Category: Fall 2019



SUGAR CANE HAS ENTERED A NEW ERA. The last harvest and closure of the Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar (HC&S) plantation on Maui in December 2016 marked the final chapter in a bittersweet century-and-a half of large-scale sugar production throughout Hawai‘i. Arguably, no other crop has had the influence and impacts of the sugar trade, changing the economy, water systems, eco-systems, land ownership, ethnic mix and politics of Hawai‘i. 

But sugar cane, or (its Hawaiian name), has a history that pre-dates the plantation era by about a thousand years. As a “canoe crop,” brought by voyaging Polynesians, sugar cane was widely cultivated for hundreds of years, utilized in a variety of manners, and, “played a vital role in the culture and livelihood of Native Hawaiians,” according to ethnobotanist Dr. Noa Kekuewa Lincoln. 

As part of his extensive 2017 study, “Kō: An Ethnobotanical Guide to Hawaiian Sugarcane Varieties,” Lincoln opines that traditional varieties will be vital in developing restorative agricultural systems. “Contemporarily, there is a revived interest in indigenous crops and cropping systems,” states Lincoln on the UH-CTAHR webpage for sugar cane. “If the world is to embrace more resilient farming that utilizes fewer inputs and greater diversity, then heirloom varieties – such as – will be needed in developing new crops that will thrive in diversified, place-specific agricultural systems.”

The post-plantation era of sugar cane in Hawai‘i may indeed embrace cultivation of long-neglected varietals for uses both traditional and innovative. Thus, King Sugar, long the dominant economic and political force, may now assume a more subservient role in local agricultural production and cuisine. At the same time, fallow plantation lands afford prime opportunities to expand local food production of all sorts.


Human taste buds and palette identify six basic flavor groups: Salty; sweet; bitter; sour; umami and savory. Of the six, the widespread coveting of sweets and refined sugar has greatly influenced world trade and colonial expansion for centuries. 

Sugar cane originated in tropical Southeast Asia and the South Pacific. Research indicates it was cultivated in New Guinea several thousand years ago, and spread throughout Polynesia to India, where a crystallization process was developed, making it easier to transport. From there, it migrated with the Arabs, who brought the confection to Europe around 600 years ago. It was grown in the Canary Islands, and brought to the Americas by Christopher Columbus.

The voyages of Columbus and others did not, however, provide a short-cut to the lucrative Spice Trade with Asia. As colonization efforts spread from Europe to the Western hemisphere, the economic potential of growing sugar in tropical regions was realized and exploited. The ensuing Trade Triangle over the next few hundred years brought millions of African slaves to the Caribbean and the Americas, to work on Spanish, French, British, Dutch and Portuguese colonial plantations—all to satisfy the covetous consumption of processed sugar back in Europe.

Across the globe in the Pacific, early traders in the Sandwich Islands capitalized on the native sandalwood tree. Desired in China for making incense and fine furniture, and ultimately sanctioned by King Kamehameha, Hawaiian forests were rapidly plundered in a short period, from 1810-1830.

On the heels of the sandalwood trade collapse, Hawai‘i became a hub for another extractive trade: whaling. In the early and middle 19th century, whale oil was widely used as a source for lighting, heating, and fuel for industrial machinery. As many as 400 whaling ships sailed the Pacific, using Hawai‘i as a port-of-call for provisions. This fostered expansion of farming and ranching, and Hawai‘i also supplied potatoes and vegetables to the West Coast during the Gold Rush and Civil War.

With the discovery of petroleum oil in Pennsylvania in 1859, and the decline of the Pacific whale population, the whaling industry dwindled. In its place arose sugar cane cultivation, the first plantations established in the 1830s. The Civil War shut down sugar production and importation through the South, allowing Hawai‘i to compete in the California sugar market. The Board of Immigration was established in 1866, focused on recruiting plantation workers.

By 1870, dozens of small plantations operated throughout Hawai‘i, spurring waves of immigration from Japan, China, the Philippines, Portugal, Puerto Rico and elsewhere to supply cheap, often indentured labor. As the industry grew, five major plantation hubs gained control. Dubbed, the Big Five, the consolidation of power equated to ownership and management of ancillary businesses—banks, insurance, shipping, utilities—and great influence in the governance of Hawai‘i.

Plantation work was hard, whether in the fields or the wood-powered, steam engine-driven mills. Workers cleared fields, planted and harvested cane, chopped and hauled wood, developed flume systems that delivered water, tended horses and livestock, built plantation camp housing and stores, and performed a myriad of other tasks. Elaborate railroad systems were constructed on O‘ahu, Kaua’i, Maui and Hawai‘i islands to transport sugar from the fields to the mills and docks.

Both Hawai‘i and the mainland United States suffered an economic depression during the 1880s, and King David Kalakaua plunged the monarchy in debt to the sugar planters. By 1890, nearly three quarters of all land in Hawai‘i was owned by foreign investors, the majority of it planted in sugar. 

When Kalakaua’s sister, Liliuokalani took the throne in 1891 as queen, she sought to introduce a new constitution to regain power lost to the “Bayonet Constitution” of 1887, which increased authority of the government while reducing that of the monarchy. 

American-born plantation owners believed they could only secure their business interests by establishing a new government and aligning with U.S. interests. Ultimately they prevailed in deposing the Hawaiian monarchy, which Queen Liluokalani reluctantly acquiesced to in order to avoid bloodshed. The Queen believed the U.S. government would, upon learning the facts, reinstate sovereign power. But her pleas went unheeded and in 1898 Hawai‘i was annexed as a U.S. territory. 

In the early 20th century, sugar and pineapple were the main economic drivers, with rice coming in third among export crops. By 1934, 130,000 acres of sugar plantations yielded 900,000 tons of sugar, quadrupling the output of 30 years before. 

Through World War II, labor disputes, and the transition to statehood in 1959, sugar held its sway. Only with the rise of tourism did sugar begin to topple from atop the economic pyramid. With tourism came real estate interests and rapid urbanization. Hotel and building jobs competed for workers, and the sugar plantations, now with union representation, struggled to compete. Ultimately, plantations sold off their land holdings for profit, as world sugar prices dropped and tariffs rose. 

In the late 20th century plantations shut down, one by one, on O‘ahu, Maui and Hawai‘i islands. Hoping to double their diminishing profits, Kaua’i’s Gay & Robinson plantation launched a last gasp effort into sugar cane-based ethanol biofuel production, which proved unsuccessful. Large tracts of agricultural lands were leased to the seed corn industry, while others were used for urban expansion. HC&S, the final sugar operation to close, recently sold its 35,000+ acres of agricultural lands to Mahi Pono, a California-based entity which has vowed to increase diversified local food production. 


Dr. Noa Kekuewa Lincoln’s extensive research shows that Hawaiians used sugar or , for a variety of essential purposes. It was chewed for quick energy and served as a “famine food,” in times of scarcity. It sweetened bitter remedies in the la‘au lapa‘au traditional healing practice utilizing medicinal plants. As a salve, it was applied to wounds to promote healing. 

Raw cane was chewed to strengthen one’s teeth. Warmed wai kō (sugar water) was a remedy used to treat infants. was also part of religious ceremonies and offerings. The Manulele variety was associated in the practice of hana aloha, to attract the attention of a distant person to induce them to fall in love. 

Cane juice mixed with charred kukui nut shells was used to make ink for tattoos, perhaps because it helped heal the skin. Sugar cane leaves were woven into thatch for interior walls of the Hawaiian hale, or house.

Sugar cane blossoms were utilized in lei making, especially the lei haku, or head lei. The flowers were also used to line slopes for the holua (land sled) tracks, to make them slippery.

Dr. Lincoln’s ethno-botanical expertise is both scientific and anecdotal, and serves to inspire preservation of heirloom species to fill the void left in Hawaiian agriculture in the post-plantation era.


Modern nutritional science and medical studies link over-consumption of refined sugar to a myriad of maladies, from tooth decay to diabetes, obesity to heart disease. William Duffy’s 1975 book, “Sugar Blues,” likens sugar-rich diets to drug addiction, and explicates refined sugar’s numerous risks to human health.

Fresh cane juice, however, contains complex sugars that provide the body with sustained energy and don’t leave behind toxins. Studies show that fresh cane juice, high in minerals and vitamins, has a number of healthful properties. It may improve digestion, possesses laxative properties, can help lower harmful cholesterol, strengthen the immune system, and help regulate blood sugars due to its low glycemic index. And, it tastes good!


Farmer’s Market shoppers on O‘ahu may have run into freshly squeezed cane juice drinks, thanks to the passionate efforts of self-described, “Sugarista,” Sourivahn Sivongxay of Hawaiian Sugarcane LLC. “Vahn,” for short, was born in Laos, is a sugar cane farmer’s daughter and farmer herself, restaurateur, entrepreneur and U.S. citizen, after her family took refuge in America.

Customers are drawn to Vahn’s hand-crafted, brightly colored dragon fruit (pitaya) lemonade, virgin mojita mint, and mango ginger spice, all sweetened to taste with healthy, fresh cane juice. She offers ice teas to those seeking something less sweet, chili lime blends to appeal to spicy-loving customers, and Li Hing Mui to tempt local palettes.

“Never in my wild dream,” Vahn exclaims, did she expect, “to be making fruits, plants or serving juices or beverages for a business.” Her drinks have become so popular that she is looking to expand.

Kōloa Rum CEO Bob Gunter moved to Hawai‘i in the 1970s and worked for ten years on Lihue Plantation. There, he says, he became enamored with plantation life. After a stint with Kaua’i Electric, he moved to Maui, but was eventually lured back to Kaua’i to explore possibilities of designing a rum operation.

Ten years ago, Kōloa Rum launched, and now may be found in 27 states and four countries. “We use the phrase, ‘It all started here’,” says Gunter, noting that Kōloa was the site of the first successful sugar mill in Hawai‘i. They are in the process of moving their distillery into historic Kōloa Town, with a dozen acres to be planted in cane around the facility. By next year they will have exhausted the supply of nearly 200 tons of sugar purchased from HC&S before their closure in 2016.

In “Old Kunia Camp” in Central O‘ahu, KōHana Rum has revitalized the old Del Monte General Store. Using the “Rum Agricole,” method, they produce their unique rums from fresh cane juice of heirloom varietals, not from molasses.

“We wouldn’t be here without Dr. Noa Lincoln,” who helped them select specific varieties, said KōHana brand manager Kyle Reutner. Working in conjunction with UH-CTAHR, they took long-forgotten Hawaiian kō and have out-planted 38 acres, up from just a quarter-acre first grown in 2009.

“We equate the difference to when people first taste an heirloom tomato,” says Reutner. “When you have better starting material, you have a superior end product.” He adds that they strive for minimal processing, hand-harvest with machetes, and says their rum is comparable to an estate-produced fine wine. KōHana rums are found in Whole Foods, specialty liquor stores, and in fine restaurants and bars throughout Hawai‘i.

And thus, with a nod to Hawai‘i’s cultural past, the new era of sugar has just begun. [eHI]

NOTE: The author acknowledges the great contributions of Dr. Lincoln in compiling information used in this article. Authored by: Noa Kekuewa Lincoln.  Lincoln, N. (2017) Kō: An Ethnobotanical Guide to Hawaiian Sugarcane Varieties. Retrieved from: http://cms.ctahr.Hawai‘



MORE THAN JUST THE WHITE SHAKER on the dinner table – salt is a life force. Sure, it heightens the flavors in both savory and sweet dishes, preserves food, and can remedy a medley of health issues, but in addition, our bodies also need salt to live. In Hawai‘i, where it has been used for its cleansing, purifying and healing properties since ancient times, salt takes on an even greater significance. Native Hawaiian households each made their own salt and called it pa‘akai, meaning literally “to solidify the sea.” While table salt is made up of 97-99 percent sodium chloride, ultra-pure Hawaiian red salt is only 84 percent sodium chloride and 16 percent naturally occurring elements. These elements, about 80 in all, are what make Hawaiian salt magical. Potassium, magnesium and other electrolytes as well as iron oxide can contribute to blood pressure regulation, bone strengthening, increased immunity and energy.

Upon European contact, salt became a traded commodity and by the 19th century Hawai‘i was the main salt supplier for the entire Pacific Northwest. Salt production thrived well into the 1900s but became impacted by the industrialization of the islands. Concurrently, “Hawaiian salt” began to be harvested elsewhere and processed to resemble the appearance of true Hawaiian salts. Land used to make salt the old way was sold or lost; all that remains today are the Hanapepe Salt Flats on Kaua‘i.

Across from Salt Pond Beach Park on the arid west side of the island, what appear to be dozens of miniature frozen pools lay well-kept beneath the sun. These are the treasured salt beds, the rights to cultivate passed down from generation to generation amongst about 20 families. Tradition dictates that no one is allowed to farm anyone else’s patch and a new section cannot be started without permission. This salt cannot be bought or sold; it is given only as a gift or possibly traded. The process is done entirely by hand, a labor intensive and intricate operation involving wells fed by underground lava tubes, red mud, lots of stirring and rinsing and at last, three layers of salt. The top layer, the whitest, is used as a table salt. The middle layer is pink and is used for cooking. The bottom layer, red or brown, is used in blessings or given to special recipients.

This is low lying land. The season for salt begins when the waterlogged ground dries and the generations-old beds are once again exposed (usually from May to September, with some luck). Harvests are affected by a multitude of factors including tides, sun and ocean salt. For those highly skilled cultivators, it seems as though the seasons have grown shorter over the years and the harvests smaller. There have even been years where there is nothing to harvest at all.

The salt crop may be threatened by yet another factor: helicopters. The company that operates Maverick Helicopters, Smokey Mountain Helicopters Inc., is seeking permits that would allow them to expand on their existing facility nearby the salt ponds. This causes concerns about the chemical runoff, pollution and noise that the expansion could potentially result. So rare and precious, many in the community feel strongly that the last remaining traditional Hawaiian salt ponds should be protected.

For both those who cultivate it and those lucky enough to receive it, true Hawaiian salt is perhaps more precious now than ever.

Though not yet as prominent as its counterpart, there will soon be a grinder for Hawaiian pepper at the table too.

“We are certainly not the first to grow peppercorn in Hawai‘i, although we may be the first to test and track it as an economically viable production crop in Hawai‘i,” says Paul de Filippi of Mauka Vista Farm in Kula, Maui. The family-run operation places an emphasis on diversity and specialty crops; their harvests to date have included figs, dragon fruit, mangoes and a variety of citrus. Peppercorn is growing, too. Now that most of their plants are full-sized, they hope for a big flowering this year.

Native to India, the peppercorn plant flowers and fruits on long spikes, each spike containing up to 100 corns. About eight months after flowering, ripening begins and the spike is harvested. The peppercorns are separated from the stem, processed, and then dried into black pepper products. “With a local source, there is also the ability to provide the crop as a fresh product which opens the door to a variety of culinary possibilities,” says Paul.

The family has released an instructive video and travelled through the islands giving presentations on how to grow and propagate peppercorn plants, distributing plant material along the way. The plan is to gather growth data and eventually release a comprehensive cost of production model through the University of Hawai‘i’s College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources.

Hawaiian peppercorn’s day has come.Native to India, the peppercorn plant flowers and fruits on long spikes, each spike containing up to 100 corns. About eight months after flowering, ripening begins and the spike is harvested. The peppercorns are separated from the stem, processed, and then dried into black pepper products. “With a local source, there is also the ability to provide the crop as a fresh product which opens the door to a variety of culinary possibilities,” says Paul. [eHI]




Photography by Kent Hwang
Course: Dessert
Servings: 10 People
Author: Lahaina Grill


  • Bowl
  • 9” Pie Pan



  • 12 oz. All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 Pinch Salt
  • 3 oz. Unsalted Butter
  • 3 oz. All-Purpose Shortening
  • ½ Cup Sour Cream
  • ½ Cup Ice Water
  • 1 Raw Egg Scrambled
  • 3 Packets Sugar in the Raw


  • 12 oz. Blueberries
  • 12 oz. Raspberries
  • ¼ Cup Crème de Cassis ( Black Currant Liqueur )
  • ¼ Cup Granulated Tapioca
  • 1 Cup Granulated Sugar


Prepare Crust.

  • Gently mix flour with salt, butter, and shortening. 
  • Add sour cream and ice water, gently knead until all ingredients are folded into the dough. Don’t over mix. 
  • Place in a bowl, cover dough with a moist towel or plastic wrap, and place in refrigerator for about 1 hour.

Prepare Filling.

  • Mix all ingredients together. 
  • Line a 9” pie pan, sprayed with vegetable pan coating spray, with approximately 1/2 of the prepared dough, rolled out to approximately 1/8” thick, add berry mixture, cover with remaining dough.
  • Cut a 3/4” hole into the middle to allow steam from berry mixture to escape while baking. Brush with egg wash and sprinkle with raw brown sugar. 

Bake and Serve.

  • Bake at 375° F with fan on for 15 minutes then reduce heat to 350° F and bake until berry mixture starts bubbling, approximately 40 minutes. 
  • Cool and store in refrigerator until served. Garnish with vanilla-flavored whipped cream, fresh seasonal berries, raspberry sauce, and vanilla ice cream if desired.




Photography by Jana McMahon
Course: Dessert
Servings: 10 People
Author: Jana McMahon


  • Bowl
  • 9” Pie Pan


Pastry ( 2 Crusts )

  • 1 Medium to Large Pineapple
  • 2 Eggs Slightly Beaten
  • 1 Cup Cane Sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. Cornstarch
  • 1 Tbsp. Grated Lime Zest
  • 3 Tbsp. Passion Fruit Pulp
  • tsp. Salt


  • Cut peeled and cored pineapple into bite-size chunks. 
  • Place eggs in a bowl and beat in sugar, cornstarch, lime zest, passion fruit puree, and salt. Add pineapple chunks to wet mixture. 
  • Turn into pastry-lined 9” pie pan. Adjust top crust; flute edges and cut vents. I like to use the extra pastry dough and make a pineapple cut out on top of the crust. Brush top of pie with egg wash. 
  • Bake at 425F for approximately 45 minutes. 
  • Check this pie about halfway through to assure the edges aren’t too brown. If so, make a foil collar and cover the edges for the rest of the bake time. 




Photography by Angèl Vardas, Foster Island Olive Oil Co., O‘ahu, Hawai‘i 
What I wanted to create in this olive oil cake recipe is a moist and delicate cake that really featured the flavor of the olive oil. The combination of cake flour and almond flour create a light and airy cake with a moist and tender crumb. The light addition of citrus and vanilla is just enough to enhance the flavor of the cake without overpowering the subtle fruity notes of the olive oil. I recommend using a very fresh extra virgin olive oil that has a nice green fruity nose with slight bitterness for balance and a peppery finish. Dusting the top with sugar and putting it into the hotter preheated oven, then turning it down helps to create a nice rise and crunchy golden crust. Finishing the cooling cake with a nice drizzle of the olive oil creates added moisture and helps to further highlight the fruity notes of a nice fresh extra virgin olive oil. 
Course: Dessert
Author: Angèl Vardas, Foster Island Olive Oil Co., O‘ahu, Hawai‘i 


  • 9” Springform Pan
  • Parchment Paper
  • Medium Bowl
  • Stand Mixer With Whisk Attachment
  • Wire Rack


  • ½ Cup Almond Flour
  • Cup Cake Flour
  • 2 tsp. Baking Powder
  • ¼ tsp. Baking Soda
  • ½ tsp. Kosher Salt
  • 3 Eggs Room Temperature
  • ¾ Cup Sugar Plus More for Dusting
  • Tbsp. Lemon & Orange Zest
  • 2 Tbsp. Fresh Lemon Juice
  • 2 Tbsp. Fresh Orange Juice
  • ¼ Cup Milk Room Temperature
  • 1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
  • Cup Fresh Extra Virgin Olive Oil Plus More To Drizzle On Top


  • Preheat oven to 400° F and set up to bake on the middle rack. Spray a 9” springform pan with baking spray and line bottom with parchment paper. Spray the parchment lined bottom and sides and then sprinkle the sides with a light dusting of sugar. 
  • Mix the first 5 ingredients together in medium bowl, set aside. Using a stand mixer on low speed with a whisk attachment, add eggs, and whisk for 1 minute. Add sugar, lemon, and orange zest to mixer and whisk on high speed until mixture turns a pale yellow color with a ribbon-like texture, about 3 minutes. Turn mixer down to a medium speed, add in the olive oil in a slow stream until thoroughly mixed.
  • Add the rest of the wet ingredients until just mixed. Add the dry ingredients a little at a time until just incorporated, being sure to scrape the sides of the bowl to mix thoroughly but gently. 
  • Pour mixture into prepared pan and sprinkle the entire top with a generous dusting of sugar (about 2-3 tablespoons). 
  • Set cake on the middle oven rack and drop the oven temperature down to 350°. Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean or with a couple of soft crumbs. 
  • Remove cake from oven and let cool in pan for 15 minutes on a wire rack. Delicately remove springform ring by unlatching the hinge and lifting off carefully (This should come off quite easily, but if there is any sticking you can run a thin knife along the edge to separate the cake from the pan.)
  • Poke holes evenly around the entire top of the cake with a toothpick and drizzle a couple tablespoons more olive oil on top. Let cake cool on rack for about an hour.
  • This olive oil cake can be enjoyed warm or room temperature and keeps well for a few days in a covered cake stand or wrapped in plastic wrap. Serve simply or enjoy with sweetened whipped cream and fresh berries cooked in one of our fruit balsamics for a real treat! 




Photography by William Townsend of Popover Hawaii Hilo, Hawai‘i Island
Course: Dessert
Author: William Townsend of Popover Hawaii Hilo, Hawai‘i Island


  • Cast Iron Skillet or Pie Pan
  • Blender


  • 3 Eggs
  • ¾ Cup Milk
  • 2 Tbsp. Butter Melted
  • 2 Tbsp. Pumpkin Puree
  • ½ Cup Flour
  • 2 Tbsp. Corn Starch
  • 1 tsp. Salt
  • 1 Tbsp. Pumpkin Spice


  • Preheat oven to 450F and place a cast-iron skillet or pie pan into your oven while preheating. 
  • Blend the eggs, milk, and butter in a blender on high until smooth (about 2 minutes). 
  • Add flour, cornstarch, salt, and pumpkin spice to the blender and continue to blend until just combined. 
  • Carefully remove skillet / pie dish from the oven and add 1 tablespoon butter to the hot skillet. Swirl to completely coat the inside of the pan. 
  • While the pan is still hot, pour your blended batter into the skillet and return to the oven. Bake for approximately 20 minutes or until the edges puff up and turn golden brown. 
  •  Serve simply with a little syrup, butter, and powdered sugar, or get creative and top with maple-braised pears and nuts, or a quick stir fry of onions, bacon, and wilted arugula. 



IN 2013, ALA‘AMOE KEOLANUI TRADED in the heels she wore in the Kamehameha Schools admissions office for rubber boots to work alongside her husband Troy and their partner Ed Olson at the1,000-acre OK Farms (short for Olson and Keolanui). Nearly a decade before, they’d planted baby spice trees along a dirt path on their land bordering the Wailuku River, just to see how they’d grow. Fifty clove, allspice, curry, nutmeg and Ceylon cinnamon trees lined “Spice Road,” and every one of them flourished. As Spice Road became Ala’amoe’s passion project, the pull to make something happen with the yields grew along with her beloved trees. “I said [to my husband], we need to be doing more than just showing them off to the guests; we should be processing the spices into food.” 

Now Ala‘amoe and her family do all the harvesting and much of the processing by hand. Picking clove buds one-by-one to sell whole may be a fairly straightforward process, but cinnamon processing is a bit trickier. After Troy cuts down the branches with a chainsaw, Ala‘amoe uses a pressure washer to remove the moss and lichen. For dried sticks, she cuts the bark into pieces, leaving the outer bark on, and sets them out to dry. To make ground cinnamon, she pats the branch dry and “goes at it with a hammer” to detach the outer bark from the inner wood, since the inner wood has no medicinal properties. Then she uses a knife to shave the cinnamon off the bark and dries the shavings in thin strips. In the final step, a commercial grinder turns the shavings into a fine powder. 

Today, Spice Road is a highlight of OK Farm’s walking tour. In addition to exploring the verdant coffee, macadamia nut, cacao, heart of palm, lychee and longan trees on the farm, guests are treated to a multi-sensory spice experience. Ala‘amoe invites them to smell, touch and taste the leaves and guess which spices are which. Her mission is to show people how organic spices create new dimensions of flavor in food and heal the body in a variety of ways. She shares that clove is a natural pain reliever, known to help heal cuts and burns, and can also be used as a natural insect repellent. Allspice is an anti-bacterial and antifungal plant with powerful aromatherapy applications. Ceylon cinnamon, she says, is rich in antioxidants and a terrific immune booster.

OK Farms also sells a sixth spice—the lesser-known mace, which Ala‘amoe describes as the “bright red alien webbing” of the nutmeg seed with a flavor reminiscent of cinnamon and pepper. Among other uses, she fancies mace in chocolate chip cookies, granola and Indian dishes. “We sell it in shells, and it’s really easy to open at home,” she says. “You just put your body weight onto the shell and crack it, then grab that little ball of nutmeg in the center. Use a handheld grater to sprinkle it in your dishes, and store it in a sealed jar in your spice cabinet.” 


Two other farms on the Big Island are currently growing and processing spices—Wailea Agricultural Group on the Hāmākua Coast and Adaptations, a local CSA farm in Kealakekua—though Spice Road remains distinctive in its tour experience and diverse product mix. In 2015, Ala‘amoe started turning her spices into “healing mists,” fragrant sprays that combine essential oils and healing water extracted through a slow distillation process using ice water and steam heat. Good for topical and internal applications, the healing mists can be used as a spritz for the face and body, or for a health boost in foods and beverages.

Since adding the spice tour, Ala‘amoe and crew have enjoyed strong support from surrounding communities. “People are amazed at how the spices look in their true, fresh form,” she says. In addition to buying the spices on site or online, locals can taste OK Farm’s homegrown cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice in baked goods from Sundog Bread in Kona, or sample their curated curry while dining at Kamana Kitchen, an Indian restaurant in Hilo. 

At the end of the day, Ala‘amoe hopes her passion to grow organic spreads beyond the farm, along with the spices and knowledge she shares. “Why rely on the mainland when we can grow pretty much anything here?” she says. “The excitement to feed our own community starts from within—try growing something small at home, get the kids involved and see what happens!”

Clove is usually a summer crop, nutmeg is in season during the spring/summer and end of fall, and cinnamon and curry are available year-round. [eHI]



Of course, it is really who is gathered around the table that matters most, but the added element of a well-designed (or improvised!) table setting can help set the scene. An aesthetically pleasing table setting will start to ignite excitement before the food is even served.

With the holiday and birthday season knocking at our door, we invited a treasured friend, Melissa Newirth of Cloth and Goods, to guide us in the art of table setting. Inspired by Japanese culture and modern style, Melissa shows how the use of just a few items can create an easy elegance that your guests will appreciate.

Items on the table don’t need to match or have a color theme. If you love the item- if it catches your eye or sparks your imagination – it could be just the thing to add to your next celebratory spread. May the following pages inspire you to shop, gather, forage and even borrow items to add to your table setting at an upcoming weeknight dinner or holiday celebration. [eHI]




This plant belongs to the family Anacardiadeae, which includes the terebinth and the pistachio. Though sumacs are generally encountered as shrubs or small trees, they can grow up to 40 ft tall. Sumacs propagate both by seed (spread by birds and other animals), and by new shoots from rhizomes, forming large clonal colonies. The leaves are spirally arranged; though some species have trifoliate or simple leaves. The leaves contain a high proportion of tannin which is used in the manufacture of leather, giving rise to its Hebrew name, og ha-bursaka’im (“tanner’s sumac”).

The flowers appear in dense spikes 11” long. These greenish, creamy white or red flowers are very small and each has five petals. The female trees bear reddish fruits (in Syriac sumac means “red”) arranged in dense clusters called “drupes” or “sumac bobs”. The fruits are shaped like lentils, and are hairy with an acrid taste. The dried drupes of some species are ground to produce a tangy, crimson spice.

Sumac was used in drinks in the colonial United States, giving rise to the tradition of “pink lemonade”. The fruit (Rhus typhina, staghorn sumac) can be soaked in cold water to make a refreshing, vitamin C-rich beverage. Ground sumac powder can be used as a spice to add a tart, lemony taste to salads or meat. In Arab cuisine, it is used as a garnish on dishes such as hummus and tashi, and is added to salads in the Levant. It is also one of the main ingredients in Palestine’s national dish, musakhan.

In Afghan, Armenian, Bangladeshi, Indian, Iranian, Mizrahi, and Pakistani cuisines, sumac is added to rice or kebab. In Azerbaijani, Central Asian, Jordanian and Turkish cuisines, it is added to salads, kebab and lahmajoun. The variety Rhus coriaria is used in the spice mixture za’atar.

Talk Story – How You?


We were not “yell-over-the-fence” neighbors. Another apartment and a trash chute divided us. But a brightly lit hallway illuminated a path that connected us morning, noon and night for a decade in San Francisco as we exchanged the modern-day version of a cup of sugar: food.






Our neighbor’s apartment was always unlocked with a cold beer waiting for us in the fridge. Venturing next door to borrow this or that led to an invitation to stay. Our friends slipped a beverage into our hands as they ushered us to their dining room table. The Giants baseball game or evening news murmured in the background as we recapped our day. A bottle of tequila sat in the middle of the table inside a ring of shot glasses for anyone interested in a celebratory toast just for the hell of it.

Fresh bread appeared followed by a block of feta, a dish of locally cured olives, and a bottle of good olive oil as our neighbors made us honorary members of their Greek family. Eventually, a casserole such as moussaka, or whatever they were eating for dinner that night, arrived before us as a napkin materialized over our laps. 

Our friendship was comfortable. I never thought twice about stopping by to ask for a cup of this or a pinch of that. It was not about that anyway; it was about staying connected. This daily dialogue taught me that an ongoing exchange of food between kitchens can deepen a friendship. 

Since I moved to Honolulu, the practice of “borrowing” ingredients and sharing food has multiplied tenfold, not just with my neighbors, but also with pals from all over the island, and strangers, too. Celebrating this connection is a way of life here. 

Friends show up to lunch with bags of homegrown mangos in the summer and pass around sandwich baggies of pipikaula at pau hana. During our first holiday season on island, I was amazed at the number of edible treats that we received: bags of cookies, candies, wine and pie. Even a plastic container of homemade spaghetti with meat sauce wrapped in a red and green bow. 

We started meeting friends for dinner weekly at the same restaurant – a place where regulars line the bar and everyone knows everyone. Every week, someone brings something: barbecue pork ribs from Chinatown, creamy smoked salmon dip, dried fish seasoned with crunchy sea salt, chewy balls of mochi, Chex Mix – you name it. 

This routine exchange of food invites us to elevate ordinary interactions to celebrations. We do not wait for special occasions to acknowledge our connection. We use food to constantly celebrate our time together, our collective abundance, and our essential interdependence as an island community.

It is less about what kind of food we exchange and more about the creation of an ohana through the act of sharing. By bringing food to gatherings, we celebrate the simple act of spending time together. “Borrowing a cup of sugar” from a neighbor becomes an excuse to check in so that we can build and strengthen our connection. 

Through our generosity with food, we also celebrate the abundance mentality that community can generate. Living in an environment where everyone continually gives to one another is largely what evokes the warm, fuzzy feeling that I have developed toward Hawai‘i. Abundance circulates: What you give comes back. The more you give, the more you receive. 

This interdependence feels more important to celebrate now than it did in San Francisco. Maybe it is because we are secluded on a group of islands, made jointly vulnerable by our separation from the rest of the world; that idea alone makes me appreciate my neighbors more. Knowing that my neighbor has an ingredient that I might need in a jam may seem trivial, but it makes me feel supported and safe. It invites me to regularly celebrate the idea that, “We are all in this together.” The more I contribute to and celebrate these powerful facets of our connection, the more I receive from it. 

So, do not be shy. The next time that you are short on an ingredient, instead of running to the store, ask a neighbor. The worst outcome is that they do not have it and you head to the store. The best outcome is that you spark a lifelong friendship. 

Do not wait for an excuse to celebrate. Connection constantly offers one of the worthiest excuses available. [eHI]

Sarah Burchard is a natural foods chef, freelance writer, event coordinator, marketer and certified health coach. She is an advocate for family farms and embodies the phrase: support local. In addition to supporting small wellness-based businesses, writing for local publications and hosting farm-to-table events she leads farmers market tours in Honolulu, Hawai‘i.