Issue 20.6: December 2017/January 2018
Native Intelligence: Hawai‘i Island

Panoply of Preserves

Story by Katie Young Yamanaka. Photos by Jack Wolford.

Acts of aloha by friends and neighbors leave bakery owner Dean Edmoundson with more tropical fruit than he can handle. “Everyone in this town has fruit trees,” says Edmoundson, 71, of Mr. Ed’s Bakery. Without freezers to store it all, “Mr. Ed” devised a plan so their generosity wouldn’t be wasted. That plan was jams: more than 150 varieties of preserves, butters, marmalades, chutneys, mustards and sauces.

Six-foot-four and sporting muttonchops and a curled mustache, Mr. Ed’s known around the small Hawai‘i Island town of Honomū as much for his look as for his jams. He started with fruits growing in his own front yard: guava, jaboticaba and Surinam cherry. When he got up to twelve flavors, his wife and the voice of reason, June, said, “You have too many. Go back to six.”

Man of a hundred jellies: Dean “Mr. Ed” Edmoundson at his bakery in Honomü, where the shelves are lined with 150-plus varieties of preserves, sauces, butters and chutneys. He makes them from fruit growing in his yard or donated by friends.

But there were still tropical edibles piling up on his doorstep. Seventy percent of the fruits he uses are gifts, he says: mango, papaya, liliko‘i, lychee and many more. Two-thirds of his sales feature some combination of liliko‘i. “Anything that says ‘passion fruit,’ the tourists love,” he says, and tourists keep his business going. His bakery is on the way to Honomū’s main attraction, ‘Akaka Falls.

The bakery’s previous owner, Hideo Ishigo, taught the former teacher and house painter from Oklahoma everything he knows about baking, including how to make a good-looking bear claw and a cinnamon bun nearly the size of your face. But the jams are what’s put him on the map, and Mr. Ed makes three hundred jars each week. His selection includes everything from typical tropical fruits to oddballs: longan, jackfruit, pohā berry and something June’s grandfather grows that Mr. Ed named “tangeyfruit” (a hybrid of tangerine and grapefruit). He’s concocted some pretty strange jam combinations as well: carrot cake, liliko‘i mustard and “tangerine torture,” a mix of habanero, ghost peppers and Hawaiian chilies that Mr. Ed jokes “stops burning within three days.”