Kathy and I were late and forced to weave our oversized F-150 into a tight booth spot. The other sixty vendors at the Sunday Haleiwa Farmers’ Market were already set-up up and waiting for the crowds of locals and tourists to show up for the nine o’clock market opening. We hurried our tent canopy out of the truck bed and battled the strong hawaiian trade winds to erect the Mohala Farm stand in its usual spot at the market across from the lunch seating area and the concert stage. We quickly spread out bright green tablecloths and started laying out straw baskets full of ice to keep our produce fresh in the tropical heat. Finally we stocked bunches of lacinato and red russian kale, collard greens, and bags of arugula, mizuna, yukina savoy, and herbs like oregano, lemon thyme, mint, parsley, and cilantro. Our first bunch of lacinato or dino kale was sold before we could set everything up!
After two hours selling produce for the Mohala Farm stand I ventured out into the market to meet some of the vendors and try some of the delicious food. My first stop was North Shore Baker Dude’s where I met Michael who has been baking bread on Oahu and Kauai for over twelve years. His specialty is using Organic Spelt Flour instead of regular wheat flour. This close cousin of the wheat grain contains only four percent gluten and is perfect for people with diabetes or gluten sensitivities. My favorite novelty at his stand was the Taro Bread and its purple color seemed to be a local favorite.
Next I stopped by to see Wayne Porter of Homemade Jams of Hawaii. Wayne started making jam and selling it at the farmers’
market years ago as something to do with the extra fruit from his yard when he owned his own construction company. Now he makes jam full time and people from Japan to California can buy his homemade jams made with pure cane sugar and fruit mostly from his acre farm in Pupukea. My favorite was the lilikoi butter and now it is on my toast every morning!
My sweet tooth led me to Madre Chocolate and Robert helped me try some of their dark chocolate varieties. The local company has chocolate bars made with 100% Hawaiian Cacao beans and also another line of bars made with beans from the Dominican Republic. Robert told me their 100% Hawaiian Cacao bars are more popular and customers are usually asking for the local chocolate. He showed me how cacao beans grow and what parts are harvested and used for making their artisanal chocolate. He also invited me back to the Haleiwa Chocolate Festival next Sunday.
Further down the market I stopped by to check out some of the produce from West Valley Farms, Pupukea Gardens, and Haloa Farms. West
Valley Farms is in its tenth year of operation and is located on the dry, arid west side of Oahu near Makaha. This is perfect for the owner who is from Arizona and says that at least in Hawaii there is water unlike his native desert lands. It is a different story for Pupukea Gardens and its owner Dave who supplies many of the North Shore’s restaurants with salad greens including Haleiwa Joe’s and Spaghettini’s. Pupukea is nestled in a little valley on the North Shore and sees almost too much rain each year. Dave says he also grows closer to Waialua so some of his crops can escape the rain found on his main farm in Pupukea. Dave also makes excellent salad dressings with exotic tropical flavors including papaya seed.
The smell of fresh fish wafted in the air as I entered the next part of the market. I checked into Aloha Wainani where you can find locally caught Walu, Mahi, Ahi, Marlin, and Monchang on ice. Next to this fresh fish stand was Lymey’s Smoked Fish Co. where I tried the smoked ahi and my favorite, the smoked tako. Tako is the Japanese name for a small octopus and it was the first time I had ever tried it smoked. Usually in Hawaii tako and ahi can be found in poke, a raw ceviche-like seafood dish served with shoyu or spicy sauces. Poke has become my staple food in the islands and Off the Hook Island Style Poke serve some amazing poke at the market. Lance Brug, Princess Poke (his wife Kim) and the whole family run the only poke stand at the market.
With some fresh ahi poke in hand I wandered over to Bon Vivant to find a stand exclusively dedicated to gourmet hawaiian sea salts. Black, pink, white and every color in between was on display, each color made by a different mineral present in the salt. A little sprinkle of salt blackened by infused charcoal on my poke added to the fishy soy sauce flavor.
The sun was high by now and it was time for a main course lunch so I went to Happy’s Hawaii. Lan Thai and her green catering company is famous for their
ginger infused lime drinks and tropical chicken mango spring rolls. I sat with Lan while I ate and she told me about her dedication to healthy food and her strict avoidance of any preservatives in the dishes she serves. She has to be creative since she specializes in preservative-free salad dressings, but wants to make sure they still have a reasonable shelf life. You can really taste the difference in her food and it is easy to tell how fresh her ingredients are.
Before leaving and packing up the Mohala Farm Stand I decided to visit Tom Purdy of Taro Delight. Tom is famous on Oahu for his smoked taro dips and dressings. His secret is his constantly changing menu. Every dip and dressing he makes is inspired and relies on the local produce he gets from other farmers at the market so he is always searching for new combinations and flavors as produce goes in and out of season. The constant is certainly taro, the purple and nutritious superfood of the ancient hawaiians.
Last I went over to see Luann from Tin Roof Ranch. She raises chickens and sells both fresh organic eggs and organic chicken meat. She was happy to sell us some chicken feed for our twenty five new chickens at Mohala Farms.
Five hours at the market went by fast and the Mohala crew went home happy and sold out! Next Sunday is the Chocolate Festival and we will be back for another busy day.
Mohala Farm Stand: SOLD OUT!
Aloha and Eat Well!
Ryan Silsbee Food Warrior Spring 2012
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