei Taro& Juice Co. I’m not a fan of snowcones but the treats at Shave Ice Paradise are shaved so fine, the ice melts the instant it hits your tongue. Remy and Simon requested them daily and ordered them topped with a “snowcap” (sweetened condensed milk), just like they do snowcones in St. Vincent.
We took a trip down memory lane at the farmers market. We found Sapodilla, which has a brown sugar-like flavour and color. It’s not our favorite fruit, but the cool thing about sapodilla is that gum is made from the sap of the sapodilla tree. We had a tree at Petit Byahaut and white thick liquid would ooze from the bark. We never did get around to making our own gum. Also, bats would fill the tree at night, eating the fruit.
And Soursop, a prickly dark green fruit with a white creamy flesh that needs to be sweetened before it tastes like the quintessential tropical fruit. We used to puree the flesh with, again, sweetened condensed milk, and ice.
And we even found Plum Rose, except it’s called mountain apple in Hawaii. They’re like a cross between an apple and a pear but with the flavour of a rose. Yummy and refreshing!
Remy and I fought over the Lychees. We find these in Asian markets in Seattle, but the ones on Kauai were added proof fruits and vegetables taste so much better freshly picked. They were the sweetest and juiciest lychees we’ve ever had.
We learned about Longan, related to the lychee with a similar fruit under a different skin. These were good too, and cheaper than lychees, but not quite as sweet and juicy.
Pono Market in Kapa’a is a great stop for local food. They have plate lunch specials every day plus Lau Lau, pork wrapped into a taro leaf bundle. The gentleman behind the counter told us the Lau Lau is ready every day at 10:30 and they usually sell out before noon. Unfortunately, we were too late the day we visited. However, their poke, a raw ahi salad seasoned with nori, onions, sesame seeds and spices was delicious, as was the kulolo cake (made from taro and coconut milk). We had our doubts, but it was sweet and coconuty and even Remy and Simon helped gobble it up.
Lastly, vendors selling dried fruit set up at beaches and parks all over the island. The vendor at Waimea Canyon had these coconut flakes.
If you’re there, buy them. Brian doesn’t get excited about coconut like I do, but he bought two bags.
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Hiking is one of my favorite things. Walking in the wilderness instantly improves my disposition. Unfortunately, it does the opposite to my daughter. My compromise to go to Kauai left me some negotiating room. “If we go to Kauai, we’re going hiking,” I said. She really wanted to go to Kauai. She agreed.
I set my sights high when I suggested we hike from Ke’e Beach to Hanakapi’ai Beach, and then inland to Hanakapi’ai Falls. Round trip, it would amount to eight miles, farther than we’d ever walked in one day. Brian was doubtful we’d even make it to Hanakapi’ai Beach, two miles in. Simon was eager to give it a try.
It took Remy a bit to find her stride.
I think all the people, old people, passing us by was incentive for Remy to keep on truckin’.
Views of the magnificent coastline kept us motivated.
So did the glimpse of Hanakapi’ai Beach.
We picnicked on the beach.
We stayed longer than we’d planned.
We had heard there was a bamboo forest between Hanakapi’ai Beach and Hanakapi’ai Falls so, having cooled down in the stream, we decided we’d at least try to make it to the bamboo.
“We’ve come this far. We should keep going,” Simon said. We forged on.
Our water supply was diminishing. “If we keep going, we have to get in the water to cool down when we reach the waterfall,” Brian said. I’m not proud of our decision, but we continued on. (Remy & Simon: if in the future, you are running low on water, do NOT continue increasing the distance between you and drinking water)
It was all I could do to resist jumping into this sun-warmed water hole.
We criss-crossed the stream, back and forth, back and forth, until the waterfall was in sight.
We made it!
Hanakapi’ai Falls is one glorious spot on Earth.
But the pool was icy.
“How about we jump in that sunny water hole we passed a while back?”
“Yeah!” We scrambled back.
Back at the trailhead, we all high-fived each other, reveling in our accomplishment.
Then Remy said, “That was the best time I’ve ever had hiking.” My already high spirits soared.
“Where’s all the guava cheese?” Brian asked.
I awoke with a start. “You guys ate all the guava cheese?”
“I… I… I didn’t mean to. I don’t know what happened. I was just watching the movie,” Remy said.
“It’s gone! That was supposed to last for days. That’s all we had. Do you remember how hard it was to find guavas?” I said.
“Ohhh,” Brian moaned. “I only had two pieces.”
The days passed and toward the end of the trip, we drove all the way around the island to the west side to explore Waimea Canyon and Koke’e State Parks. As we neared the canyon, Remy said, “We just passed a guava tree.”
Brian made a U-turn and pulled over, and there alongside us, was a tree loaded with ripe guavas. We admired the sight for a moment, and then rushed to it.
Harvesting fruit as quickly as we could, we laughed and applauded Remy for her keen eye.
Afterward, we gazed into Waimea Canyon. It was spectacular.
Simon and I hiked through fog and misty rain and snuck views into the Kalaulau Valley when the clouds parted. It was something to be experienced.
“Does anyone want to check out any other parts of the park before heading out?” I asked.
“Can we go back and pick some more guavas?” Simon said.
That night, we made a massive batch of guava cheese. Not only did Remy redeem herself, she was our hero. We even had enough to bring some home.
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Brian has pined for guavas since we left St. Vincent. The only place we’ve found them in Seattle is Uwajimaya, a fantastic Asian grocery store, but they’re never ripe and they’re always expensive. Once we landed on Kauai, the hunt began.
We had high hopes for the Hanalei farmers market. We saw no guavas, we were told it wasn’t guava season, but Brian wasn’t deterred, he questioned each vendor. One had brought a few, but they had sold already.
We tried the Lihu’e market. We arrived at opening time and Brian rushed through, scanning the tables for guavas, inquiring with each vendor. One vendor told us, “I have guavas, but I didn’t bring any today.”
“Awww,” we said in unison.
She giggled. “Where are you staying?”
“On the north side,” I said.
“I will bring some to Hanalei tomorrow. Come tomorrow to the Hanalei market.”
“Really? Can I pay you today to hold them for me?” Brian asked.
“No, no, I’ll save them for you,” she said.
“Okay! We’ll be there at 9:30!”
We were there, at 9:30. Brian rushed through the already crowded market, searching for the face of the vendor who would have his prized guavas. He found her, busy attending customers. We scanned her table, no guavas, then Brian spotted two small bags of guavas on the tailgate behind her. “There they are,” he whispered.
He paid for the two bags and opened one and inhaled the sweet aroma. I took my turn and was instantly transported to standing under the guava tree at Petit Byahaut. Guavas are filled with seeds and are quite tart so eating them raw isn’t nearly as satisfying as turning them into guava cheese. Later that evening, Brian set to work.
He chopped all eight guavas.
Put them in a pot, added a cup and a half of sugar, and lit the burner.
After the seeds separated and the guavas softened, he put the stew through a sieve to remove the seeds and the puree was returned to the pot.
Stirring constantly, it seemed like forever before the puree thickened into a cheese-like consistency.
Not done yet. More cooking and stirring required.
Finally he turned it into a pan, let it cool and cut the slab into pieces before coating them with sugar.
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I’m melting into the seat, letting the wind rush over me while it
stirs through the palms and ironwoods lining the north coast and
again, I hear the strum of a ukelele.
I think to myself, Kauai, you’ve held on to your beauty but it’s not enough.
We drive half a mile and the ukelele music is still there. How could I
still hear the music?
“Do you hear a ukelele?” I ask Brian.
He listens. “No. See, it’s the spirit of the island calling you.”
My mind wanders to the previous night. Simon had waited all day to get
to the beach. We grabbed flashlights and walked along the road until
we found a turnoff for a hotel. We strolled past the buildings and
Simon ran to the frothy water.
“Stay close Simon, it’s getting dark,” I said.
He didn’t hear, the surf and wind erased my voice. I followed him until the sound of a ukelele caught my attention. “More ukelele
music,” I said.
Earlier, at the airport in Honolulu, a ukelele echoed through the outdoor walkways as we waited in the garden for our flight. I looked up the bank at he restaurant sealed in glass. “They must pipe it outside in hopes of luring in tourists,” I said, although no one heard.
Now as we drive, the din of the engine annoys me. I concentrate, straining my ears for confirmation. Is it real? Was it ever real?
I picture Kauai’s ancestors. It’s dark, they’re playing ukeleles, dancing around a crackling fire, smiling at me. Or is it the
ancestors, telling me to let down my guard, showing me this island will always be theirs?