Issue 7.2: April/May 2004

To Market

story by Liza Simon
photo by Kyle Rothenborg

At the new Saturday Farmer’s Market on the slopes of Diamond Head, there’s one key rule: Food can be raw, packaged or grilled on the spot, but all ingredients must come from Hawaii. About thirty vendors have taken up the challenge since the market began last fall, and they have succeeded in turning the event into a showcase for kaukau wizardry.

You’ll find plenty of familiar Hawaii produce here, but you’ll also discover much more rarified treats—like hearts of palm cultivated in Big Island rainforests or microgreens from Waimanalo. Tantalizing protein sources, likewise uncommon in our stores, can be had: moi, the fish once reserved for alii, and organic grass-fed beef. Prepared foods range from hot breakfast plates cooked up by a gourmet chef to goodies from the dazzlingly experimental kitchens of the Kapiolani Community College culinary department.

Each week, big crowds turn out for the market, which runs from 8 a.m. to noon. And really, who can resist stepping up to meet people like jam man Don Akiyama as he invites you to sample from twelve jams and jellies—including a rare poha berry and an ohelo berry, made from fruit he plucks from wild bushes near his home on the Big Island.

A few booths down, Jeane Vana presides over the preparation of fried green tomatoes. A Southern dish, right? "Wrong!" says Vana. She is using a wok and panko batter to cook tomatoes into a delicate tempura. The fleshy green orbs themselves, she proudly announces, are Big Wave Tomatoes, so named because they are farmed on land that boasts a view of the North Shore’s renowned monster surf. Someday, Big Wave Tomatoes will be as famous as their namesake, Vana predicts with a laugh as she plants the seeds of their fame by inviting customers into her booth. "Welcome to our Garden of Eating," she says and winks.