Part of the fun of visiting Hawaii is to try some new and exotic tropical fruit grown locally. It's easy to find some amazing tropical fruit when visiting the islands and getting them directly from a roadside stand or farmers market. Hawaii is blessed with warm and temperate weather for growing a variety or tropical fruits yearly and produce more cycles of fruit per year. The variety of tropical fruit covers the gamut from commercially viable fruit like bananas and pineapples to new unusual varieties of fruit including rambutan, cherimoya, dragon fruit and lychee, fruits that are more commonly found in southeast Asian countries.
When tropical fruit are in season in Hawaii like mangoes, go out and try it because it will be fresh and truly delicious, also you’ll be supporting a local farmer or a farmers market when you are buying this fresh and locally grown. When visiting the islands it’s easy to find a variety of fresh fruit grown locally and offered in grocery stores, farmers markets, roadside stands or even growing wild along the side of the road if you care to climb and harvest them yourself.
Here are some of the more common to more unusual tropical fruits found all over Hawaii:
Pineapples are grown mostly in small farm lots and sold in farmers markets when they are nice and fresh. There are two types of delicious pineapples from Hawaii, yellow and white. We all know how sweet the yellow pineapples are through the Dole pineapple brand, but have you tried the really sweet white pineapples from Hawaii? They are highly perishable and have a short shelf life which makes it difficult to ship so its rare to find white pineapples outside of Hawaii. If you spot them at the local farmers market or roadside stand, make sure you buy one, they are simply delicious and super sweet when ripe. From cutting the tops and planting to flowering and fruit it takes about two and a half years to bear fruit. Grown in every backyard in Hawaii, it’s one of those plants that are so easy, anyone can grow their own pineapples with almost no care or maintenance to growing the plant.
When this is in season, mangoes grown in Hawaii are oh so delicious and sweet. With over 60 different varieties grown on the islands, it’s a favorite tropical fruit to eat when there’s a lot of places to purchase or even harvest the mangoes yourself. Mangoes are bursting with protective nutrients and vitamins, the content depends upon the variety and maturity of the fruit. When the mango is green the amount of vitamin C is higher, as it ripens the amount of beta carotene (vitamin A) increases. June through October is when mango season occurs in Hawaii, it’s a nice long harvest season so you you’ll have some time to eat a lot of locally grown mangoes during the harvest season.
Papayas seem to grow so easy in Hawaii, you can see them everywhere, even growing wild on the side of the road. Papayas are some of the most nutritious tropical fruits and are loaded with nutrients including, vitamins A, C, E and K, anti-oxidants and calcium, beta carotene, lutein, magnesium and many healthy minerals. This delicious fruit was called ‘Fruit of the angles’ by Christopher Columbus because of its health benefits to preventing colds and flu, helping in digestion, lung and eye disorders and even preventing heart disease. To pick ripe papayas, look for skin that is turning from green to yellow with some give on the flesh but not too soft, you can also pick them a little firmer and place them somewhere cool until they ripen.
There’s nothing like having fresh coconuts on the islands including drinking the coconut water and savoring the delicious white flesh of the coconut meat. Coconut water and the meat of the coconut are both delicious and filled with anti-oxidants, vitamins C, B and E and rich in potassium, iron, magnesium and phosphorus. Coconut milk, the creamy milk made from squeezing the meat is also popular as a drink or served in mixed drinks or used as an ingredient for cooking and baking purposes.
A very popular exotic fruit grown in Hawaii that doesn’t last very long at the local farmers market or a neighbors fruiting tree. These colorful and hairy looking fruits are easy to open by just pulling apart the skin from the middle and then eating the white flesh from the large seed inside. Look for rambutan that are brightly colored from orange to red and avoid those that are starting to brown. Rambutan are flavorful and packed with vitamin C, manganese along with calcium, iron, potassium and other healthy minerals.
Did you know that there are over 70 different varieties of bananas grown in Hawaii? Bananas are year round crops grown in Hawaii and they grow well in the lush and wet zones throughout the state. Eaten raw or cooked, bananas are packed with vitamins B6, potassium and fiber. Here’s a bit of trivia, did you know that bananas are not trees but really part of the herb family from the genus Musa? Ever try some of the smaller but yet flavorful Hawaiian bananas called apple bananas or manzano, these bananas are usually half the size and fatter than the Williams variety that is more common around the world. The apple bananas here are sweeter and delicious raw or even cooked into a dessert or savory dish.
Finding some tropical fruit in season and trying something you are not familiar with is a fun and a delicious experience while visiting the islands. You'll definitely enjoy the fruits here when they are fresh and recently harvested and available for sale in many venues throughout the islands.