Category: Summer 2017

Açaí Berry


The açaí berry, a small, round, black-purple drupe about 1” in size, looks similar to a grape, but smaller and with less pulp. It grows on a palm that can produce up to 900 fruits at a time. Ripe fruit is usually a deep purple color, though some va-rieties of açaí can be green. Underneath the skin, a thin layer of pulp surrounds a single large seed about ½” in diameter. The seed makes up about 80% of the fruit. Açaí palm trees typically yield two crops a year and are harvested during the dry season, between July and December. Apart from the use of its fruit for food or beverage, the açaí palm has other commercial applications. Leaves may be made into hats, mats, baskets, brooms and roof thatch for homes, and the trunk wood, resistant to pests, can be used for building construction. Açaí seeds can be ground for livestock feed or used as a component in organic soil. The seeds are a source of polyunsaturated and saturated fatty acids.

In the general consumer market, açaí is sold as frozen pulp, juice, or the ever popular açaí bowl topped with fresh fruit, nuts and other local toppings.

WWOOFing in Hawaii: The Good, the Bad, the Symbiotic


It’s 12:30pm: Break time is over. We strap on our kneepads, grab our buckets, and head to the macadamia nut orchard. We spend almost three hours every afternoon on all fours—tossing the bad nuts, picking up the good ones, and trying to fill as many bags as possible (as to not be reprimanded for a poor day’s work). Eventu-ally, these nuts would land at the farmers market, retailing for $16 per pound—and we’re doing the work for free. Why?

For me, this all started with a community garden plot in Oakland, California. I spent the summer of 2015 googling double-digging techniques, ways to keep Bermuda grass (kind of) under control, and how much water I could use without feeling drought-driven guilt. Who knew I’d find my happy place covered in dirt?

Fast forward a few months, and I’m on a one-way flight to Kona. My little passion for gardening had driven me to downsize every-thing—including a full-time job, apartment, and wardrobe—for a farmhand gig on Hawaii Island. I had found and interviewed for this job through an organization called WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms). The plan was to exchange 25 hours of labor per week for room and board—and hopefully to get schooled in organic farming—while having spare time for my free-lance writing.

For a yearly fee, WWOOF acts as the liaison between farms and workers—but doesn’t necessarily have regulations or certifica-tions in place for either party. From adventure-seekers and artists to freelancers and retirees, the average age of Hawaii’s WWOOF-ers is between 18 and 25, but there are active members in their 50s and 60s. In exchange for work, the host farms must provide certain essentials, like shelter and food. A win-win? Maybe.

Symbiotic relationships are a special type of interaction between species. Sometimes helpful, sometimes harmful, these relation-ships are essential in nature, and they provide a balance that can only be achieved by working together. The structure of WWOOF, and other work-trade programs like Workaway and HelpX, have a mutually beneficial intent, but what happens when they result in something else?

“Would you like to sample our lilikoi butter? We make it fresh every week at our organic farm just up the road.” We’re at the farmers market just south of Kona, and Kelsey repeats her script-ed pitch to every passerby, just beginning her shift standing in the searing Hawaiian sun. Some stop, some walk hastily past this clear selling tactic. “Oh, this tastes just like a lemon curd that I make back home,” says an excited tourist from England. “Exactly, it’s made the same way, except we use passion fruit juice!” One of our hosts overhears. She promptly walks up with a cup of water, takes a handful, and splashes it in Kelsey’s face. “I told you not to call it curd, it’s butter!” she snaps. But she had that conversation with me last week—not Kelsey. These types of interactions were all too common.

Meanwhile, in the Puna district, Gina had just stepped off the plane from Vancouver, Canada. “We arrived during the night, stumbling over tools and debris of half-finished projects. My host showed me to my sleeping area, a large tent on a raised plywood platform, with a tarp over top and a sheetless mattress inside,” she recounts. “What he had established was a homestead, and by no means a farm.” Over the next several weeks, it was clear that Gina was brought on more to help with home improvement projects, and less to be taught about farming. And when her host abruptly decided to leave for a month—with the offer for Gina to tend to his property by herself—she knew it was time to leave.

Did we know what we were getting into? Somewhat. (There was no review system on the WWOOF Hawaii website when we first signed up, but there is now.) Do we feel fortunate to have lived in Hawaii, rent-free? Every day. But the monotonous labor, unclear boundar-ies, and emotional degradation that we endured was unexpected. However, not all experiences are created equal, and work-trade op-portunities have also enriched many lives and allowed businesses to stay afloat.

“I’m no stranger to getting my hands dirty,” says Kevin, a Lake Tahoe native and artist. But when he first arrived to Hawaii, he had no inten-tion of working on a farm. His friend from home was caretaking a bed and breakfast on Hawaii Island, which informally hosts work-trad-ers. Upon visiting her, he was drawn to the land and decided to stay. Tasked with helping out at the B&B and surrounding property for a few hours a week, he picked a spot down the hill to hang his hammock, and was told to use the land in any way he needed. Some of the other workers lived in tents, a few in shipping containers. One worker lived in a dilapidated bus, whose exterior became a collabo-rative art project among their community. Kevin, who now works at a wood shop on Hawaii Island, says that he has been able to survive (and thrive) in these types of environments because of his adaptabil-ity. “It’s a really beautiful thing,” he says. “When you live that inti-mately with the land, you just kind of learn to grow with it.”

An offshoot of their international parent organization, WWOOF Ha-waii’s website states, “If you are looking for people to come work on your farm, WWOOF is not the way to do this. You should then hire employees and follow state guidelines. Your guests are not workers and should not be treated as such.” With over 250 registered farms spanning the islands, WWOOF does play a significant role in the farming industry. (They also have upwards of 2,000 active members who come to the islands each year.)

Let’s look at simple cost-versus-benefit breakdown, at Hawaii’s current minimum wage of $9.25 per hour. The maximum number of hours set forth by WWOOF is 25 hours per week, which equals around $693 per month. For those sleeping on wooden platforms or in small cabins and receiving only surplus fruit and basic food items, farm owners are able to drastically cut operational costs. On the flipside, hosting work-traders can be a risky business. And hosts have to train a new set of people every three months or so, which doesn’t necessarily result in more productive or lucrative venture. “What really makes a WWOOF host successful is their ability to make an impact on the world by sharing their passion with others,” says a WWOOF Hawaii administrator.

There is one common thread that weaves these stories together. We all feel the work we did was real and meaningful. Millennials are often criticized for being materialistic, for lacking humility. Maybe, for me, this was a little about bucking those stereotypes. I wasn’t looking for a participation trophy: I was looking to change my life. The character that was built, the deep appreciations I de-veloped, and the relationships that I cultivated (both with people and the land) could never have been accomplished from a cubicle. Looking back, I wouldn’t trade my work-trade experience for any-thing—probably not even a paycheck.

Maui Chefs’ Invitational

Introduction Written by Chef Richie Nakano,
Photograph of Vegetable Poke by Lee Anne Wong

Collaborative chef events take on a variety of looks. There’re fancy food and wine events with dozens of stations pumping out bite-sized, highly garnished dishes for well-heeled guests. Then there are beer and whisky-soaked collaboration dinners that can veer more towards frat party than dinner. On the more polite side there are out-in-the-field dinners, meant to highlight a chef’s connection to terroir, agriculture, and the region they cook in.

The Maui Chefs’ Invitational was all of these, and none of these.

To a mainland chef, an invitation to be part of a collaborative dinner at a lush plantation farm on Maui seems like a no brainer; hang out on the beach, cook a couple dinners, drink some Mai-Tais, and work on your tan. It was an easy win for all chefs involved- and for the attending guests as well, as they would be treated to some of the countries best and brightest culinary talents. Brad Kilgore (Alter, Miami), Lee Wolen (Boka, Chicago) and Francis Derby (Formerly of Cannibal, NYC) trekked from their respective harsh winters to participate, while West Coast rising stars such as Maya Erickson (Lang Ban, Portland) and event co-organizer Gregory Gourdet (Departure, Portland) were also in attendance. As for the locals, Top Chef star Sheldon Simeon (Tin Roof, Maui), Lee Anne Wong (Koko Head Cafe, Oahu), and event host Jeff Scheer (The Mill House, Maui) rounded out the group.

While this collective was impressive on paper, it was the way the meals came together each night that made them greater than the sum of their parts. Trips to local farms to source ingredients were part of the daily schedule, and it wasn’t unusual for a chef to wander outside to get a breath of fresh air and come back into the kitchen clutching fresh produce from The Maui Tropical Plan-tation’s extensive farm.

But it was the collaboration aspect that really set the Maui Chefs’ Invitational apart. Chefs could be found exchanging cooking tech-niques, butchery methods, and openly sharing closely guarded recipes. This level of mutual respect and emphasis on teaching and learning are rare things to see, and probably had much to do with the fact that the chefs shared a house during their stay. Think The Real World, minus the drama and hygienically dubious hot tub.

The final day featured a cook out for 400 guests on The Mill House’s front lawn—something that sounded as daunting as it would be fun. The entirety of the meal was cooked over open flames and grills, with Francis Derby stealing the show by open spit roasting several local lambs. The open-air event allowed guests the rare opportunity to interact with the cooking process, and certainly gave the mainland chefs a deeper understanding of the aloha spirit.

On the surface, it can be easy for an outsider to dismiss Maui as a food desert. So many visitors never look beyond the offerings at their hotel, or what is readily familiar to them. The closest many guests come to the sense of place Maui has to offer is a watered-down hotel lu’au, or maybe a cautious visit to a beach-front cafe. The Maui Chefs’ Invitational took a big stride towards moving past all of that. The combination of incredible, local ingre-dients, talented chefs, and a team truly working as ‘ohana made for a unique and one-of-a-kind Maui event. Setting the tone and pace was important, and we are all looking forward to see who will be sharing experiences at the 2017 Maui Chefs’ Invitational

Bio: Richie Nakano’s Japanese-American family often ate big meals together, which helped nudge the budding chef toward a career in food. Working as a server and bartender after high school, Nakano started cooking for himself and eventually enrolled in the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco, where he nurtured his culinary foundation.

In 2010, Nakano opened Hapa Ramen as a pop-up food stand at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market. A few years later, after launching a successful Kick-starter campaign, he opened his first brick-and-mortar ramen noodle shop and earned a 2013 StarChefs Rising Star Community Chef Award. His involve-ment with Hapa ended, but Nakano continues to experiment with new recipes and host pop-ups, and he’s picked up writing again as a contributor for First We Feast as well as Rising Stars Magazine, crystallizing his role as the chef-voice of San Francisco.

Quote from Maui Chefs’ Invitational Event Host Chef – Jeff Scheer, The Mill House Maui at The Maui Tropical Plantation, Wailuku, Maui.

The Maui Chefs’ Invitational was designed to bring chefs from around the United States to this isolated island in the middle of the Pacifi c.  I feel like some of my fondest cooking experiences have been working along side other very talented chefs and that is the gist of what the Maui Chefs’ Invitational is about.  It is designed to bring in the knowledge and background of each city represented by the visiting chefs, and to spread awareness of Maui’s culinary scene amongst the participating chefs.  We are in diff erent era in food in this country and an exciting food revolution has begun on the island of Maui.  Farmers and chefs have never worked so closely together, and there are things happening here that aren’t happening anywhere else.  Through farm tours and the rest of our culinary itinerary during the chefsʻ stay, my hope is to create a memorable experience.

Bio: Leading the innovative culinary team at The Mill House is Executive Chef Jeff Scheer.  From a small town in southeastern Ohio, Jeff was drawn to the kitchen at a young age, acquiring his love for cooking from his grandmother. Studying and apprenticing (both in the kitchen and in the fi elds) throughout California and Oahu, upon arriving in Maui, Jeff knew he had found home.  At the helm of The Mill House dining experience and all the venues it encompasses at Maui Tropical Plantation, Jeff has created the ultimate “farm to table” model, growing and sourcing unique and timely ingredients that are literally yards from the kitchen.

This translates to an experience that is varied, endlessly creative….and unique on the island of Maui.

Quote from Lee Anne Wong, participating chef at Maui Chefs’ Invitational 2016

The Maui Chefs’ Invitational is a week-long collaboration of food and culture between Hawaii’s leading culinary talent and visiting mainland chefs discovering Maui for the fi rst time. Complete with farm tours, foraging, and a weekend of multi-course tasting dinners and a festive outdoor barbecue, it’s an opportunity to see and taste what happens when passionate chefs and the bounty of Hawaii come together. As a partic-ipating chef last year, it was an incredible experience, working with my local ‘Ohana (Event Host Chef Jeff Scheer of The Mill House at the Maui Tropical Plantation, and Chef Sheldon Simeon of Tin Roof Maui) and new and old friends alike from the main-land (I had worked with both Greg Gourdet and Francis Derby when I lived in NY). The creativity, technique, thought process, and even the time spent together when we weren’t working in the kitchen were inspiring and, to me, highlight what this job is all about. Being able to share our love of the ‘aina and the place I now call home makes this one of the most unique and rewarding events I’ve done to date.

Bio: Lee Anne Wong is the chef and owner of Koko Head Cafe in Honolulu, Hawaii. A native of Troy, New York, Wong graduated from the International Culinary Center (ICC), formerly known as the French Culinary Institute, and began her culinary training at Marcus Sam-uelsson’s Aquavit before playing an integral role in the opening of Jean Georges Vongrichten’s Chinese concept, Restaurant 66. Wong went on to work as the Executive Chef of Event Operations at ICC, during which time she was prominently featured on Season One of Bravo’s Flagship Series Top Chef, and subsequently was hired as the series’ Supervising Culinary Producer for the next 6 seasons, helping to build the show into the powerhouse it is today.

In late 2013, Wong moved from New York City to Honolulu where in 2014, she debuted Koko Head Cafe – an island style brunch house in the Kaimuki neighborhood – to popular acclaim, with Wong recognized on the cover of Honolulu Magazine, as well as in Bon Appétit, Food and Wine Magazine, Honolulu Star-Advertiser and Huffi ngton Post. Wong released her fi rst cookbook, Dumplings All Day Wong, in August 2014. Chef Wong continues to expand her brand across the globe, joining the culinary team for Hawaiian Airlines in 2015, and debuting Sweetcatch Poke in NYC in the fall of 2016.

Quote from Melissa Chang, dinner guest at Maui Chefs’ Invitational 2016

“I had no idea what to expect from the Maui Chefs’ Invitational, but it was appealing to see so many renowned talents that I already had been following on social media, in one kitchen for one event. That alone hinted that dinner was going to be an amazing culinary feast. It’s got elements of some of your fa-vorite reality shows but without the drama: all the chefs share the same house or hotel, like Real World; and they use local ingredients to make secret, all-new dishes with their fl air and expertise, like Top Chef. But unlike the reality shows, they’re all putting their minds together to create a unique, beautiful and interactive dining experience.

Bio: Melissa Chang is a freelance writer and social media consultant, specializing in integrating the new social media with traditional media to maximize clients’ marketing eff orts. Melissa writes for,, Honolulu Magazine, and edible Hawaiian Islands. Follow her on social media at @Melissa808.

As we go to press we are thrilled to announce the dates and line-up for the 2017 Maui Chefs’ Invitational.
Please visit for details.

Pan-seared Opakapaka



Served with puttanesca, fennel salad, lemon oil.
Photography by edible Hawaiian Islands
Course: Main Course
Author: David Viviano


  • Medium Sauté Pan
  • Medium Pot
  • Small Bowl


  • 6 oz. Filet Opakapaka
  • 1 Tbsp. Olive Oil
  • 4 oz. Puttanesca Sauce Recipe Below
  • ¼ Cup Fennel Salad Recipe Below
  • 1 Tbsp. Lemon Oil
  • Italian Parsley Leaves 5 Per Serving
  • Salt and Pepper

Puttanesca Sauce

  • 2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
  • 2 Cloves of Garlic Chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. Anchovies Chopped
  • ¼ tsp. Crushed Red Pepper Flake
  • ½ Cup Oil Cured Black Olives Sliced
  • 2 Tbsp. Capers
  • 4 Cups Kamuela Tomatoes Concasse Blanched, Peeled, Seeded, and Chopped

Fennel Salad

  • 1 Bulb Fennel Shaved and Fronds
  • 1 Lemon Juiced
  • 2 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Salt To Taste


Prepare Puttanesca Sauce.

  • In a medium pot, heat oil.
  • Add garlic, anchovy, and red pepper flake. Sauté until garlic is tender and anchovy has melted into the oil.
  • Add olives, capers, and tomatoes. Simmer for about 30 minutes.

Prepare Fennel Salad.

  • In a small bowl, add shaved fennel, fronds, lemon juice, and olive oil.
  • Mix together and season to taste.

Prepare Fish and Plate.

  • Season fish with salt and pepper.
  • Heat a medium sauté pan on high heat. Add olive oil.
  •  Sear the fish presentation side first. Once golden brown (about 2-3 minutes) flip fish. Cook for another 2-3 minutes or until golden brown on both sides.
  • Ladle puttanesca sauce into a bowl. Place fish on top. Put fennel salad on fish. Drizzle lemon oil around fish. Garnish with parsley.
  • Serve and Enjoy!

Surfing Goat Dairy Cheese Tortellini



Served with squash, Kamuela tomato water, herb oil.
Photography by edible Hawaiian Islands
Course: Main Course
Author: David Viviano


  • Pot
  • Pan
  • Medium Bowl
  • Ring Mold or Pasta Cutter
  • Pasta Machine or Something to Roll Pasta Dough Thin
  • Food Processor Or Blender
  • Sieve or Colander
  • Cheesecloth


  • 10 Tortellini Per Serving
  • 4 oz. Tomato Water Recipe Below
  • 5 Cherry Tomatoes 5 Per Serving - Blanched and Skin Removed
  • 5 Squash 5 Per Serving - Quartered
  • Basil Oil To Garnish - Recipe Below
  • Pasta Dough

Filling Ingredients

  • 1 lb. Surfing Goat Dairy Cheese
  • 2 Cups Parmesan Grated
  • 1 Tbsp. Orange Zest
  • 1 Tbsp. Lemon Zest
  • 1 tsp. Nutmeg
  • 1 Tbsp. Parsley Finely Chopped
  • Kosher Salt To Taste

Tomato Water

  • 5 lbs. Ripe Kamuela Tomatoes Cored and Quartered
  • 2 Tbsp. Salt

Basil Oil

  • ½ Cup Basil
  • ¾ Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil


Prepare Tomato Water.

  • Working in batches, put tomatoes in a food processor. Pulse until tomatoes are coarse chopped. Add salt to the mixture.
  • Line a sieve or colander with cheesecloth. Transfer mixture to prepared sieve or colander and cover. Chill and allow to drain overnight. Do not press on tomatoes or the liquid will become cloudy. Transfer tomato water to storage container and chill. Discard tomatoes.

Prepare Basil Oil.

  • Blanch basil in rapidly boiling water, then shock in an ice bath. Squeeze excess water from the basil.
  • In a blender, combine the basil, oil, and salt. Puree until completely smooth.
  • Place mixture in an ice bath to chill as fast as possible. Once cold, pour into a chinois lined with several layers of cheesecloth. Refrigerate, allowing oil to pass through the chinois on its own, without applying any pressure. Store oil in a plastic container until ready for use.

Prepare Filling and Tortellini.

  • In a medium bowl, mix goat cheese, orange zest, lemon zest, and parsley. Season to taste.
  • Roll the pasta into sheets using a pasta machine. Gradually pass the dough through the machine for desired thickness. Be careful not to go too thin or the pasta will be difficult to work with.
  • Using a ring mold or pasta cutter cut dough into 2-inch rounds.
  •  Place 1/2 teaspoon of filling in the center.
  • Fold dough over to form a half-moon. Press the edges to seal. Bring the corners of the half-moon together around a finger, overlapping them slightly and pressing them together to secure. Brush dough with water if it becomes dry.

Prepare Dish and Assemble.

  • In a pot with boiling water, cook tortellini until tender and hot.
  • Meanwhile in a pan, heat tomato water with tomatoes and squash.
  • Simmer just until squash is cooked, about one minute.
  • Plate tortellini in a bowl then top with tomato water.
  • Garnish with vegetables and basil oil.

Upcountry Heirloom Tomato & Melon Salad



Served with burrata, prosciutto, Thai basil pesto.
Photography by edible Hawaiian Islands
Course: Appetizer, Salad, Side Dish
Servings: 4 People
Author: David Viviano


  • Medium Mixing Bowl
  • Small Bowl
  • Blender


  • 1 lb. Upcountry Heirloom Cherry Tomatoes Sliced in Half
  • ½ lb. Watermelon Large Diced
  • ½ lb. Cantaloupe Large Diced
  • 2 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 Cup Thai Basil Pesto Recipe Below
  • 4 Pieces Burrata Cheese
  • ¼ lb. San Danielle Prosciutto Thinly Sliced
  • 2 Tbsp. Basil Torn
  • 1 tsp. Black Hawaiian Sea Salt

Thai Basil Pesto

  • ¾ Cup Basil
  • ¼ Cup Thai Basil
  • 1 Clove of Garlic
  • 2 Tbsp. Pine Nuts Toasted
  • Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • ¼ Cup Grana Padano


Prepare Thai Basil Pesto.

  • Put all ingredients into the blender. Puree until smooth. Store until ready to use.

Prepare Salad.

  • In a medium mixing bowl, toss tomatoes, watermelon, and cantaloupe with olive oil. 
  • To plate put 2 Tbsp of basil pesto on the bottom of a small bowl.
  • Place burrata in the center. Place tomatoes and melon around the cheese.
  • Lay a few pieces of prosciutto around the cheese. Garnish with torn basil. Top burrata with a pinch of sea salt.
  • Serve and Enjoy!



My father was a proud Sicilian – proud of his heritage, especially its food. At the center of many great Italian meals, one ingredient can often found: the beloved tomato. This sweet vegetable took center stage in fresh salads, hand crafted pasta with pomodoro or simply paired with fish. Growing up, the tomato was a regular ingredient at our dinner table.

I’ve carried on this admiration for tomatoes in my life and career. Growing up in Detroit we had four distinct seasons. While most residents of the Midwest wait all year for summer to bring the much anticipated warm weather, I was more interested in the tomatoes. I can still recall the sweet taste of the first tomato of the year. My family canned this prized product so we could taste summer all year long. We would even oven dry tomatoes, vacuum pack them and freeze them so that our favorite ingredient was always within easy reach.

Recently on Maui, my `ohana began a ritual of planting several tomato plants every spring. Besides playing in the dirt, my toddler is enamored with watching his prized tomato crop grow. It will likely create one of his favorite dishes – a classic caprese salad. He may like the mozzarella cheese more than the tomato, but none-theless he still eats his vegetables.

The tomato is so versatile and satisfying. Raw or cooked, it can take on a variety of textures and flavor profiles. From simple appe-tizers, to comforting soups, to accenting a great steak, to flavoring sorbet this ingredient can do it all.

While I’ve spent my career in various locales – San Francisco, Phoenix, Aspen and now Maui – my Italian upbringing often shines through in my cooking. Naturally, a variety of tomato preparations are always in my arsenal.

In Hawaii, Kamuela tomatoes are cherished products from our local farmers. These plump, sweet tomatoes work well with just about any recipe. I also utilize heirloom tomatoes from Upcountry Maui. When combined with other Hawaii-grown ingredients I am able to create distinct dishes not possible on the mainland.

A dish highlighting the bounty of summer is an heirloom tomato and melon salad with burrata, prosciutto and Thai basil pesto. The acid from the tomatoes and the sweetness of the melon naturally complement the rich buratta cheese. The saltiness of the prosciut-to accents the ingredients while the sweet basil condiment brings it all together, coating each element of the salad.

One of my favorite local artisan products is Surfing Goat Dairy Cheese. In a dish that actually got me the job at Montage Kapalua Bay, I craft goat cheese tortellini bathed in tomato water. The season’s finest baby squash completes the dish. Tomato water is so beautiful and vibrant, its taste floral and refreshing. This dish screams summer with each bite!

Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t include a recipe highlighting Hawaii’s treasured seafood. I suggest pan searing Opakapaka and serving it with a classic Southern Italian tomato sauce: puttanesca. Tra-ditionally served with spaghetti, this sauce also pairs well with seafood. The sweetness of tomatoes is offset by briny capers and olives. The faint flavor of anchovy reaffirms the taste of the sea. Finish with lemon oil to add a richness and brightness to the dish.

I will always have a love affair with tomatoes. Eating and cooking with this incredible ingredient will forever be a nostalgic event sig-nifying the beginning of summer. Support local farmers and begin designing the perfect tomato inspired menu to kick-off the season.

Upcountry Heirloom Tomato & Melon Salad

Surfing Goat Dairy Cheese Tortellini

Pan-seared Opakapaka

Hawai‘i Corn


You can’t beat the flavor of a crisp, golden ear of sweet corn. The quintessential food of summer, corn thrives with hot temperatures and long hours of daylight. “Knee high by the Fourth of July” is the acclaimed benchmark for the growing corn stalk, which reaches for the sky to catch the wind for pollination.

Once the fully formed cobs have filled out their husks and the top silks turn brown, corn lovers ready their pots of boiling water. They run outside to the garden, pluck the ripe ears, husk and then plop them in the waiting pot. The routine hails from the age-old belief corn is at its sweetest and most nutritious when just picked. Simply smothered in salt, pepper and butter, your favorite topping, or just plain—you can’t stop munching from end-to-end until you’ve had your fill!

While fresh sweet corn can be had in Hawai‘i, it’s not available on the scale you’d find in the Midwest. The bulk of Hawai‘i’s corn today is planted as seed corn while local sweet corn is sparingly found at farm stands, farmers markets and grocers.

Historic records show corn production in Hawai‘i started in the mid-19th century when the Royal Hawaiian Agricultural Society (RHAS) promoted the farming of various commodities. In 1853, the growing of corn was reported as “erratic” as farmers were investigating the best “timing for sowing seeds” and battling plant ravaging insects.

There was also optimism for growing corn in the islands ac-cording to “Hawai‘i’s Forgotten Crop: Corn on Maui, 1851-1951” by Dr. Dawn Duensing. She wrote RHAS grain chair William H. Rice found successful experimentation with corn proving there was “little doubt” corn would “flourish in every district on every island” if planted at the correct time of year. Farmers must have taken this advice to heart as in 1865 the Pacific Commercial Ad-vertiser’s agriculture review reported 29,853 pounds of corn was exported from the islands.

The Makawao Corn Mill ground its first cracked corn in 1892 on land leased from Haleakala Ranch Company. A 1903 Maui map identifies a wide belt on the leeward slope of Haleakala as “good agricultural land planted in corn, Irish potatoes, etc.” Corn was also grown in Haiku where rain was plentiful and in cool-clime Waimea on Hawai‘i Island.

While corn was a highly desirable food for human and livestock consumption, it had problems competing with pineapple, which was growing in profitability and suited to Hawai‘i’s climate. Other challenges included efficiently curing or drying the corn in Ha-wai‘i’s humidity before it was eaten by insects. After a boom of  increased patriotic production during WWI, corn farming declined and mills closed. By the 1950s, Waimea’s Parker Ranch grew half of the territory’s 625 acres of corn.

Attracted by year-round growing conditions, seed companies came to Hawai‘i during the following decade. DuPont’s Pioneer Hi-Bred International started producing genetically modifi ed corn here in the 1990s. According to the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service, the 2015-16 value of Hawai‘i’s seed corn was $147 million, making up 97 percent of the state’s total seed crop.

At Southside Farming Company, Kyle Studer is farming 30 acres of sweet corn above Pahala town on Hawai‘i Island. Since January, he has planted three-fourths of an acre weekly with a goal to grow 40 acres of corn in the course of a year. Studer acquired the farm from Ellis and Sokah Hester; the couple has successfully grown corn there for the last 15 years.

A former Hamakua organic veggie farmer, Studer grows non-GMO corn, a bi-color sweet variety that does well in his climate niche of sunny, warm days and cool nights at a 1,500-foot elevation. He uses “best farming practices” and rotates plantings of diff er-ent squashes and cover crops to control insects, weeds and add organic matter to the soil.

To accommodate the shorter days of winter, which result in less growth and smaller ears, the native Texan puts wider spacing between the cornrows “to accommodate the lower angle of the sun.”

The farmer says a challenge in growing corn is the corn earworm; the caterpillar hatches in the corn silk and eats its way down into the ear. He uses organic methods of control to target only the worm.

“My goal is to get the farm to be organic but I have to make it work dollar for dollar,” notes Studer, who uses conventional fertilizer.

Studer’s newly branded K‘au Sweet Corn is sold on Hawai‘i Island through Adaptations, at all Island Natural Markets and various farmers markets. Munch away!

Chili Lime Corn on the Cob

Fresh Corn Fritters

Fresh Corn Fritters



Recipe and Photography Courtesy of edible Hawaiian Islands
Here at the edible Hawaiian Islands test kitchen we love inviting friends in to help test and taste recipes. We made five different versions of these corn fritters before we all agreed on the recipe below. The winning recipe had a lot to do with the method of cooking: we used fresh green corn husks to bake them in our IMU.
Course: Appetizer, Side Dish


  • Frying Pan, Sheet Pan, or IMU
  • Whisk
  • 3 Bowls
  • Medium Sized Frying Pan


  • 1 Cup Waialua Gold Cornmeal by Counter Culture, Oahu  Can Substitute AP Flour
  • 1 tsp. Baking Powder
  • 3 Ears of Fresh Sweet Organic Corn Husks Reserved for Baking
  • ½ Cup Fresh Coconut Crème Can Substitute Heavy Whipping Cream
  • 2 Farm Fresh Eggs Separated
  • Fresh Parsley or Thinly Sliced Green Onions For Garnish
  • Salt and Pepper To Taste


You can fry the fritters in coconut oil (no green corn husks needed except for presentation), or you can bake them in green corn husks (soak the husks in water for 1 hour prior to baking). If using an IMU, wrap the fritter-filled husks in foil.

  • Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees, prepare your IMU, or grab your frying pan.
  • Whisk cornmeal and baking powder in a bowl, add corn. Set aside.
  • In a separate bowl, mix egg yolks and coconut crème together, add cornmeal mixture. Do not over mix.
  • In a separate bowl whip egg whites until stiff peaks form.
  • Gently fold egg whites into the batter, again being careful to not over mix.
  • Pour coconut oil into a medium-sized frying pan, heat. Drop fritters into the oil. We used a large tablespoon and felt a two-bite size was the perfect serving size. Cook until browned on both sides, 3-4 minutes.
    Or, bake at 350 degrees in green corn husks for 25-35 minutes.
    Or, place them in an IMU along with top vegetables. Wrap in foil before baking.
  • Season with salt and pepper, garnish with parsley or green onion, and serve.

Chili Lime Corn on the Cob



Recipe and Photography Courtesy of edible Hawaiian Islands
Elote is a popular preparation of fresh corn amongst the Mexican street food community. It’s usually cooked and served with the husk attached which is used as a handle for eating the corn right on the street. You can serve it without the husk as we have done in the test kitchen.
Course: Side Dish, Vegetable
Servings: 4 People


  • Pot
  • BBQ, Grill Pan, or IMU


  • 4 Ears Fresh Sweet Corn on the Cob
  • 4 Tbsp. Unsalted Butter ( We like Naked Cow Dairy Butter from Oahu )
  • ½ tsp. Chili Powder
  • tsp. Cayenne Powder Or More To Taste
  • 3 Tbsp. Fresh Lime Juice
  • ½ Cup Cotija Cheese Crumbled Fine
  • Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper


  • Cook corn. Remove the husk and add corn to boiling water for 2-4 minutes. You can also grill the corn on the BBQ or add it to your IMU.  Soak corn with husk in fresh water for one hour before grilling. Drain well.
  • Mix all ingredients, except corn and cheese, in a bowl.
  • Slather the mixture onto cooked corn.
  • Add cheese.
  • Serve and Enjoy!