RECIPE AND PHOTOGRAPHY COURTESY edible HAWAIIAN ISLANDS
Spiced preserved lemons have a smooth texture with a salty, slightly pickled taste. The hardest part about making them is waiting for them to cure, which takes about four to five weeks. We make these in a wide-mouthed glass jar with a glass lid. This way, it’s easy to pack the lemons into the jar and no metal comes in contact with the lemon juice and salt.
6 small thin-skinned lemons, we recommend Meyer lemons
½ cup kosher salt
1 two-inch cinnamon stick
1 bay leaf
1 wide-mouthed quart-size Mason jar, sterilized with a glass lid
1. Wash and scrub four of the lemons thoroughly. Cut them lengthwise into quarters from the tip to within ½ cup of the stem end, so the quarters stay together at one end. Juice the remaining 2 lemons.
2. Put the cut-up lemons in a large bowl with the salt and toss to coat, packing the salt into the cut edges of the lemon. Re-form them into lemon shape, and pack them tightly into the sterilized jar with any extra salt and the cinnamon, cloves, and bay leaf. Pour in the lemon juice and cover the jar. Store in a cool place for 1 week, tipping the jar once a day to mix in the salt. After a week, put the jar in the refrigerator and keep for 3 more weeks before using. Rinse preserved lemons before using to remove excess salt.
> The lemons will keep in the fridge for up to 6 months.
> Dice the lemons and mix with a bit of their juices and olive oil for a dressing.
Written and Photographed by Dania Novack Katz for edible Hawaiian Islands
It had recently rained when I invited local forager and wild foods expert, Sunny Savage, to take a walk in my neighborhood. I was interested in learning more about the plants growing on my street, and Sunny’s breadth of knowledge surpasses that of anyone I have ever met in Hawai‘i.
We headed out armed with a camera, a notepad and a pen. I was intent on satisfying my curiosity and expanding my awareness of which local plants were safe to eat and which to stay away from. In the event of a natural disaster, being able to identify wild edible plants could come in very handy!”
What seemed like irritating weeds, sprung up in the wake of the recent rain, turned out to be a treasure trove of edible plant life. The plants pictured here were all identified within twenty feet of my driveway. Sunny educated me on how to eat them and how to distinguish them from imposters.
What’s extraordinary about Sunny is not just her knowledge, but the fact that she shares it so freely, advocating for a world in which we all recognize and utilize the diversity of wild foods growing right beneath our noses. We want to support her in this endeavor at every turn.
Everyone remembers the Junior League cookbooks with their sumptuous recipes covering the gamut of Island cooking. Almost every household in Hawai‘i had at least one cookbook. Now by popular demand, here are the best and favorite dishes sure to please every palate—from everyday recipes to special occasion dinners, from snacks to delicious desserts. Over 250 recipes to enjoy and cook for your family or guests. The wows will be forthcoming. There are traditional Island favorites—lumpia, spring rolls, chicken wings; salads including spinach, Caesar, and papaya; soups like miso, oxtail, and Portuguese bean; entrées range from kalbi, ribs, to lemon chicken and mahi mahi. Of course, there’s lū‘au food and an array of desserts featuring Island fruits.
Size: 6” x 9” Pages: 320 Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-949307-09-2
The fully updated second edition of The Hawai‘i Coffee Book: A Gourmet’s Guide from Kona to Kaua‘i includes all new recipes, new information on industry practices and trends and in-depth information on Hawai‘i coffee laws. Coffee scientist, consultant and author Dr. Shawn Steiman’s book is the definitive work on the subject, including a region-by-region guide, information on growing, harvesting and processing coffee and recipes for cooking with coffee, complete with mouthwatering photography. This comprehensive coffee book also dispenses tips on coffee appreciation and provides a thorough education on coffee essentials. Common questions such as, “How should I store my coffee?” (Short answer: Don’t.) and, “How do I brew the perfect cup of coffee?” are answered in an easy-to-digest sidebar format. A resource for everyone, even coffee fanatics who might think they know it all about their favorite beverage, The Hawai‘i Coffee Book addresses all aspects of the coffee industry and culture, from ethical farming to roasting techniques and coffee tasting to events and festivals.
Size: 9″ x 5.5″ Pages: 154 Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-948-011-16-7
WRITTEN BY ELIZA ESCAÑO PHOTOGRAPHY BY MYKLE COYNE
MY AFFECTION FOR SALE PEPE WAS INSTANT. In 2014, barely a few weeks into their opening, the word about Maui’s brand new Italian restaurant had gotten around swiftly. Maybe it was the spirited Italian banter between the kitchen and the servers, the intoxicating scent of garlic and herbs wafting through the space, the sacks of Italian flour or the cans of San Marzano tomatoes stacked by the counter. Who knows – but something delicious was clearly happening.
Diners flocked to enjoy dishes created by Chef Michele Di Bari and his business partner and wife, Qiana Di Bari. The couple set the bar for Italian cuisine on Maui, enriching the neighborhood and our palates in the process.
Michele rolls and cuts the pasta and pizza dough every morning. He learned the art of pasta making from his mother and was schooled at La Scuola Italiana Pizzaioli (The Italian School of Pizza). His food marries locally sourced ingredients with the rich traditions he grew up with in Rozzano, Milan and his deep familial roots in southern Italy’s Lavello and Lacedonia, where the Di Baris are currently building their dream home. The cooking is simple and honest; the end-result, superb. Kauai prawns top house made grilled crostini; arancinis rest on Maui Cattle Company Bolognese; and a fresh, local catch can be found on the special most evenings.
Brooklyn-raised Qiana manages front of the house. No stranger to building a following on the laurels of authenticity and artistry, Qiana managed one of the best hip-hop groups from the genre’s 1990’s golden era, A Tribe Called Quest, before becoming a restaurateur. Her gentle demeanor, warmth and sharp wit lend a sincere hospitality to the dining room.
SALE PEPE GROWS AND BU’ONO PASTA FRESCA IS BORN
Bu’ono, you might guess, is a combination of buono and ‘ono, respectively Italian and Hawaiian for delicious. The initial launch was done in collaboration with R. Field Wine Company, the gourmet and artisanal section of Foodland Farms Lahaina and Foodland Kehalani in Wailuku. Soon, Bu’ono will be available at Whole Foods Market on O’ahu and Maui, quite a win for this family endeavor.
Three types of pasta will be in production: spaghetti rigatoni, penne and strozzapreti, which literally means priest choker as it was traditionally served as an after-mass meal where the priests supposedly overindulged on pasta. Bu’ono offerings also include vibrant marinara, and a pesto sauce that highlights beautiful basil by local growers like Kumu Farms and Oko’a Farms. The fresh pasta and sauce provide a quick, wholesome and well-crafted dinner option for a family.
While Michele credits Qiana for most of the new menu specials and big-picture ideas, Qiana is quick to deflect some shine back on her partner. “We collaborate, that’s our thing,” shared Qiana. “He’s always moving, he’s never still. There’s not a lot of time for reflection. It’s hard for me to keep up with him during the day cause he’s just flying. His speed and power are really strong. But then he’ll stop in the middle of a dash, and say, ‘I remember when I was little; we would always eat panzarotti at the beach. I think I’m going to do that today.’ And he’ll come out of the blue with something epic. It is totally reciprocal.”
TRAVELING TO ITALY INSPIRES
“We go to Italy to connect with the roots and to remember how to maintain the Italian standard,” said Qiana. “What happens in Italy is that we’ll be sitting at the most mundane table somewhere, maybe someone’s house that I’ve sat in a million times or maybe a café. And something will come out on the table and I’ll say, ‘Why don’t we show people that?’ Then we go to New York, and it gets me excited about the future.”
Italian travels are for visits to Michele’s family who now live in Ripaldina, two hours from Milan. The time is also spent sourcing better products. “There are always new products we can find,” said Michele. “Better prosciutto, better flour, better olive oil, better semolina, and that’s a big deal.”
Last summer, he spent a birthday dinner at a farm with the family, something he hadn’t done in 20 years. Sunday suppers are called pastasciutta and consist of “slow, legacy cooking of braised meat and pasta that roots the rest of the week.” Michele’s mother would make ravioli and orecchiette, and the family would spend hours eating and enjoying each other’s company. Michele’s mother holidays on Maui at times, and when she does, she can often be seen making her own special pastas for the restaurant; it’s a sight to behold.
“We work hard because we see how much people love it,” said Qiana. “We are motivated by our community, the locals and the visitors, but we want to get excited too. We want to be titillated by our creative process.”
HIDDEN IN OUR CAKE, chips, crackers, crust, cookies, and cereal, flour has found a calling. One of the most important cuisine ingredients in many of the world’s cultures, and for some the defining ingredient, flour has become a staple. Many say that humans first became civilized when we began raising food instead of hunting for it, storing grain for later use and preparing it in different ways. There is evidence from 6000 B.C. of wheat seeds having been crushed between simple millstones and flour was made. Grains were traded for other necessities, a system of commerce was put in place, and eventually, crops from very distant fields could provide food for cities (or in our case, islands).
Flour is inexpensive and plentiful and is commonly made from wheat grown across huge swaths of midwestern America. In Hawai‘i however, flour in the traditional sense will most likely never be produced. Land here is far too limited and expensive to devote to a crop such as wheat on the commercial scale. Taking into account the warranted concerns over Hawai‘i’s food security, sustainability, and the questionable nutrition of conventional flour, pioneers across our islands have begun experimenting with turning nontraditional crops into unique forms of flour.
THE SHORT OF IT
Something smells sweet in Hilo. Maria Short has always had a passion for baking. A student of the culinary arts and a former pastry chef for restaurants, catering companies and patisseries, she met her husband, Dien, as a pastry chef instructor, teaching Merchant Marines how to bake. Together they endeavored on Short N Sweet Bakery, opening in Hāwī on Hawai‘i island 15 years ago then moving to a larger facility in Hilo in 2010.
“Several years ago, a friend started producing macadamia nut oil. He came to me with the by-product of the oil production, macadamia nut ‘cake’ and because I don’t like to waste food, especially macadamia nuts, we started making the flour in small quantities,” Maria explains. “Since then, Dien has been able to source enough macadamia nut cake that we need a commercial mill. It’s amazing to me that what we are producing now would have been used as compost or worse yet, thrown away.”
The macadamia nut flour has a warm, toasty flavor and a hint of sweetness. It was successfully used in her shortbreads, pie crusts and puff paste. Maria’s resourcefulness was kindled.
“Once we got the mill we started thinking about all the other agricultural by-products that are considered waste and we came up with the Okinawan sweet potato flour. The sweet potatoes that we mill are the ‘offs.’ They are normally undersized, or not pretty enough for the retail market, so they were just being tilled under.”
Short N Sweet’s now famous Hawaiian sweetbread is made in the Portuguese style and utilizes their hydrated sweet potato flour for a soft texture and an earthy yet sweet taste. Maria has plans to experiment with ‘ulu, green papaya, coconut, kalo, and banana flours in the future.
Less than an hour away, on the slopes of Mauna Kea Volcano, Ahualoa Farm’s macadamia nut trees sparkle under the sun. Parallel to Maria Short’s technique, they take their mac nut pieces and press out the oil (which they also bottle and sell); flour is the result. The culinary possibilities are then endless: panko crust on fish, pesto, an addition to smoothies, pie or pizza crusts. The flour is made every week and is sold at farmer’s markets and retail stores across the islands to allow for the creative home chef to experiment with macadamia nut flour too.
A BUG’S AFTERLIFE
Lourdes Torres calls them her “star ingredient,” though they’re a bit jumpy. For the last four years, she has run Sustainable Boost on Kaua‘i, producing nutritionally dense flours and powders that are low impact and high yield. Among less eyebrow-raising flours such as green banana, turmeric, ginger and pacific spinach, Lourdes also produces a cricket and taro blend.
“I want to bring back some incredibly nutritious and delicious foods that have been living in obscurity,” says Lourdes. “The United Nations has been talking about insects as viable crops for decades. They should not be seen as only a food for famine, but instead as a super sustainable crop which provides the highest quality protein of any food on the planet. They utilize only a tiny bit of natural resources and produce a ton of nutrients.”
The concept of insects as food tends to be misconstrued, especially in America. While our precious lobster, shrimp and crab get a hefty price tag and a quality of indulgence, they are actually closely related to insects, just the sea-dwelling variety. Crickets are the most easily digestible protein on the planet, provide ten times more Omegas than salmon and an incredible amount of B12. Lourdes raises hers on a rich, plant-based diet and the final product is almost undetectable in foods, save for a mild, nutty flavor. She adds the flour to guacamole, oatmeal, hummus, soups, and calls it “magic dust” for smoothies.
“Some are predicting that insects will save the planet and I share that belief,” Lourdes says. If edible crickets could lose their stigma, it would mean more people eating eco-friendly, high quality protein, produced using less water and space, and resulting in less greenhouse gas emmissions than beef, chicken or pork farming by a long shot. There’s nothing “icky” about that.
Kiawe is not native to Hawai‘i, in fact it’s quite invasive. Originating from South America, the tree was first introduced in 1828 and over the years has proven to out-compete many native grasses and woody plants, and has been a literal thorn in plenty of bare feet. However, it also fights to control erosion, provides a fantastic wood to cook over, and, in Wai‘anae, can even be made into gold.
In 2006, Vincent Kana‘i Dodge met a couple from Arizona who were taking a farm tour on the west side of Oahu. They shared that mesquite trees, a cousin of kiawe, were edible. Not only could their bean pods be ground down to a sweet, nutritious flour, but they are diabetes-friendly and growing in throngs on the Wai‘anae Coast, where the obesity epidemic is more apparent than anywhere else in Hawai‘i. So began Vincent’s quest to educate himself on how to turn kiawe into quality food for his community.
In 2009, he traveled to Tuscon, Arizona to take a Desert Harvesters mesquite milling training. Three years later he visited the Wichi people of Argentina who have been eating kiawe daily for a thousand years. Vincent acquired a small mill and began grinding kiawe bean pods into flour. He calls it Wai‘anae Gold.
Although kiawe has only been in the Hawaiian Islands for 200 years, it is an ancient, nutrient-dense food. Vincent finds it no coincidence that the trees paint the Wai‘anae Coast so abundantly today. He believes they are a gift from māmā ‘āina, growing in the driest conditions, providing shade, and waiting to be recognized for their benefits.
“Eat what your land and your ocean provide for you. Eat what is in your front yard and what is in your backyard. Eat the plants and animals, fish and creatures that you have a relationship with. They know you and they will be your medicine,” says Vincent.
Wai‘anae Gold as well as ‘Āina Bars, a no-bake power bar made with kiawe flour, are sold online and in select stores across the islands. Vincent loves making kiawe banana pancakes with Wai‘anae Gold; recipes also include corn bread, mochi, crepes and banana bread, and can be found on the website.
Also known as breadfruit, ‘ulu is “super” in many ways: super-sized (picture a spiky basketball), super versatile, and a highly nutritious superfood.
On Maui, where the four waterways of Wailuku, Waihe‘e, Waiehu, and Waikapū all converge and encourage lush growth is Noho‘ana Farm. Hōkūao Pellegrino’s family has owned the two-acre property in Waikapū since 1848. Along with over forty varieties of kalo growing in his fields, Hōkūao is also producing small batches of nutrient-dense, naturally gluten-free flour made from ‘ulu.
“The process is a lengthy and tedious one. You need a lot of ‘ulu to make a small amount of flour,” says Hōkūao. But it’s worth it. ‘Ulu maintains its nutritional value through the process of becoming flour. It’s loaded with fiber, antioxidants, iron, protein, and Vitamins A and C. Also, unlike some other nontraditional flours, ‘ulu can be used at a 1:1 ratio. “We predominantly mill our flour at the finest grade, or what we say in Italian as doppio zero (00). We find that when the ‘ulu flour is ground [this way], it holds better in comparison to wheat flours.”
‘Ulu’s versatility is one of its shining points. In its green state, ‘ulu is much like an artichoke in flavor. When ripe, it’s starchy and cooks like a potato. When over-ripe, ‘ulu is sweet. Made into flour, ‘ulu can be used in endless recipes and has more flavor than traditional wheat. “We have made flat bread pizzas and different pasta noodles but have found greatest success in making an ‘ulu gnocchi with garlic,” Hōkūao says. “One of our favorite things to make with Palaoa ‘ulu or ‘ulu flour is a Tahitian lime and vanilla banana bread.”
Hōkūao is also an educator and advocate of traditional Hawaiian agriculture. With ‘ulu having been brought to Hawai‘i as a canoe crop, its history in the islands is long, yet we are still learning to utilize it in different ways.
Hōkūao explains that if Hawai‘i is to be a model for global food security, we should be striving to grow crops with a high nutritional index such as ‘ulu. “As Hawai‘i moves towards being a sustainable archipelago once again, it is critical that we expand the cultivation of traditional food crops such as ‘ulu and kalo and the knowledge of our kūpuna as our foundation.”
The first people to reach the islands that would one day be known as Hawai‘i did not come alone. They brought with them the seeds of the plants which sustained them, plants that would eventually become known as canoe crops. Kalo, or taro is perhaps most notable of them all. Rich in fiber, iron and B Vitamins, taro is a superfood and a culturally cherished staple in Hawai‘i.
Brynn Foster is the mind behind Voyaging Foods, an artisan milling company based on O‘ahu. She produces canoe-crop flours made of taro as well as breadfruit and sweet potato.
One of Voyaging Foods’ core values is to support farmers and food-growing land in Hawai‘i. “We believe working with local farmers involves an interdependent relationship rather than purely transactional. We want to see more examples of partnerships that provide a livable and thriving system for our farmers,” Brynn says. “Sourcing Hawaiian-grown taro is a non-negotiable for us.”
As with any taro product, cooking should always be involved, as the plant is toxic in its raw form due to calcium oxalate, which is also a natural pesticide. Brynn soaks her taro, then steams, peels and slices into chips. Once the water is removed, the taro is shelf stable and can be milled into flour. The finished product can be used for baking or as a thickener in stews, smoothies or oatmeal. It can be bought at Whole Foods Market as well as online where cookie and “Tarocake” mixes are also for sale.
“Hawai‘i is starch dependent and food insecure. We grow only a few varieties of taro commercially. To protect our islands from introduced bio hazards, pests and viruses, we need to grow and process our own food,” says Brynn. “Biodiversity is a solution to climate issues and food security. Taro has more than 80 varieties highly specialized to these islands. This indigenous knowledge is important for our modern diet […]” Canoe crops such as taro are as synonymous with Hawai‘i as big surf and hula. They will continue to be a fixture in the diet of the islands even as the methods with which we utilize them evolve and adapt with Hawai‘i’s food security in mind. [ eHI ]
We understand that after reading the story about Unique Flours in Hawai‘i, you’ll want to know where you can try tasting and using the flours mentioned. Here are some resources for you.
Note: Please contact them before visiting. Supply in demand and very limited amounts make some of these products seasonal.
AHUALOA FARMS KITCHEN AND GIFT SHOP 45-3279 Mamane Street Honoka‘a, HI 96727 808-775-1821 ahualoafarms.com Visit or shop on-line. They also have locations on Oahu and Hawai‘i Island at selected farmers’ markets. Selling macadamia nut flour and other products.
HAWAIIAN HERITAGE FARMS P. O. Box 970 Wailuku, HI 96793 808-298-0101 Hawaiianheritagefarms.com Limited supply of seasonal products. Best to order on-line or send them an email.
NOHO‘ANO FARM 213 West Waiko Road Waikapu, HI 96793 808-430-4534 firstname.lastname@example.org Nohoanofar.com Selling ‘ulu flour in limited qualities at special events. The farm is not open to the public
SHORT N SWEET BAKERY & CAFE 374 Kino‘ole Street Hilo, HI 96720 808-935-4446 Visit the bakery and buy baked goods using sweet potato flour and roasted macadamia nut flour.
CAN DOING THE RIGHT THING FOR THE ENVIRONMENT BE GOOD FOR BUSINESSES?
FOR THE SURFRIDER FOUNDATION, the answer is “yes.” Case in point: Ocean Friendly Restaurants.
HOW DID IT START?
Following a small program launch by the San Diego Chapter, Surfrider’s Hawai‘i Chapter volunteers launched the Ocean Friendly Restaurants (OFR) program in the islands on Earth Day 2016. The goal was to find a new way to focus on legislative reform by helping to reduce the plastic footprint coming from restaurants, particularly take out containers, plastic bags and utensils. The OFR program recognized restaurants leading the way in environmental protection by operating without foam and plastic.
“Some politicians argued that banning styrofoam or single-use plastics would hurt businesses. Consumers vote with their wallets, so we wanted to work with businesses and support the ones who were doing the right thing,” said Stuart Coleman, Hawaiian Islands Manager for Surfrider Foundation.
Within nine months of its launch, volunteers had certified over 100 Ocean Friendly Restaurants across the state. Surfrider has also been instrumental in banning styrofoam on Maui and Hawai‘i Island.
The success of the OFR program in Hawai‘i helped the Surfrider Foundation launch the Ocean Friendly Restaurants program on a national level. Now, Hawai‘i is one of the top OFR states in the country, and there are more than 500 restaurants certified nationwide.
In 2017, Town Hospitality Group, led by Ed Kenney and Dave Caldiero, was awarded the Business of the Year by Surfrider Foundation – Oahu Chapter. All four of the company’s restaurants – Town, Kaimuki Superette, Mud Hen Water and Mahina & Sun’s – earned OFR’s Platinum certification and were among the first to join Surfrider’s OFR Program.
Kenney recently joined Jack Johnson in a promotional video for Surfrider highlighting Ocean Friendly Restaurants, lending their star power to the cause. Kenney is vocal about the plastic pollution epidemic and has lent testimony to support this issue through legislative action.
Several other OFRs—like The Nook, Koko Head Cafe, Mama T’s Umeke Market, Fete, Farm to Fork, and Tin Roof—have also supported plastic-free legislation.
The momentum doesn’t stop at the legislature. Earlier this year, Ocean Friendly Restaurants partnered with The Traveling Plate on a statewide fundraising promotion highlighting dishes from participating OFR restaurants.
The Mill House, Duke’s, Highway Inn, Moku Kitchen, and Pint & Jigger have all hosted Ocean Friendly Pau Hanas, offering special gatherings as a way to build community and celebrate Surfrider’s volunteers.
Outrigger Hotels & Resorts and Kahala Hotel & Resort have become ocean friendly hotels, where each restaurant’s outlets are OFR-certified.
DRIVEN BY PASSION
Natalie Wohner, a University of Hawai‘i PhD student studying mechanical engineering and materials science, agreed to co-chair the Ocean Friendly Restaurants committee on Oahu last year. “The ocean gives me so much, so I wanted to find a way to give back to it and really make an impact,” she said. “Surfrider provides a channel for me to do that.”
Wohner has volunteered for Surfrider for the past three years. While she feels a sense of gratification and purpose, she also wishes there were more people to help lighten her load.
“People forget that we’re all volunteers in this very grassroots organization,” she says. “Right now, it’s primarily just me and Anny Barlow certifying all of the restaurants. We have done some great things, but would love to have more help.”
The neighbor islands have similar challenges. On Maui, Lorin Ifkovic serves as chair, and on Kauai, Ruta Jordans serves as chair. Both are actively looking for more volunteers to help identify Ocean Friendly Restaurants, then certify them. Hawai‘i Island currently does not have an active OFR chair for either Kona or Hilo.
“There’s always more work to do,” said Coleman. “But looking back ten years ago, working at Surfrider was a lonely place. Now, we have mainstream awareness of the plastic pollution epidemic and businesses and community members who want to help drive behavior change. Looking back at my time at Surfrider Foundation, Ocean Friendly Restaurants is probably the most impactful thing we’ve done.”
HOW TO REGISTER
There are five criteria that all OFR participating restaurants must follow: they must only provide paper straws and to-go utensils upon request; they cannot distribute Styrofoam or plastic bags; they must follow proper recycling practices; and they must utilize reusable foodware for onsite dining.
In addition to these core commitments, the restaurant must also choose a minimum of two more criteria from the following list: refrain from the sale of beverages packaged in plastic bottles; offer discounts to customers who bring their own reusable cup/mug/bag, etc.; offer vegetarian or vegan menu options on a regular basis; serve seafood that is designated as “Best Choice” or “Good Alternative” by Seafood Watch, or is otherwise certified as sustainable; implement water conservation and pollution mitigation efforts; and put energy efficient efforts in place.
A restaurant that meets all of the above criteria will be recognized as a Platinum Level Ocean Friendly Restaurant.
For more information on the Ocean Friendly Restaurants program and its coalition of partners, the full list of certified restaurants, and how to get certified, go to: oceanfriendlyrestaurantshawaii.org.
LEMONS ARE JUST BEGINNING to get the respect they deserve. 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 as the largest producers. In Hawai‘i we grow and sell less than 100,000 pounds and import another 4 million pounds still. Pretty shameful considering how lemons go to waste in the state.
Most who study horticulture believe the lemon originated in northern India as a naturally occurring hybrid between sour orange and citron. The 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 the lemon to Hawai‘i in 1813 with traders bringing other varieties coming in 1823.
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, 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. An offshoot of the Rangpur, the Kona lime has a tight skin and very few thorns.
There is also a primitive subgenus of citrus called Papedas, some of which 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.
HERE ARE SOME POPULAR VARIETIES:
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.
MEYER – (CITRUS X MEYERI)
This 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 is 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, 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 Hawai‘i. Those grafts died off and the plant 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 also does well in Hawai‘i, which is hotter than the average citrus climate. Its unclear if the fruit arrived in Hawai‘i 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 Hawai‘i. 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 are 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 its 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 pomelo 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 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 relevance in Hawai‘i has always been marginal as the trees are more tolerant of the cold and produce much better in cooler areas. 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 from 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 could be found in HLB-free areas or could be 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. [ eHi ]
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