Kauai White or Sugarloaf pineapple. Daniel Lane photo
When visitor’s come to Kauai, there are several things on their bucket list. First, get a little beach time, then a mai tai, and finally some juicy, tropical fruit. Pineapple is a popular exotic fruit that some people crave so badly, they make purchasing arrangements before they even get here. I get it, when I moved here, I discovered how good a Kauai pineapple is. If you want to skip the delicious details listed below, and order a Kauai Sugarloaf White Pineapple, you can order online from Hole in the Mountain Farm.
Three farmers on Kauai grow a white variety known as Kauai Sugarloaf White Pineapple. It's known for its delicate flavor, that is very low in acid. They are sweet, big and juicy, weighing between six and eight pounds.
Before we moved here, we fell into a common tourist trap. I assumed that shopping at the farmers market meant I would get Kauai grown produce. But a heady daze of vacation mentality clouded my vision, and the gentle nature of the island, combined with the kindness of residents, lulled me into a cocoon of trust.
We were vacationing on Kauai in early June, just weeks before pineapple season. Of course I didn’t know this, I thought everything grew all the time in Hawaii! I eagerly bought a pineapple and took it to our vacation condo. When Dan cut it open, he noticed a little hole in one of the leaves. We didn’t know it at the time, but the hole was made by name tags, from corporate farms. You know, those labels that hang off the side at the grocery store?
How do we know this? Because when we moved to Kauai, Dan’s first job was the produce manager at Papaya’s Natural Foods and Cafe. After we took a 12-week intensive organic farming class, and learned that 95 percent of Hawaii’s food is imported, selling locally grown food became important to him.
One day, a farmer came and sold him pineapple. As he stacked them on the produce shelves, he noticed each pineapple had a hole in the leaf. When confronted, the farmer refused to disclose the location of the farm. He later found out that many “farmers” buy produce at the store, and sell it at market. In my, "Is the Food You Buy Really Grown on Kauai?" post, I write about what to look for.
Pineapple in Hawaii
Pineapple is rare on Kauai, making the exotic fruit even more desirable. According to the University of Hawaii at Manoa, College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources website, Kauai isn’t even worth mentioning.
“Large areas are planted on the islands of Lanai, Maui, and Oahu. Most of the production previously was canned, but there is an increasing trend toward producing for the fresh fruit market. There is some smallholder production on the islands of Maui and Hawaii.”
Now, I’m sure all of the Hawaiian Islands have excellent pineapple. But fresh food tastes better. Hands down. Even if it’s shipped from Ohau to Kauai (85 miles), or Maui to Kauai (205 miles), it’s not as fresh. Think about all that goes into it. Picking, packaging, shipping, delivering, stocking. The farmers I’ve listed below harvest pineapple right before market. So it’s straight from their farm to your table.
Kauai Pineapple Farmers
Olana Organic Farm - Tim O’Connor
Olana Organic Farm, Tim O'Connor. Daniel Lane photo
Olana Organic Farm is a 3-acre permaculture farm in Moloaa dedicated to building sustainable tropical agricultural systems. The farm grows many tropical fruits, including seasonal pineapple, and a wide variety of vegetables. For weekly custom orders, call 346-5936, or email email@example.com.
Farmers Markets: Kilauea Neighborhood Center (Thursday at 4:30 p.m) Namahana Farmers Market by Banana Joe's (Saturday 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.)
Alena Farm - Joan and Dale Allen
Alena Farm, Joan and Dale Allen. Daniel Lane photo
Hole in the Mountain Farm, Paul and Jude Huber. Daniel Lane photo
Paul and Jude Huber have been growing extra fancy dessert pineapple and rambutan on 38 acres in Moloaa since 1995. In this picture, they are standing in front of their pineapple field. Paul and Jude are Kauai Grown members, and due to a technique called “forcing” they grow and sell pineapple year-round. For more information, call 639-2768 or order online.
Farmers Markets: Kauai Culinary Market (Wednesdays at 4:30 p.m.) Kauai Community College (Saturdays at 9:30 a.m.)
One pineapple grows on a bush that’s about 3-feet high, and two-feet wide. Plants take 2 years to fruit. After that, they will fruit one more time before they’re pau.
Pineapples are one of the world's most unique and exotic tropical fruits, yet it is possible to grow it in a temperate zone under controlled conditions. Although you may not be able to grow as large a plant as is grown on a plantation in Hawaii, the following information should permit you to grow a healthy, attractive pineapple for your home.
Grow Your Own Pineapple
An immature White Kauai Pineapple. Daniel Lane photo
Remove the crown from your pineapple by twisting or cutting it off. Any adhering flesh should be trimmed off its base, or it might rot after planting. After trimming, cut the bottom of the crown (its stem) until you see root buds, which are small round structures visible around the perimeter of the stem base. Remove as little tissue as possible to avoid cutting into young stem tissue.
To make planting easier, you can also strip off some of the lower leaves, exposing up to about three-fourths of an inch of the base of the crown. The small brown-colored bumps below the leaf scars are root primordia (the beginnings of roots) and there may even be a few short roots at the base if the crown.
After trimming and stripping, place the crown upside down in a dry, shaded place for about a week (5 to 7 days) before planting. This will permit the cut end and the leaf scars to heal and prevent rot.
Fruit becomes ripe in mid-June, peaks in mid-July and tapers off in September. Hole in the Mountain Farm “forces” their pineapple, so they can grow and sell it year-round.
Selecting the Perfect Pineapple
The best way to tell if it's ripe, is to look at the hair-like protrusion coming from the center of the large eyes, or cells, it should be amber in color. “The biggest myth about White Pineapple is that they have to get all the way yellow before they are ripe,” says Tim O’Connor. He adds, “Smell is not a good indicator of ripeness, unless the smell is really strong, then it’s overripe.” Ripe White Pineapple should have no smell.
Taking Pineapple Home
The Kauai pineapple may be green, but the center of the eye is yellow when ripe. Daniel Lane photo
Jude Huber says vacationers bring them home all the time, and adds, “It has to be washed really well, as it must pass a visual agriculture inspection.” Pineapple is usually sold by weight. I just bought a medium sized one from her at the Kapaa Market for $17. She will twist off the spiky top, because she replants them. You’ll probably throw it away anyway.
If you want to bring one home, I recommend buying a less ripe one as it will travel better, and ripen once you’re unpacked. “If I have one that I am not ready to eat, I will pop the top off and stick it in the fridge upside down, that tends to even out the sweetness,” says O’Connor. “Often the bottoms will have a different level of sweetness than the top. If we flip it upside down, it will get more evenly sweetened.”
Ripe pineapples should be eaten right away. Ones that will be ready in a day or two can be left on the counter. Store cut pineapple in the refrigerator. These farmers are more than happy to select a ripe pineapple for you, or one that will be ripe by the time you need it to be.
Kauai Pineapple Salsa
Kauai Pineapple Salsa over tacos. iPhone Marta Lane
I love this salsa. It’s sweet, spicy, cool and juicy. I especially like it over the tacos you see here, which also have grilled, local, grass-fed beef and a sprinkling of cheddar cheese. Feel free to use whatever chili pepper you have on hand. If you like it spicy, keep the seeds. If you don’t, take the seeds and white vein out before mincing them. Makes about 2 cups.
3 radish, cut into 1/4-inch rounds, then into 1/8-inch sticks
1 English cucumber
2 cups white pineapple, diced
1 Hawaiian chili pepper, minced
Small handful of cilantro
Small handful of mint
Juice of one small lime
Fresh ground pepper
Add radish, lime juice, a large pinch of salt, a pinch of pepper, and pineapple to a mixing bowl. Collect mint and cilantro, roll into a tightly packed wad, and chop. Add to bowl.
If you are using an organic cucumber, leave this skin on. It has loads of nutrients, and the skin of an English cucumber is very mild tasting. Cut the cucumber in half, store the other half for a later use. Place the cut side down on the cutting board and slice lengthwise through center. Cut each half in half lengthwise. You should have four wide strips of cucumber. Stack a curved piece on top of a flat piece, and cut into four “sticks”. Dice, and repeat with the other two strips. Add to bowl.
Mix well and serve. I like it best at room temperature because the pineapple is more juicy and sweet, but you can refrigerate it before using. This is best used within two days.