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The Beauty of Whole Foods: Andaz Maui at Wailea’s ‘Awili Spa

In creating a concept for the spa at the new Andaz Maui at Wailea, the team looked no further than the kitchen.

Story by Sara Smith
Photos by Mieko Hoffman

Photo courtesy of Andaz Maui at Wailea
Photo courtesy of Andaz Maui at Wailea

No sign, no registration barricade—just an open room centering around a large, welcoming island. Bar stools entice: sit, stay awhile. It is what’s on the countertop that intrigues one to do so, neat rows of apothecary jars full of colors and textures. What is this stuff? Where am I?

Hyatt’s boutique Andaz brand opened its twelfth location worldwide on Maui last September.

The contemporary 297-room resort was built from the ground up on 15 oceanfront acres in the luxury Wailea Resort. Conscientious of guest experience, environmental accountability, and innovation, volumes of consideration went into planning and constructing the LEED-certified resort, the first of its kind in Hawai‘i.

As a brand, Andaz acts as a sponge soaking up the cultures, textures, tastes and personality of its surroundings. They turn to their staff, whom they view and empower as hired professionals, to interpret these traits and accentuate their core values. For the signature ‘Awili spa on Maui, this meant transforming a loose “apothecary lounge” concept into a full-blown spa kitchen. And the menu changes daily.

Andaz Maui at Wailea - Awili Spa Salon Apothecary Lounge“It started with oil infusions and catapulted from there,” begins Katie Foster. She and Teresa Blackwell were hired months before opening to develop the concept at ‘Awili, which is a Hawaiian word meaning ‘to mix, blend, entwine.’ The two form the spa’s apothecary consultant team and are directly responsible for the contents of all those enticing jars on the counter.

Taking a tip from the resort chefs, the spa team immediately got out to meet their local farmers. Fresh-picked herbs were harvested in Kula and sent through the spa’s trusty dehydrator. When pulverized with mortar and pestle, these dried herbs released scents so vibrant, the women were compelled to experiment with a wider range of ingredients—all culinary grade, all locally sourced from the islands.

“It’s a little science, a little culinary, a little spa, a lot of fun,” summarizes Teresa. On one visit the team was giddy over a new collection of tinctures they’d created using tea concentrates suspended in local honey (a humectant and natural stabilizer, they tell me.) While traditional tinctures have an alcohol base, these are moisturizing—not to mention delicious.

Their excitement is infectious. Spa director Jackie Yulo, who has opened six spas for the company, is astounded with the growth and development at ‘Awili. She says the concept is being adopted by two new Andaz properties in Costa Rica and Tokyo.

Yulo keeps providing more room for the women to experiment. Although plumeria proved confounding, the team is eager to begin working with different limu (seaweed) once a trusted source can be found.

Andaz Maui at Wailea - Awili Spa Salon Apothecary LoungeA collaboration with the resort’s kitchen catapulted their vision for a food-based apothecary. From the Bar Lab, a room hidden deep in the kitchen where all cocktail mixes, juices and syrups are hand concocted, the women picked up fresh cucumber juice and more fodder for their dehydrator: citrus peels, jalapeño lees and fresh ginger fibers. The pungency of the spa team’s house-made ground ginger powder inspired the chef, now the kitchen is drying and grinding many of their own herbs and spices. They’re all vying for time in the commercial-grade, large capacity food dehydrator.

The culinary team reciprocates trade secrets, introducing them, for instance, to xanthan gum. With this plant-derived emulsifier and thickener the spa can spontaneously whip up amazing treatment gels, which they now offer.

Andaz Maui at Wailea - Awili Spa Salon Apothecary LoungeDuring my interview, a pool attendant came to Katie for help, concerned for a guest with a severe sunburn. I watched as a beautiful relief gel was whisked together of fresh cucumber juice, peppermint oil, chamomile, glycerin and a touch of xanthan gum. The custom blend was provided gratis to the guest, a level of service indicative of Andaz.

Spa treatments as nourishment, healing, relaxation and rejuvenation are rituals perfected over the ages. What ‘Awili does so well is draw upon the purity and simplicity of ancient wisdom. Vitamin C provides a natural sunscreen boost, so powdered citrus peels make for a smart addition to body treatments here in Hawai‘i. If a client comes in jet-lagged or hungover, a touch of jalapeño or cayenne powder may be recommended for the capsaicin, which is vaso-constricting and stimulates the lymphatic system. And the moisturizing properties of fresh, locally grown foods like kukui and macadamia nuts, coconut and avocado will beat any manufactured lotion, they’d bet. Katie nails it: “The treatments are actually feeding your skin.”

By sourcing the healing properties of whole foods, they’re able to nourish skin naturally without any pesky preservatives, parabens or other chemical additives. And, as drastic allergies become more prevalent, a program like this offers welcome transparency to the product used and the purity of its ingredients.

Not to mention, they can customize beyond expectation.

Back to all those glass jars on the counter. They are, as I discovered, a veritable mise en place for ‘Awili’s signature omakase spa experience, a Japanese concept meaning “faith in you.” The personalized experience begins with a consultation to discuss desired results, allergy concerns or specific ailments, a client’s intuition helps guide what their body needs and wants most. Teresa describes it as a time to touch and play. Out come tools like cutting boards, whisks, scoopers and more. Working together, custom treatment blends are created at the table—whole foods, purees, powders, oils and more adjusted until deemed perfect. It’s a long-proven fact that every party ends up in the kitchen, which could account for a large part of the fun at ‘Awili.

Andaz Maui at Wailea - Awili Spa Salon Apothecary LoungeThe type of massage dictates the viscosity of the blend they’ll make: a loose and slippery blend works best with the sweeping strokes of a lomilomi massage, while something that provides a little more grip is in order for deep-tissue work. Scrub textures can be soft (coconut flakes), medium (turbinado sugar), or coarse (sea salt). Scents and flavors (it’s all edible!) are chosen for desired effect or simply personal preference. Careful notes are taken for each client and for each recipe, so guests can request a repeat of a favorite treatment.

My omakase resulted in a scrub of both kosher and sea salt—used together for different textures—sage, basil and lavender powders, avocado oil and fresh avocado used as a binding agent. A dropper of essential oil was added, a blend of bergamot, basil, lemon, grapefruit and lavender. A special spot treatment was made for a small patch of eczema on my hand, a blend with calendula, chamomile mixed with one of the honey tinctures. I was sent home with extra to reapply later.

My massage blend consisted of ingredients I mostly had in my own kitchen: coconut milk, coconut oil and kukui and macadamia nut oils. To my delight, Teresa grabbed a nubby pink awapuhi flower (Hawaiian shampoo ginger) from the vase and squeezed its fresh, fragrant nectar into the blend. Instant bliss.

While each guest’s treatment may be deliciously different and each formulation unique, it’s clear that after experiencing the ‘Awili Spa, there is only one possible conclusion: Heaven.

 

Eat Well, Live Well: A Game Plan for Health with Chef Leslie Ashburn

O‘ahu-based macrobiotic chef and life coach, Leslie Ashburn, lays out a fail-safe game plan to live and feel better in the new year, one meal at a time.

Story by Leslie Ashburn
Photos and food styling by Ja Soon Kim

Now that the new year has arrived, it’s a perfect chance to set a healthful course for 2014 by reflecting on your diet and lifestyle. This year, “spring clean” early by focusing on the foods you eat and changing a few habits.

To undo the bad stuff (who didn’t splurge this past holiday season?), there are several gentle steps you can take to cleanse and detox. For the purposes of this article, this means aiding your body to release accumulated toxins and create the optimal conditions for your body’s organs to function most efficiently. The simple ways laid out for you here will naturally prepare your body and mind for success. My suggestions are meant for long-term, sustainable health — there are no magic bullets here. And, as you’ll see, cleansing can be gentle and actually quite delicious!

Diet Dos & Don’ts

First, DO take the middle path with your diet and DON’T go to extremes. Strict fasts (such as liquid-only diets) may produce short-term results. Their severity, however, often results in a yo-yo effect, sending people back and forth between overeating and not eating enough. If you greatly restrict your calories, it is inevitable that you’ll end up with a strong urge to binge. Situationally, a fast may be appropriate on a sojourn in the woods or while on a meditative yoga retreat, but for people who need to show up for a full-time job, parent, or who like to exercise, it is neither functional nor practical.

While it’s not healthy to overly restrict your diet, it is important to limit certain foods. DO avoid consumption of antibiotic- and hormone-laden animal foods, refined sugar, too much coffee, alcohol and anything containing nitrates, food colorings, preservatives and additives. If your goal is to clean up a polluted ocean, river or lake, it makes little sense to continue to dump toxins into it. In general, your best bet is to avoid anything processed. If it has gone through a factory of some kind, is in a box, a can or is pre-made, then it’s processed!

DO eat wholesome, nutritious regular meals three times per day to keep your blood sugar levels even. Eat your last meal at least three hours before you go to bed. Your liver and kidneys work their detox magic at night and need all available energy to do so. Dealing with a full stomach zaps energy from other organs, leaving you feeling tired and sluggish when you wake up.

DO switch your thinking. Sometimes overly concentrating on avoiding certain foods makes them even more tempting — like that chocolate cake in the fridge that you absolutely “shouldn’t” eat. Instead, turn your focus to adding new, amazingly healthful things into your daily diet.

The best possible diet you can adopt in order to rebalance and cleanse your body is a whole-food, plant-based diet with ingredients grown as close to the source as possible with organic farming methods. Eat this way as often as possible. This diet is easy for your body to digest, freeing up energy that would otherwise be spent trying to clean and filter your organs. It is also fills your system with good stuff — valuable nutrients, vitamins, minerals and more.

My suggestions for a whole-food, plant-based diet include: unrefined starches and whole grains, such as organic brown rice, quinoa, barley, oats, sweet potatoes, taro and breadfruit; a wide variety of vegetables prepared in different ways, including root vegetables like burdock root (gobo), round vegetables like kabocha, and hardy, dark leafy greens like kale; beans and bean products; sea vegetables; naturally fermented vegetables like kimchee or sauerkraut; and lastly, fruits, nuts, and seeds. These foods are low in calories, high in fiber, and you can pretty much eat as much as you like.

You absolutely DON’T need to deprive yourself, ever! DON’T feel that you’re going to be eating sticks and rocks, either. There is a world of incredible food out there just waiting for you to discover! In fact, Forbes rated well-crafted vegan cuisine as one of the top trends of 2013.

Food is Medicine

While eating a variety of unrefined, plant-based foods is the most important thing you can do to give your system a rest and help it rebuild, it’s also important to know how foods affect your body. After all, food is medicine!

Easy first steps include adding the following items into your diet. First, homemade soups are an excellent way to fill up, not out (avoid adding too much sodium and fat). Soups are very gentle on your digestion, which can often be taxed due to overconsumption of the standard American diet. In particular, miso soup made from “unpasteurized” or “unrefined,” organic soybeans is an excellent way to build immunity, cleanse your blood and alkalinize your system.

Limu, or seaweed, is an often over-looked food that is rich in essential minerals. It helps your kidneys function well, and aids in removing heavy metals from your body. I highly recommend certified organic, in this case.

Sauerkraut and other fermented foods aid digestion and help your liver in assimilating oily foods and fat. These are especially important for us to eat in the spring. Sour flavors are also great for cleaning out the liver, such as umeboshi plums (without MSG), and fresh-squeezed lemon juice. Other fat-dissolving foods include daikon radish and dried shiitake mushrooms.

Kale and other dark leafy greens are what I consider the secret fountain of youth. In fact, in Oriental medicine, they are associated with spring cleansing and liver purification.

Kukicha tea is a full-bodied and flavorful tea (available in your local health food store) that is alkalinizing and cleansing to the blood.

Eat, Breathe, Rest

While food is a critical component in cleansing and detoxing, it’s just one piece of the health puzzle. Just as important is gentle exercise. Activities like gardening, yoga, or going for a walk, hike, surf, SUP or swim enable you to breathe in fresh air and sweat out toxins.

Lastly, practice a daily body scrub so that your skin, the largest organ in your body, can more easily release toxins. Pamper yourself with massages. Practice meditation. Turn off the TV or close the newspaper while you’re eating your meals (your entire environment is “food”). Get ample rest to allow your body to heal from stress.

“What do I have to look forward to?” you ask. The list is long: getting along better with your loved ones, easier weight management, clearer skin, deeper sleep, better moods, more energy, reduced cravings, and protection and healing from a wide variety of lifestyle-related illnesses.

Here’s to YOUR healthful 2014!

Leslie Ashburn is an internationally trained personal chef, educator, blogger and life coach. She is a Level 3 graduate of the Kushi International Extension Program in Osaka, Japan, mastering in “Samurai Macrobiotics,” a holistic approach to well-being. She loves challenging stereotypes about what it means to eat healthy.

 

Growing Future Farmers: Localicious Hawai‘i

Story by Heidi Pool
Photos by Steve Brinkman

How a Maui group set out to grow future farmers one salad at a time, and wound up inspiring a “localicious” movement across the State.

It all started with a salad. And the potential impact of a humble dollar. Literally.

In the fall of 2011, members of Maui County Farm Bureau’s “Grown on Maui” committee were pondering the fact that a typical principal farm operator in Hawai‘i is around 60 years old. “We realized we needed to do something to foster up-and-coming farmers,” says committee member Charlene Ka‘uhane. “Maui County’s Office of Economic Development is a strong supporter of our programs, but we’d maxed out on our existing funding, and realized we needed to explore other avenues.”

Fresh Local Salad Grown in Hawaii

From this conversation, the Farm Bureau’s “Localicious, Dine Out Maui” promotion was born. Participating restaurants create a salad made with locally grown ingredients and designate these items with the Grown on Maui logo. For every salad sold, a dollar is donated to the Bureau’s Growing Future Farmers fund, administered by the Hawai‘i Agricultural Foundation. Since its inception, the campaign has raised an impressive $13,000. “That’s a lot of salads,” Charlene chuckles.

Proceeds from Localicious, Dine Out Maui are distributed in the form of grants and scholarships for new farmers and ranchers to start or enhance agricultural businesses in Maui County. “Scholarship recipients are graduates of the University of Hawai‘i Maui College’s agricultural program who wish to complete four-year studies at UH Hilo or Oregon State University,” Charlene reports.

Existing farmers may apply for grants to expand their businesses. “Smaller farmers need just a little help, not a huge amount of money,” says committee member Chef Chris Schobel, formerly of Hula Grill. “Who knows, a scholarship or grant recipient could be the person who comes up with something really significant, all because we’re selling salads.”

But growing future farmers isn’t just about raising money. The Grown on Maui Committee has hosted several meetings with chefs and farmers so each can understand the other’s needs. “When we first began our meetings, we really didn’t know each other,” says committee member Eric Faivre, executive chef at the Grand Wailea. “They didn’t know what we needed, and we didn’t know what they grew. So we made lists of ten items we always use, like Romaine lettuce, and ten specialty items we’d like to have, like baby carrots and artichokes.”

Growing Future Farmers“Sourcing ingredients is harder than it looks,” says Tylun Pang, committee member and executive chef at the Fairmont Kea Lani’s Ko Restaurant. “This program has opened up some amazing doors. It’s given me a greater respect for what our farmers deal with every day. We now have a relationship, and it’s no longer about buying veggies in a box.”

Committee chairman Darren Strand, president of Maui Gold Pineapple Company, also applauds the collaboration. “The farmers said, ‘I wish I could sell more,’ and the chefs said, ‘I wish I could buy more.’ This program helps farmers sell more products, identifies restaurants willing to support ag, and creates a funding source to educate the next generation of farmers.”

Chef Schobel adds another campaign benefit, the opportunity for restaurant servers and guests to interact about the importance of the island’s ag industry: “Guests feel positive about eating something delicious that’s grown on Maui and making a donation for a worthy cause.”

Committee member Scott McGill, executive chef of TS Restaurants group, which owns Hula Grill and Duke’s Beach House, specifically trains his staff members on the program. “We take them on farm visits, and we’ve had Dave Horsman from Ho‘opono Farms come into our restaurants to meet everyone,” he says. “I’m excited about the program, which makes our staff excited, which makes our guests excited.”

The Chefs behind Localicious

Localicious Hawai‘i

During the month of March, the Localicious campaign expands to encompass all Hawaiian Islands, not just Maui. “When we discovered how successful the Maui County Farm Bureau’s Localicious program has been, we saw an opportunity to create a statewide initiative,” says Denise Hayashi Yamaguchi, executive director of the Hawai‘i Ag Foundation.

Restaurants participating in Localicious Hawai‘i have designated an item on their menu (not necessarily a salad) that’s made with locally grown, caught or raised products, and a portion of the proceeds goes towards statewide ag education. Localicious Hawai‘i is chaired by renowned chef Alan Wong, who has restaurants on both O‘ahu and Maui.

“Restaurants raising at least $500 during the month of March can adopt a local school where the Foundation’s Ag in the Classroom program will be implemented,” says Denise. “The Foundation will partner with public school teachers to introduce an innovative national agricultural program in the classroom beginning in fall 2014. Our goal for this year’s Localicious Hawai‘i campaign is 60 participating restaurants generating $50,000 in donations, and we plan to make it an annual event.”

And it all began with a simple salad

Growing Future Farmers - Salad

“Growing future farmers is critical to the perpetuation of Hawai‘i’s agricultural industry,” says Charlene Ka‘uhane, “and ag education is fundamental to ensuring its continued viability. We want our keiki to know where their food comes from, understand ag’s importance in our communities, and see farming as a genuine career opportunity.”

“Localicious is a perfect example of how giving now pays off in the future,” says Chef Schobel.

To find out which Hawai‘i restaurants are participating in the Localicious Hawai‘i campaign during the month of March, visit www.localicioushawaii.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the Chef’s Table: Maui Executive Catering’s Gourmet Laboratory in Haʻikū

Tucked in a quiet corner of rural Haʻikū is a kitchen producing some of the most impressive locally-sourced cuisine on the island. Here, you are invited to pull up a chair at the prep table for a feast of the senses. A notable group of Maui culinary talent did just that recently; here’s what happened.

Story by Shannon Wianecki
Photos by Mieko Hoffman

The chefs rolled in like a gang, excited to escape their own kitchens for a night and curious to see what the buzz was about. Jeff Scheer, owner of Maui Executive Catering, had invited them to a private dinner at his commercial kitchen in Haʻikū, Maui. Scheer’s guests hailed from the island’s top restaurants and represented the new guard: young, hungry and über-talented. One was fresh off the set of Top Chef; another had recently traveled the world with Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto. Not an easy crowd to impress—but if the evening’s host felt any trace of intimidation, he didn’t show it.

Maui Executive CateringScheer sported a spiffy chef’s coat and wild dreadlocks barely restrained by a bright bandana. He welcomed the entourage into his immaculate kitchen, where he was about to prepare a seven-course feast—live and unrehearsed—in front of them. His knowing guests eyed the machinery, the spit-shined industrial stoves, the enormous walk-in, the sous-vide cooker and the dehydrator. They took their seats around a stainless steel prep table that had been transformed with elegant place settings.

Scheer and his business partner, Jason Hacker, explained their mission: to provide next-level cuisine for catered events and to open up their kitchen for exclusive chef’s table dinners, like this one. Maui Executive Catering’s headquarters may be off the beaten path, said Scheer, but it benefits from close proximity to island farms. Everything on the evening’s menu—from the octopus to the heart of palm—had been harvested nearby.

And with that, the banquet began. Scheer produced one mesmerizing course after the next. First came a tomato water teaser, playfully studded with chia seeds and a dollop of rich crème fraiche. This acidic shot across the bow was followed by octopus crudo—a slice of edible stained glass that shimmered beneath coconut water gelée. The tender white flesh was crowned with micro mustards, nasturtiums, and rainbow radishes sliced as thin as fairy wings.

“Food is art,” Scheer said. “You taste it first with your eyes.”

MHH_6010The chefs snapped photos, posting them to their social media accounts with glowing descriptions. And then they ate, murmuring and nodding as they savored each bite. Everyone fawned over the venison rillettes—irresistible shreds of braised rib and shank meat rolled in house-made granola, set on a generous smear of puréed fennel and accented with a whimsical dab of oat foam. It was a deeply satisfying dish, perhaps something Red Riding Hood’s hero would have feasted on before slaying the wolf.

Next came an organic rib eye slathered in rich bone marrow, which Scheer torch-seared into a crust. Tucked alongside was braised oxtail ragout, heart of palm and faux bone marrow in a playful bamboo “bone.” By this point, the chefs who were tweeting gave up listing individual ingredients—who could keep up? Clearly impressed, they began to wonder: Who is this guy?

One of the attendees knew the host well: Kyle Kawakami, a former instructor at Maui Culinary Academy. Scheer had been a promising student there just a few years back. After graduating in 2006, the Ohio transplant catapulted into a full-time catering career. He started out cooking for dive boats in the wee hours, in a borrowed pizza kitchen. He’s since built a brag-worthy kitchen of his own, returned to teach at his alma mater and quietly ratcheted up the standards for private dining on Maui.

Maui Executive CateringIn addition to attending Maui Culinary Academy, Scheer studied at the Culinary Institute of America and “staged” (that’s chef-speak for apprenticed) at Bottega and Flour + Water in California. In Honolulu, he did stints at Mavro’s and Town. Perhaps most significantly, for two years he spent every Monday elbow-deep in the soil at Kupa‘a Farms down the road, where he grew the vegetables he’d later cook.

Hacker, a long-time friend from Ohio, joined him in 2008. “We were working around the clock for the first few years,” says Scheer. The boats needed provisions 365 days a year, so the men didn’t get a day off. But on New Year’s Day in 2010, a rainstorm flooded Kihei and the boat trips were cancelled. Rather than celebrate or rest, Scheer and Hacker rang in the New Year by relocating their business to Ha‘iku , the heart of Maui’s farmland.

Maui Executive CateringThe small space in Ha‘iku Town Center was a shambles; the men transformed it into a gourmet laboratory. They painted the walls persimmon and rewired the electrical outlets to handle the commercial equipment they’d acquired. Among their investments: an enormous deck oven with steam-injection and a stone baking surface. “It cost a fortune to get it here,” says Hacker.

It was worth every penny: Scheer’s sourdough baguettes and loaves of multi-grain—made with fresh-milled flour—will make artisan bread fans weep with gratitude.

Today, Maui Executive Catering is the go-to choice for event planners with clients who are serious about food. It’s the primary caterer for Ha‘iku Mill, one of the island’s prettiest, most exclusive wedding venues. Catering allows Scheer to be more responsive than a typical restaurant chef. He can craft meals entirely around a client’s desires and neighboring farms’ freshest produce. His commitment to quality is impeccable; he makes everything from scratch. In the hinterlands of Ha‘iku , he’s crafting hyper-local cuisine that could easily compete with the most sophisticated plates in Manhattan.

A single dinner takes Scheer around three days to prepare. Often he’ll start with a Flintstone-sized slab of organic beef from Beef & Blooms, which he expertly breaks down into recognizable cuts: ribeye, short rib, chuck. He grinds the extra bits for dumplings and sliders, simmers the bones into stock and gives the scraps to Kupa‘a Farms. This semester he’s teaching Maui Culinary Academy students how to do the same: not just to carve perfect cuts, but also to purchase meat directly from local ranchers and maximize every morsel.

Maui Executive CateringSo what compelled this ambitious young chef to summon the sharpest knives on the island over for dinner? He explained over dessert—a complex affair involving fresh-spun cardamom ice cream, mint gelée, coffee cake and passion fruit leather.

“We’re all passionate and have our own styles, but I think we agree that restaurants need to change the way they source food,” said Scheer, having just served a meal that amply backed his argument. “It’s important to stay connected. One person doesn’t have that much power, but together we have influence.”

He had invited his colleagues to share his kitchen and collaborate on chef’s table dinners; their response was one of giddy enthusiasm. Everyone talked at once about raising the bar within the island’s culinary industry, rallying support for small, local farms and, essentially, starting a food-driven revolution. The evening began to take on historic overtones. What will result from this meeting of culinary minds? Impossible to say. But when a chef’s imagination is stirred, everyone’s palate wins.

To experience the magic yourself, book a seat at Maui Executive Catering chef’s table. Scheer, or perhaps one of his new comrades, will wow you with the best Maui has to offer.

 

Taking Root: 200 Years of Coffee in Hawai‘i

Story by Margaret Kearns

This year, coffee—one of Hawai‘i’s heritage crops—celebrates its 200th anniversary of taking root in the islands. If not the largest agricultural crop in the State, coffee is among its most romantic, often nuanced with the impassioned sensorial descriptors akin to viniculture. And while conversations over a cup of joe can linger on subtleties of terroir and mouthfeel, Hawai‘i coffee-growers today are navigating the future—and threats—of their $34.6 million per year industry.

According to records, Hawai‘i’s first coffee plant was introduced in 1813 through King Kamehameha I’s Spanish advisor, Don Francisco de Paula y Marin. His royal journal noted planting the seedlings on O‘ahu, though little is known of the fate of that planting. In 1828 missionary Samuel Ruggles brought the first coffee tree to Kona, and by the 1930s coffee had become a commercial product in Hawai‘i—the only state in the nation to successfully cultivate the crop. (For the full historical timeline, check out this post.)

Two centuries later, more than 800 coffee farms operate across the islands. A whopping 700 of these farms are on Hawai‘i Island, most averaging just five acres in size. According to Hawaii Coffee Association’s (HCA) statistics, Hawai‘i Island is at the heart of the multi-million industry, with its ideal growing conditions of rich volcanic soil, climate and elevations of 1,000 to 3,000 feet. Across Hawai‘i, coffee is primarily farmed in the Kona tradition: hand-picked, fermented, and washed.

While Kona coffee continues to be the most renowned, the bean thrives in 11 growing regions across the islands, including areas on O‘ahu, Moloka‘i, Maui, and Kaua‘i. HCA president Greg Stille, a Maui-based grower himself, points out that in recent years, Ka‘u and Hamakua on Hawai‘i Island, as well as coffee farms on other islands, are challenging Kona’s top spot.

Numbers indicate that pouring a mug of Hawaii-grown coffee will continue to be a premium experience. Reports from the annual HCA conference held in July estimate the total coffee crop at 7.2 million pounds, down 5 percent from last year. While planted acreage remained unchanged at 8,000, harvested acreage logged in at 6,100, a 25 percent dip. Despite the decline in yield, the association estimates total coffee farm revenues to be up 10 percent this season.

“The good news/ bad news is demand for our specialty coffee here [in Hawai‘i] and in worldwide markets exceeds availability, resulting in higher prices for our coffee. One of the industry’s biggest challenges is finding more land in ideal coffee growing areas and attracting like-minded individuals committed to sustainably growing and cultivating outstanding quality beans,” Stille says.

Kaanapali Coffee FarmsIn fact, Stille, who together with his wife Susy, owns and operates the two-acre, boutique Piliani Kope Farm above the town of Lahaina on Maui, is personally on the search for more coffee acreage. He’s eyeing four different farms located in Kona, ranging from 12 to 108 acres.

A Mighty Threat

That Stille is even considering property in the Kona region is an indicator that he’s bullish on the success of a collaborative effort to tackle a tiny but dangerous pest. The Coffee Berry Borer (CBB) beetle was discovered on Kona district farms three years ago and has since destroyed up to 80 percent of infested crops, forcing many to stop cultivation. (Remember that 25 percent drop in harvested acres?)

Tom Greenwell, a fourth-generation Kona coffee grower, explains: “Up until 2010, Hawai‘i was just one of two coffee producing regions in the world not affected by the Coffee Borer Beetle—the most destructive of all coffee farm pests. For more than 150 years, growing coffee here had been relatively easy. We’re blessed with ideal conditions, soil, weather and elevation among them. That’s not to say we haven’t had our share of challenges over the years, such as drought, other pests and high labor costs, but nothing as potentially devastating as this.”

While CBB is not the only reason for harvest shortfalls and increased retail pricing (land and labor costs also contribute), it is by far the biggest. Preventing its spread to other growing regions is imperative to the health of Hawai‘i’s coffee industry.

Such grave threat to our nation’s only coffee growers was a wake-up call in Washington DC: this February, $1 million was made available toward the effort to combat the pest thanks to the efforts of U.S. Senator Mazie Hirono, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and grassroots groups like the Kona Coffee Farmers Association and the Coffee Berry Borer Task Force.

Kona Coffee Farmers Association President Cecelia Smith and her husband Bob, both descendants of sugar plantation families, have been cultivating their five-acre Smith Farms Kona coffee for 25 years in Honaunau, the area hardest hit by the borer beetle. As they watched their crop yields decrease by 40 percent while facing increased costs for pesticides, they somberly considered giving up on the business they’d spent over a quarter-century building.

“We’re extremely grateful to the USDA and to Mazie; $1 million is a large amount of money and the best part is it will be used to fund science-based research, that’s exactly what we need—long-term scientific research,” she says. “It’s so much more help than attempting to fight it yourself.”

Beyond Kona

CoH-Molokai red dirtIn the meantime, coffee farms on all five islands are continuing to improve growing methods and processing techniques to bring out the unique flavor profiles found in several distinct coffee varieties— Arabic Typica, Red Caturra, Catuai, Pache, and Bourbon.

Far from the small farms of Hawai‘i Island is Kauai Coffee Company, Hawai‘i’s first and largest commercial coffee orchard. The mammoth 3,100-acre plantation drip-irrigates its 4 million trees (possibly the largest coffee plantation in the world to do so), uses mechanical harvesters, and wet processes their beans using aqua-pulpers for mucilage removal. Kauai Coffee Company alone comprises nearly 40 percent of the 8,000 acres in coffee production in Hawai‘i.

At the other end of the spectrum, and island, are John and Daphne McClure, owners of Moloa‘a Bay Coffee near Hanalei. The couple has been farming award-winning coffee on six acres for over a decade. All of his 3,000 Kona Typica trees are sustainably grown, hand-picked and naturally processed. They do all the demanding work from planting and stumping (pruning trees to their stumps), processing, roasting, packaging, and marketing themselves.

“I do most of the farming, while Daphne handles packaging, marketing and sales,” McClure says. “We bring in a small crew to help during peak harvest times.”

His hands-on approach has not gone unnoticed. For the last three years, Moloa‘a Bay Coffee has claimed first place in their division in HCA’s esteemed annual cupping competition.

On the Friendly Isle, the only source for 100 percent Moloka‘i-grown coffee comes from Coffees of Hawai‘i, the island’s only grower. The the 500-acre estate is planted with the Red Catuai, an Arabica variety, selected for its superior quality and compatibility with local growing conditions. The established orchards are rooted in the vivid red soil on the upper slopes of Kualapu‘u, right in the heart of the island.

And what of that initial recipient of the mighty bean, O‘ahu? While early attempts at cultivation on the south side of the island proved unsuccessful, coffee found a nurturing home on its famed North Shore. Waialua Estate Coffee and Cacao, a division of the Dole Food Company, was founded in the late 1990s on land previously cultivated in sugar and pineapple. At that time, Chairman David Murdock determined that the area’s nutrient-rich volcanic soil, abundant rainfall and plentiful sunshine would produce coffee and cacao to rank “among the world’s best.” Along with extraordinary quality and flavor, Murdock was especially interested in the healthful antioxidant benefits of the two products. To this day, they use beneficial insects for their pest management program, allowing them to grow crops pesticide-free.

Waialua Estate’s 155-acre coffee farm sits above the coastal towns of Haleiwa and Waialua at a 700-foot elevation, while the 20-acre cacao orchard is situated at sea level along the banks of the Kaukonahua River near Waialua town.

For an up-close and personal taste of the rich history and flavors of Hawai‘i grown coffee, don’t miss the Kona Coffee Cultural Festival on Hawai“i Island November 1–10, 2013, or the Ka‘ū Coffee Festival held each spring.

200 Years of Coffee in Hawaii

Hamakua Mushrooms, Big Islands, Hawaii

Mushrooming Affair: Hamakua Mushrooms on Hawai‘i Island

Story by Fern Gavelek

Hamakua Mushrooms, Big Island, HawaiiIt’s all about fungi at Hamakua Mushrooms.

Here, over 5,000 pounds of specialty and exotic mushrooms are grown weekly at a specialized facility in rural Laupahoehoe on the Big Island. The fresh fungi is used statewide by chefs and local residents alike, while isle companies are sourcing the tasty ‘shrooms to produce cookies, chips, lavosh, trail mix, butters and honey. There’s even a mushroom coffee in the works.

All the fuss has jump-started the State’s only gourmet mushroom-growing tours, complete with cooking demonstrations and tastings. Hamakua Mushrooms’ on-site boutique is stocked with mushroom value-added products as well as gifts. The 35-acre Hamakua Heritage Farm, Inc. is also offering private celebrations in its Chef House, complete with a gourmet kitchen to concoct cuisine showcasing,what else, Hamakua Mushrooms!

The mushroom mania is the brainchild of a former O‘ahu helicopter company owner, Bob Stanga, and his wife, Janice, an interior designer. They broke ground on their 16,000-square-foot fungi facility in 2000.

“I love food grown in Hawai‘i and wanted to get involved somehow,” Bob shares. “It has been exciting and challenging.”

Forage Not

Hamakua Mushrooms (HM) grows wood-decomposing mushrooms in a substrate made with eucalyptus sawdust, wheat bran, corncob and water. A “baking bread” aroma wafts though the facility, which is a series of environmentally controlled rooms. The process involves the science of mycology (fungi), which means that sterility and exacting conditions are key to success. In addition to growing edible mushrooms, HM also makes its own mushroom spawn in an on-site tissue culture lab.

To produce mushrooms, the substrate is poured into plastic bottles, cooked, sterilized and then cooled before mushroom spawn is carefully placed inside. In a 75-degree incubation room, mycelium (roots) colonize the bottles for up to four weeks. Next, a machine scrapes a layer of roots from the top to activate the mushroom growing stage. In the growing room, light, humidity and carbon dioxide are regulated to provide optimal conditions for up to 20 days. The result is “bouquets” of fresh, flavorful mushrooms that are organically grown, free of pesticides and chemicals.

HM’s bottle cultivation method is automated and it takes about five weeks to produce a mushroom. Stanga says Hamakua Mushrooms first grew fungi in bags by hand, but switched to the current growing method in 2004 to up production. “We do over 3,000 bottles daily,” he points out.

Japanese mycologist (mushroom grower) Kyozen Shoji pioneered the bottle cultivation method. Stanga learned of the method from Gourmet Mushrooms in California.

In addition to changing the growing method, HM also improved the substrate formula by incorporating wheat bran and using a denser corncob from Iowa. “Corn adds nitrogen and form to the mixture and the wheat bran is easy for the mushrooms to eat,” Stanga explains. Trees for the eucalyptus sawdust are sourced from Kamehameha Schools land adjacent to the facility.

Hamakua Mushrooms, Big Islands, HawaiiTo decide which mushrooms to grow, Bob says HM tested the market by shipping samples to chefs. Until recently, the company was producing four different mushrooms, each boasting its own culinary characteristics: the gray oyster with a mild flavor and chewy texture; the robust-flavored pioppini with signature dark brown caps and cream stems; the firm-textured and nutty flavored ali‘i (trumpet) with meaty, one-inch-in-diameter stems; and the pepeiao, a fungi strain only found in Hawai’i that has a slight flavor and chewy crunch.

According to Lani Weigert, HM’s director of marketing and customer relations, HM is dropping pepeiao from its inventory and is newly growing abalone mushrooms. Abalone is a traditional earthy mushroom with a pronounced rich and buttery flavor.

“The preferences of chefs drive our market,” explains Weigert. “What they want has a lot to do with what we grow. They like the abalone.”

Farm To Table

A stable of top Hawai‘i chefs are using Hamakua Mushrooms. Chef Roy Yamaguchi showcased the pioppini mushroom in a bisque that became a top seller in his restaurants. When Chef Alan Wong was summoned to the White House to cook for President Obama, he took the Big Island mushrooms with him. In May of 2013, Royal Hawaiian Hotel Executive Chef Jon Matsubara featured HM in a “Cooking Local” segment on NBC News’ “TODAY” show.

Hamakua Mushrooms

Casey Halpern, executive chef at Café Pesto in Hilo, says the availability of having locally grown mushrooms has been a “godsend” and enables him to take dishes requiring mushrooms to a different level.

“When we used Mainland mushrooms there were problems with quality and freshness,” Chef Halpern notes. “We use HM in our Hamakua Mushroom Risotto, Smoked Salmon Alfredo and pizza. We’re working on a mushroom poke for special occasions.” Perry Bateman, executive chef of Mama’s Fish House on Maui, says, “We use Hamakua Mushrooms as a main ingredient and part of a dish to make bisque, braised beef, salads, soup and fish entrees. Our favorite is the ali‘i mushrooms; they are very versatile and can be used raw, marinated, sautéed and grilled.”

The popularity of the mushrooms with Hawai‘i residents has also been crucial to HM’s success according to owner Janice Stanga, who expects close to $2 million in sales this year. She credits Costco’s interest in HM as pivotal to its growth. “At the very beginning, we went to Costco to buy steel racks and their Seattle office called and asked why we needed so many,” she explains. “After finding out we had a mushroom farm, Costco came out to see us and decided to carry our mushrooms.”

Prizing HM’s partnerships with chefs and the local business community, Weigert comments on the importance of collaborating with others to create value-added products, “It takes a village to raise a business, and we reach out across the island to be included in product lines,” she notes. “Value-added products are 75-95 percent revenue for a farmer, so it’s a tremendous opportunity for us that also strengthens the community.”

Get Fungi

Hamakua Mushrooms now offers tours, tastings and a boutique gift shop. If in the area, stop by for a visit or make a tour reservation by calling (808) 962-0305. Can’t make it in person? Their website offers recipe ideas and information on where to buy their mushrooms across the State.

Hamakua Mushrooms
36-221 Manowaiopae Homestead Road
Laupahoehoe, HI 96764
fungaljungal.com

 

 

Pigs in Paradise: Mālama Farm Raises Them Right on Maui

By Shannon Wianecki
Photos by Kristy Copperfield

When Dave Fitch wakes up at 5:30 each morning, his two-year-old daughter clamors to help him with the chores. Dad lifts her onto the ATV loaded with buckets of fruit and grain. Together they make the rounds at what may be the prettiest pig farm in America.

Mālama Farm sits on a knoll in rural Haiku, with a view of Maui’s dramatic north shore. The light breeze carries the scent of passion fruit and Puakenikeni flowers—not the rank smells typically associated with pig farms. That’s because the pigs living here aren’t confined to pens, belly-deep in their own slop. Mālama Farm is one of the nation’s few pasture-raised piggeries and the first in Hawai‘i to offer 100 percent Berkshire pork.

Malama FarmDave and Lehua Fitch’s farming adventure started with the kind of naïve back-to-the-land impulse that doesn’t often translate into long-term success. Inspired by “Omnivore’s Dilemma,” “Food Inc.,” and their travels through rural New Zealand, they decided to tackle small-scale agriculture to prove that it’s still possible in the United States. Neither had farming experience: he’s a furniture maker and she’s a software executive. So the young entrepreneurs started with a blank slate, balancing each decision against what would be best for the animals, the land, the community and their family. And in less than two years, they brought their first litter of top-quality hogs to market. In their own small way, the Fitches are transforming the meat industry—one piglet at a time.

To understand what’s special about Mālama Farm, it helps to understand what’s not special at most commercial pig farms. The majority of piggeries in the U.S. are large warehouses where animals are confined for life to individual stalls, pumped full of antibiotics and growth hormones, and deprived any opportunity to exhibit natural pig behavior. In the worst scenarios, they can’t sit or turn in their pens. Many go berserk and injure themselves. At these cheap meat factories, sewage is a constant problem; overflowing refuse ponds can poison the groundwater.

“How pigs are raised is an unspoken tragedy,” says Lehua. “It’s really horrifying when you know how sweet, gentle and smart they are.”

Confronted with dirty details of industrial farming, the Fitches decided to put their money where their mouth is. They bought property on Maui and researched livestock they could raise themselves. They chose pigs because of the animals’ intelligence and importance to Hawaiian culture. Next they opted for a heritage breed with a ready market: Berkshire, or Kurobuta as it’s known in Japan. Chefs covet Berkshires for their clean flavor and well-marbled fat. The slow-growing hogs have dark hides that protect them from Hawai‘i’s tropical sun. Plus, they have good personalities, says Dave. “We wanted animals we’d enjoy working with.”

Lehua and Dave’s light-hearted approach to husbandry is evident in their pigs’ names. The boar is Hef, after Hugh Hefner. The sows in his harem: Candi, Trixie, Lola and Bubbles.

Malama FarmOut To Pasture

The Fitches prepared for their pigs’ arrival in 2010 by planting nutrient-rich grasses across their five-acre farm. “People told us pigs don’t eat grass,” says Lehua incredulously. “They do!” She and Dave also planted ‘ulu (breadfruit), macadamia nut, banana, papaya, avocado and citrus tree to supplement the pigs’ (and their own) diet. Each dawn, the Fitchs’ daughter pitches these treats out to the ranging herd. Chocolate brown piglets kick up dust as they scamper through the grass like warthogs on the Serengeti. They snuffle and grunt for their share of breakfast, snouts down, corkscrew tails in the air.

On special occasions, the spoiled swine enjoy a beer or two. Dave is negotiating with Maui Brewing Company to get brewer’s grain, a by-product of the beer-making process that pigs find extra tasty. He and Lehua aren’t above scrambling eggs for their herd, either. “You can make a pig do amazing things with scrambled eggs,” laughs Dave.

Each week, Dave rotates Hef and the ladies to a new 50 x 50 grazing area, by shifting the electric fence line and sliding the mobile shade huts he built onto fresh ground. 300-gallon horse troughs serve as ready-made wallows: portable pig spas where hot swine can cool down. Once the herd vacates an area, Dave turns his cleanup crew of chickens loose to peck away any fly larvae. Pig manure is no problem here; it serves its natural function as fertilizer.

Malama FarmSows are bred only once or twice a year, compared to industrial farms where they’re continually impregnated. Mālama Farm’s large, healthy litters have drawn the admiration of other Berkshire breeders. Dave fashioned farrowing huts—where the sows can go to birth and nurse piglets—with the animals’ comfort and safety in mind. Mama pigs are so massive they can accidentally crush their babies. Dave’s A-frame design allows piglets a little wiggle room; they can safely retreat into corners too tight for mom. Littermates stay together for their entire lives, which prevents anxiety.

The Fitches castrate males, but that’s about the extent of their veterinary needs. Because of the pigs’ clean food and living environment, vaccinations and antibiotics aren’t necessary. When it’s time for the trip to the slaughterhouse, the pigs climb into a trailer that Dave designed to mimic their shade huts—same wood floor, same color walls—so the animals don’t experience any trauma during transport. This contributes to the quality of the final product: less adrenaline in the meat.

The unrelenting nature of farming is not for everyone, but it’s so rewarding, Lehua says. Now pregnant with a second girl, she hopes the new baby will take to farm life as keenly as big sister has.

Malama FarmProof Is In The, er, Pudding

The true proof of success came with the Fitches’ first harvest. They were nervous. How would they feel sending their pigs to market? How would the pork taste? Would the chefs like it? They slaughtered the first pig themselves, under their avocado tree. “It was profound for us,” says Lehua. “We cried while we ate it, we respected the whole process.”

They weren’t the only ones. Ed Kenney of Town restaurant in Honolulu and Neil Murphy of Merriman’s were quick to place orders for Mālama Farm pigs—and now the waiting list is long. Gerard Reversade of Gerard’s in Lahaina was especially happy to get his hands on a whole hog. His uncle was a charcutier in France’s Loire Valley; his family has a long tradition of snout-to-tail cooking. The classically trained French chef cherishes every part of the animal, transforming the head, feet and blood into confit, pate and black pudding. He seasons his rillettes—succulent mounds of shredded pork—with just a pinch of salt and pepper. “The pork retains its full taste,” says Reversade. “It’s really delicious.” When he shared some of his family recipes with the Fitches, their daughter sampled her first headcheese.

Chris Kulis of Capische in Wailea says Mālama Farm pork is pricey, but worth it. “The superior feed that the pigs eat comes through in the moisture and the quality of the fat; it blows mainland competitors away,” he says. “I use less aromatics [with Mālama Farm pork], I don’t have to do as much to make it taste good.” Thanks to Mālama Farm, he’s served mouthwatering local sausages, pancetta, bacon and soppressata at his restaurant, and is eagerly anticipating his first prosciutto, which takes a full year to cure.

The practices Dave and Lehua employ at Mālama Farm benefit everyone involved. “We make sure we give the pigs the best life possible,” says Lehua. “We know they are going out to nourish people.”

Malama Farm

Kampachi in Kona: Aquaculture & Mariculture on Hawai‘i Island

Fish Flourish at Energy Lab Site

by Margaret Kearns

Created in 1974 by the Hawai`i State Legislature as a visionary experiment in generating sustainable energy, the National Energy Laboratory of Hawai`i Authority (NELHA) continues that original mission today, while also generating excitement as a leader in commercial aquaculture and mariculture enterprises. With nearly 40 years of research, experimentation and production, this state agency is now recognized as the world’s premier ocean science and technology park, growing sustainable industries by using sunshine, seawater and ingenuity.

It’s a lofty reputation evolving from what now seems a modest plan: to pull cold water from the ocean depths and warm water from the shore, using the temperature difference to turn a turbine and generate electricity.

Located just south of Kona International Airport on Hawai`i Island’s Keahole Point, the facility occupies some 322 acres, including prime oceanfront. In addition to NELHA’s office and laboratory facilities, public charter school and extensive pristine natural resources, the site includes leasable open land for tenant use for research, education and commercial projects. Not surprisingly, given the location, some of the state’s earliest tenants at the site included forward-thinking commercial aquaculture pioneers, Kona Cold Lobsters and Big Island Abalone Corporation.

According to officials at NELHA, its goal is “to attract tenants who can use the unique complement of natural and logistical resources to engage in successful, productive research, education and commercial activities that support sustainable industry development in Hawai`i.”

Today, NELHA is “landlord” to nearly 30 thriving enterprises that generate about $30–$40 million per year in total economic impact, including tax revenues, and provide more than 200 jobs.

Blue Ocean 2One of its most recent tenants, Blue Ocean Mariculture, is currently making waves by successfully cultivating what some have dubbed “The Wonder Fish”: Hawaiian Kampachi. Using cutting-edge mariculture—open ocean/marine aquaculture—techniques and equipment, they implement innovations in sustainable marine-farming methods, minimizing harm to the planet while helping to feed the Earth’s population!

Together with its sister company OceanSpar, Blue Ocean is defining the most advanced technology for successful, sustainable open ocean mariculture in the United States, according to Sylvia Dow, aka Queen Kampachi, head of sales and marketing for the company. She says, “We’re proud to be the exclusive producer of Hawaiian Kampachi, managing all aspects of the fish life cycle, ensuring the highest-quality fish and the least environmental impact.”

“We began harvesting our first premium, sashimi-grade Hawaiian Kampachi just about a year ago [June 2012] and the response has been tremendous. This year we anticipate 3,000 tons of our fish will be shipped to top chefs and fine restaurants throughout the Hawaiian Islands and the mainland U.S.,” Dow says.

She credits NELHA’s unique location for creating the perfect environment for the cultivation of stellar-quality kampachi.

“Our offshore facility is sheltered from the Pacific Ocean trade winds by several volcanoes, including Mauna Kea and Hualalai. The consistent water temperature, mild weather and strong ocean currents make it perfect location for open-ocean mariculture and NELHA provides us access to high-quality surface and deep ocean seawater for our hatchery facility.”

While sustainability is a major issue, there is another need for farming this species using mariculture techniques. According to experts, wild kampachi is prone to internal parasites and ciguatera toxicity, while high-quality diets and innovative culture methods used in kampachi cultivation result in one of the tastiest, most versatile, and healthiest fish available.

Kampachi’s high fat content (around 30%) not only makes for delicious sushi, but also makes the fish an excellent source of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. The fact that are raised in some of the cleanest water on Earth, Hawai`i-grown kampachi are free of detectable levels of mercury and PCBs, and are completely free of internal parasites.

Blue Ocean’s Hawaiian Kampachi is produced from locally caught wild Seriola rivoliana brood fish known as kahala and are maintained on a natural diet (similar to that found in their ocean home) at the company’s on-shore facility at NELHA. Fertilized eggs, available year-round, are incubated overnight, stocked into tanks at the larval rearing facility and hatch out over a 24-hour period. They remain in the rearing facility for about two months before transfer into the land-based outdoor nursery tanks. The tanks operate with local seawater, preparing fingerlings for open ocean temperature and salinity conditions, according to Dow, during which time (another 75–90 days) they are vaccinated against bacterial infections before being transferred to the sophisticated open water offshore farm site, where they spend 10–12 months to reach harvest maturity (four to six pounds).

Once on shore, the fish are immediately chilled in high- quality brine ice to ensure freshness and are then transferred to Kona Cold Lobster, where they are processed and packed just hours after harvesting, Dow says.

Joe Wilson, co-owner of Kona Cold Lobster with his brother Dale, says the extraordinary quality and quantity of Hawaiian Kampachi cultivated by Blue Ocean continues to climb with demand from consumers and chefs across the country as awareness of its unique flavor and texture profile, as well as its health benefits, spread worldwide. The sashimi-grade fish is not genetically engineered; it’s simply well bred and is higher in omega-3 oils than just about any other fish, according to Dow.

In addition to processing and packaging Blue Ocean Hawaiian Kampachi, Kona Cold Lobster specializes in distributing live Maine Lobsters and Dungeness Crabs along with oysters, clams and mussels to consumers and restaurants throughout the island. It’s been operating in its current location for 28 years and is the only retail outlet for all the products it handles in the islands. It’s been joined by numerous aquaculture enterprises at NELHA, including Big Island Abalone and Royal Hawaiian Seafarm, King Ocean Farm, Kona Coast Shellfish, Troutlodge Marine Farms and the world’s first commercial seahorse farm, Ocean Rider, among others.

Kampachi Poke

In the meantime, corporate chef Ken Schloss of Huggo’s and On the Rocks in Kailua-Kona an d Lava Lava Beach Club in Waikoloa Beach Resort – all three restaurants on Hawaii Island—says Hawaiian Kampachi is absolutely his favorite fish, personally and professionally.

“Hawaiian Kampachi is a uniquely flavored fish with a slightly nutty and a distinctly fresh, clean taste. While it’s wonderfully silky in texture, it’s also firm enough to prepare on the grill—one of my favorite cooked preparations,” Schloss says.

It’s an incredibly versatile fish, he continues, perhaps best served raw—simple sashimi or poke—but delicious sautéed, pan-seared, steamed or poached as well. One of his signature dishes at Huggo’s is the Kampachi Poke Tower.

Another favorite preparation, frequently offered as an evening special at Huggo’s, Schloss says is the Whole Roasted Kampachi. “Ahi may always remain the go-to favorite of visitors to Hawai`i, but kampachi is growing quickly in awareness and popularity by both locals and visitors alike,” Schloss says.   For more information visit www.NELHA.org or www.BOFish.com.

Kampachi in Kona, Blue Ocean

Preserving a Fishpond—and a Food Source, and History

by Tim Ryan

Bordered by a busy boat harbor, sheltered exclusive hilltop residences and exposed to vast Kaneohe Bay, He`eia Fishpond is all but hidden in this niche of windward O`ahu—known as He`eia Uli, Ko`olaupoko. This seclusion may well have both protected the 88-acre cultural treasure from overfishing and contributed to its deterioration, because no one noticed its relentless punishment by wind, waves, neglect and invasive mangrove.

“Even I wasn’t aware of this pond and my `ohana is from this community in Kahalu`u,” said Hi`ilei Kawelo, executive director of Paepae o He`eia since 2007. The organization works in partnership with the landowner, Kamehameha Schools, to manage and maintain He`eia Fishpond for the community. “I was blown away when I was introduced to this place.”

But not completely in a good way.

As important to Kawelo and the group of young Hawaiian friends was “the lack of Hawaiian presence” at such a significant cultural structure. It wasn’t long after that first visit that that the group of idealists created the nonprofit Paepae o He`eia “dedicated to caring for He`eia Fishpond.”

“I was young and full of energy,” she said. “Nothing is impossible when you’re in your early 20s. My closest and best friends were in this with me. It was really an ohana effort.”

Heeia Fishpond fish farmingOn this typical windward cloudy and drippy spring day, a large truck from Nanakuli delivers a load of coral and lava rocks, many weighing more than 100 pounds. The bimonthly deliveries are used to replenish the fishpond’s walls where rocks have tumbled into the shallow pond and are buried by sediment or washed into the ocean only to disappear or, in the case of coral, pounded into sand.

Several beefy men and some not so big separate the coral and lava rocks, stacking them into massive piles. The material will be placed on small flatbed trucks, then driven around the Kailua side of the wall for rebuilding. Where road access is not available, the rocks are delivered on small, floating barges. These are taken to the makai wall where the greatest deterioration has occurred—a 200-foot section of fishpond wall that’s been collapsing for decades.

He`eia Fishpond is a walled-style (kuapā) fishpond enclosing brackish water. The kuapā is built on the fringing reef that extends from the shoreline, surrounding the pond out into Kaneohe Bay.

Built approximately 600 to 800 years ago by the residents of the area, the kuapā is possibly the longest in the island chain, measuring about 1.3 miles (7,000 feet), and forms a complete circle around the pond. This is unique, since most other fishpond walls are either straight lines or half circles connecting one point of shoreline to another, Kawelo said.

“It’s like a kapuna presented us with the biggest challenge,” she said, laughing. “The fishpond with the most amount of wall that needs to be restored.”

In the 12 years since the organization was founded, about 3,000 feet of wall has been restored at a rate of 300 to 400 feet per year. First stage was to remove thousands of invasive and tangled mangroves. The plant not only destroys the walls when its roots entangle in the rocks and coral but also collects sediment around the perimeter.

Removing the mangrove is backbreaking work and all done by hand with the use of the chainsaws and muscle.

According to Kawelo, mangrove was introduced in Hawai`i on Moloka`i around 1900 and then on O`ahu in 1922. The Hawaii Sugar Growers Association brought it here after it saw the effects of large-scale agriculture on the land and ocean from the runoff.

The windward side of O`ahu “gets a lot of rain and anytime you get rain and exposed sediment it all goes straight into the ocean,” said Kawelo. HSGA “planted mangrove to mitigate that.”

The buildup of sediment in the fishpond also diminished the amount of oxygen there.

The pukas in the fishpond walls negated the pond’s purpose as well.

“Tides go in and out and if your pond can’t hold water [within its walls] you also can’t hold fish,” Kawelo explained.

At low tide workers are able to cut the mangrove near its base. Fortunately, the aggressive plant doesn’t grow back. No herbicides are used.

Since He`eia Fishpond is a designated historic site, there are restrictions on the kind of equipment that can be used in the restoration process.

“Paepae o He`eia prides itself in making use of the community with volunteers, which may mean doing things a bit slower but it ensures that we are investing in the community stakeholders of this pond,” Kawelo said. “We are only place holders here for a small window of time. When we’re gone we want to make sure this place is set up so we know the next generation is going to push it forward.”

The wall is composed of two separate volcanic rock walls parallel to one another on the outer edges, with the eight-foot area between them filled up with mostly coral and in some places rock and dirt. This compact style of wall slows water flow, allows the pond to maintain a base water level even at the lowest tides, and forces more water to the six mākāhā or sluice gates. Three of the mākāhā are along the seaward edge to regulate saltwater input; three more along He`eia Stream regulate fresh water input.

On this day about a dozen Nanakuli High School students are moving dozens of mangrove branches from a just-cleared makai section of the pond to be used for a Hawaiian structure on the leeward campus.

Covered in dirt and mud and noticeably tired but smiling, some walk atop the wall itself while others trek through the pond which on an average tide is about two and a half feet deep.

Hawaiian fishponds are unique and sophisticated forms of aquaculture found nowhere else in the world, Kawelo said.

The techniques of trapping adult fish with rocks in shallow tidal areas is found elsewhere but the six styles of Hawaiian fishponds, especially large walled ponds, were technologically advanced and efficient as their purpose was to cultivate baby fish to maturity.

This invention resulted from Hawaiians’ understanding of the environmental processes specific to the islands as well as their connection and observation of the food resources on the āina and in the ocean.

In Hawaiian literature, fishponds were associated with events during the 14th through 19th centuries. So it is possible that fishponds appeared in the Hawaiian Islands prior to the 14th century.

“Ocean fishing is dependent largely on weather and ocean conditions,” Kawelo said.

Since big surf, storms and other weather conditions influence and can interrupt fishing practices, fishponds provided Hawaiians with a regular supply of fish when ocean fishing was not possible or did not yield sufficient numbers.

At one time there were about 400 fishponds in Hawai`i with O`ahu having the most—about 96—the largest being the 500-plus acres in what is now Koko Marina.

By allowing both fresh and salt water to enter a pond, the environment is brackish and conducive to certain types of limu. By cultivating limu, like a rancher growing grass, the pond caretaker could easily raise herbivorous fish and not have to feed them, Kawelo said.

The fish that live in He`eia Fishpond include `ama`ama, awa, pualu, palani, aholehole, moi, kokala, kākū and papio. The fishpond is also home to a different species of papa`i, `ōpae, puhi and pipi. There also are predatory fish here such as barracuda and crabs such as Samoan crab.

“People’s tastes have become accustomed to eating predator fish like ahi, ono and mahimahi that really are rather bland, but we’re hoping we can alter that a bit to the more flavorful herbivorous varieties,” she said.

(To produce one pound of herbivore fish takes much less energy than a pound of carnivorous fish, which constantly need to consume other fish so there’s a lot of energy loss.)

Kawelo is concerned that a state surrounded by water has to import more than 60% of its fish.

“Hawai`i is the largest consumer of seafood per capita in the United States,” she said. “Our ancestors created and made very good use of traditional aquaculture.”

There isn’t an accurate method at this point to calculate how many fish are in He`eia Fishpond since a section of wall is open to the ocean.

“Historically, the lower estimate was 200 pounds of fish per acre per year; the higher estimate was 500 pounds multiplied by He`eia’s 88 acres,” she said.

Paepae o He`eia recognizes that He`eia Pond will never “feed the state of Hawai`i.”

“The pond had been created to feed a very specific small geographic community that housed the ahupua`a of He`eia, about 2,000 people,” Kawelo said. “It wasn’t the sole source of protein but more of a supplement and they would stockpile fish in the pond, creating a reserve.”

The organization’s annual budget is $500,000 to $600,000, most of which pays 10 employees, including six full time. All monies come from fundraising.

“We’re really cheap when it comes to materials,” she said. “All we need is rock and coral.”

Kawelo estimates He`eia Fishpond’s remaining 4,000 feet of damaged wall will be restored within 15 years, including three to five years to repair the wall along He`eia Stream.

“We hope the Field of Dreams phenomena occurs,” she said. “We build it and the fish will come.”

Heeia Fishponds gate 2

Not So Sour: Lemons in Hawai‘i

by Ken Love

Lemons are just beginning to get the respect they deserve and in Hawai`i we’re fortunate enough to have a large number of varieties to grow, market and use for a massive number of culinary creations. There are almost 14 million tons grown worldwide, with India and Mexico the largest producers. In Hawai`i we grow and sell less than 100,000 pounds and still import almost 4 million pounds. Pretty shameful considering how lemons go to waste in the state.

Most who study horticulture think the lemon originated in northern India as a naturally occurring hybrid between sour orange and a citron. Lemon made its way to Italy in 200 AD then Iraq and Egypt by 700 AD. By the end of the 12th century it had spread all around the Mediterranean. In 1493, Columbus brought it to Hispaniola and from there it went with the Spanish to California in 1751. Don Francisco de Paula Marin first brought lemon to Hawai`i in 1813 with other varieties coming in 1823 with traders.

Early territorial reports from 1904 to 1906, including a USDA Citrus in Hawai`i publication, listed Eureka and Lisbon varieties. These and other publications mention Villa Franca and Sicily, which I’ve yet to be able to identify in Hawai`i. The rough Jambiri came as a rootstock in the 1920s and started to produce prolifically by 1934 when the grafts died off. Ponderosa and its seedling American Wonder and a sweet lemon were all mentioned by 1934.

Often called “local lemon,” Rangpur and Kona are actually orange-colored limes.

The Rangpur lime came to Hawai`i as a rootstock but those grafts also died off. Over the next 175 years the trees evolved so that Rangpur has a puffy orange skin and very thorny branches. Its offshoot that is now called Kona lime has a tight skin and very few thorns.

There is also a primitive subgenus of citrus called Papedas, some of which also came to Hawai`i as rootstocks and now produce here. Ichang papeda is often mistakenly called or sold as Japanese Yuzu. Yuzu, however, also fits into this subgenus as does Suidachi, Yuko, Kabosu, Khasi, Melanesian, Kalpi and the popular Kaffir lime.

Kalpi (Citrus webberii)

Kalpi is arguably one of the most common lemons in Hawai`i. A natural hybrid found in the Philippines, one could only presume that it came here with the immigrants. The name comes from the Bicol region of southern Luzon. These trees are found all over the state and very prolific. They are often confused with small Italian lemons that are very recent imports and the larger rough-skinned Jambiri lemon. Kalpi is sometimes called Malayan lemon.

Here are some popular varieties:

Meyer (Citrus x meyeri)

The lemon was first found on a fruit-hunting trip by Frank N. Meyer, who was sent to China by the USDA’s David Fairchild. Of the more than 2,500 species Meyer introduced to the United States, this is the only one that bears his name. The Meyer lemon has dramatically increased in popularity over the past 20 years in part due to Alice Waters and Martha Stewart featuring them. They do very well in warmer climates like Hawai`i where other lemons may struggle with the heat.

The improved Meyer lemon is a selection found in the 1950s that is resistant to tristeza virus. It was released in 1975 as an improved version. Ever-increasing in popularity, it is sometimes referred to as the Sweetheart citrus.

Sweet Lemon (C. limetta Risso)

Called sweet lemons and, to a lesser extent, limes, this fruit found in some areas of Hawai`i. “Sweet” is somewhat of a misnomer as the fruit is generally insipid with only a very slight taste. A number of varieties were introduced from India and later Brazil and Mexico but they have never achieved any commercial value. The fruit is not without fans and there are a few named cultivars.

Jambiri (Citrus Jambhiri)

This rough-skinned lemon, originally from northeast India, was commonly used as a rootstock for citrus coming to Hawaii. Those grafts died off and the tree became a popular backyard tree. Recent studies, using molecular markers, show that it is a cross between mandarin and citron. The tree is somewhat resistant to a host of pathogens and extremely resistant to leaf spot although sensitive to Phytopthora and waterlogged roots. It is tolerant of both cold and Hawaii’s hotter than average, for citrus, climate. Its unclear if the fruit arrived in Hawaii with Marin in the early 1800s or later with the first Portuguese immigrants. The Spaniards are credited with bringing the fruit to Florida and the new World. There are a number of named cultivars; Estes, Milam, McKillop, Nelspruit 15 and Lockyer although it’s not known if these are in Hawaii. About 98% of the seeds planted are true to form and the tree is fast growing and early maturing. Some texts list the Volkamer or volckameriana lemon as being a type of Jambiri. Rangpur and Kona lime is also given the Jambiri name at times.

Ponderosa (Citrus limon)

Ponderosa and its protégé American Wonder are among the most popular lemons grown in Hawai`i. Elsewhere it’s considered an ornamental because of thick foliage and very large “showy” fruit. It came from a seedling grown in 1887 by George Bowman in Hagerstown, Maryland. It appeared in many nursery catalogs in the early 1900s. Sometimes classed as a citron hybrid, ponderosa fruit is extremely large. It has been confused with pummelo at some of Hawai`i’s farmers’ markets, although one taste makes it is obvious that it’s a lemon. There are some commercial plantings and the tree is often used as a rootstock for other lemons.

Eureka (Citrus limon)

The first Eureka originated from seed in 1858 in Los Angeles and was propagated in 1877 by Thomas Garey, who called it Garey’s Eureka. Its popularity rapidly increased, in part due to the tree being virtually thornless. The University of California lists 14 types of Eureka lemons. Depending on the source, Hawai`i seems to have a few of these: Old Line, Frost Nucellar, Allen-Newman and the Variegated Pink-Fleshed Eureka. The pink came from a shoot from a regular Eureka prior to 1931 when budwood was distributed. Pink Lemonade Eureka has become very popular in Hawai`i over the past 20 years.

Lisbon (Citrus limon)

Perhaps the most popular commercial lemon next to Eureka, its relationship to Hawai`i has always been marginal as it produces much better in cooler areas. The trees are more cold tolerant. The tree is most productive in California. Thick foliage better protects fruit from the sun. The thorns are considerable. The yield is about 25% greater than Eureka.

There is some disagreement as to the origin of Lisbon. What is known was that seeds were sent Portugal to Australia in 1924. The name Lisbon is not used for the lemon in Portugal. It was listed in nursery catalogs as early as 1843. It was introduced to California in 1849 and again from Australia in 1874 and 1875. Although continuously imported to Hawai`i, Eureka seems to be more popular. The University of California lists 12 types of Lisbons.

There are hundreds of other lemons around the world, which have not made their way to Hawai`i. With citrus greening disease (HLB) in many locations around the world, it’s doubtful many of these will ever come to Hawai`i. Lemons and lemon hybrids like Sicily, Femminello, Genova, Monachello, Perrine, Marrakech, Pear, Galgal, Karna, Sanbokan and Snow should be found in HLB-free areas or tissue cultured and given a chance to thrive in Hawai`i’s microclimates. Each of these unusual varieties represents a potential for niche marketing as fresh fruit or in value-added products for Hawai`i’s agriculture entrepreneurs.

Lemons in Hawaii