An Abundance of Lilikoi at Kauai Glory Farms
Recently, Dan and I went to Kauai Glory Farms to interview James and Hannah Huang about broccoli. The couple lease the land, and farm two properties. Both are on the east side of Kauai. One is in Kealia, not far from the beach, and the other is in Kapahi.
“We can’t really farm at the Kealia gardens anymore,” Hannah says mournfully. Her Chinese accent has a sweet, little girl lilt. Her husband is quiet, his English isn’t as strong as Hannah’s. “The nene (Hawaii’s endangered State bird) eat everything. The only thing they don’t eat is leeks and green onions, so that’s all we can plant there.”
We are at the garden in Kapahi. At 480 feet elevation, the Huangs can grow cool weather crops, such as broccoli, in the summer. At the moment, it’s blazing hot at the farm, and the broccoli leaves wilt in the late morning heat.
“The well water doesn’t run very good up here,” she says. “When we use the sprinklers to water the garden, it doesn’t reach very far, and we have to spend all day moving them around to make sure everything gets watered.”
Despite these challenges, Hannah is cheerful, and her wide smile is endearing. As we walk around the property, I’m mesmerized by giant waterfalls cascading down Mt. Makaleha. Tearing my eyes away from the glorious sight, I notice a passion fruit vine loaded with sweet, ripe fruit. So many that hundreds of them have fallen to the ground.
“Oh my Hannah!” I say. “Look at all your passion fruit!” She gives me an exasperated smile, and we continue to walk around her farm.
There’s asparagus, amaranth, arugula, Asian greens, apple bananas, basil, beets, bok choi, broccoli, broccoli raab (Chinese broccoli), carrots, choi sum, coconuts, corn, cucumber, herbs, guava, lemon, lemon balm, lemongrass, lettuce, mint, mustard greens, papaya, parsley, pomelo, radish, salad mix, scallions, strawberries, thyme, tomatoes (heirloom, cherry and grape), and zucchini.
The Huangs mostly fertilize with chicken manure and compost made at their farm. They use GMO-free seeds, and don’t spray with chemicals. I’m amazed that it’s just the two of them growing and harvesting on five-acres.
They also sell at Kauai famers markets five days a week. One or the other can be found selling their produce in Koloa, Waipa, Kapaa, Kilauea, or Hanalei, as well as the Kauai Community College, and Kukui Grove farmers markets.
After the interview, we give her a hug and kiss on the cheek, as is tradition in Hawaii. We head for the car, looking forward to getting out of the sizzling sun.
“Wait one minute,” Hannah calls out, sweat rolling down her temples. “I picked some gardenias for you this morning.” She hurries off and we wait in the shade of a rustic wash station.
She comes back, flush with exertion, carrying a bucket of yellow lilikoi. She dumps them into a reusable grocery bag, and nearly fills it. I’m grateful, but I have no idea what I am going to do with this much passion fruit.
Passion fruit mature from June through January, with the heaviest crops beginning in July, and running through November. There are over fifteen varieties grown on Hawaii that originate from strains of yellow and Australian Purple passion fruit. Purple lilikoi have a higher concentration of juice, are less acidic, and are prized for their rich aroma and flavor.
High in beta carotene, it’s also an excellent source of niacin (B3) and a good source of riboflavin (B2). Niacin is a coenzyme that is vital for proper activity of the nervous system, healthy skin, tongue, digestive tissues, and for the synthesis of sex hormones. It also supports detoxification, lowers cholesterol, and helps with Type 1 diabetes and arthritis.
The juice, pulp and seeds are edible, but I half every one of them and spoon their contents into a blender. The juice is suspended in sacks that cling to the seeds. I give it a quick whirr, and strain it a chinoise for a couple of hours. The juice is a rich orange color, the color of a Kauai sunrise. I pour it into ice cube trays, and store the frozen cubes in a plastic bag in the freezer. One regular sized lilikoi cube measures two tablespoons.
Passion fruit juice has a very strong flavor. The juice is as tart as a lemon, and as bright as an orange. I add it to everything that calls for citrus. I especially like it in cocktails, salad dressings and tuna sandwiches.
I make tangy Tropical Oatmeal with fresh pineapple, the two flavors are sublime. I add it to my banana muffin recipe, and call them Sunrise Muffins. I make a thick custard and coconut crust for Lilikoi Bars. The Chocolate Passion Fruit Sauce is an excellent partner for Banana Lumpia.
My freezer stash is running low, and I get a little sad thinking about when it’s gone. I have become accustomed to its flavor brightening our meals and drinks. I suppose I’ll have to go to the farmers market and fill up a bag before the season is over.