And now back to our regularly scheduled blog. . .
To avoid confusion, I'll continue from where I left off, in chronological order starting with our trip to the North Shore on Thursday.
We live about 10 minutes away from Dole Pineapple Plantation in Wahiawa. The area used to be the center of Oahu's pineapple industry, but except for some pineapples grown for tourists and local consumption, over the past two decades, most of the pineapple production moved offshore to countries like the Philippines, Thailand, and Costa Rica, where labor is cheaper. Last month, Dole's chief competitor, Del Monte, abruptly shut down its century-old pineapple operations here, two years earlier than planned, throwing more than 550 employees out of work. Now Dole is Oahu's only pineapple grower.
When I first moved to Hawaii and we lived on the other side of the island in Waikiki, we'd make Dole Plantation a pit stop on our "circle island" expeditions because its small plantation house offered clean restrooms, DoleWhip sorbet cones, and free samples of pineapple juice (the latter, alas, no more). There was also an experimental pineapple garden in front, and a horseback trail through the pineapple fields in back.
Dole Plantation has since been expanded into a major tourist attraction with the World's Largest Maze
. The average length of time to navigate the maze is about 45 minutes, but several people have made it in just 6! Here's the maze entrance.
The plantation also has a botanical garden
that showcases the fruits and flowers grown commercially in Hawaii. I'd never been through this garden before, and thought it would be a good opportunity to take photos of Hawaii's famous agricultural products all in one place.
Banana plant (strictly speaking, it's not a tree because it does not have a woody trunk). The "hand" of bananas is growing facing up.
BTW, this is a size comparison between regular (Williams) bananas and the small "apple bananas" that also grow here. I like apple bananas. They are not quite as sweet as the regular kind, and the peeled bananas don't oxidize as quickly, making them ideal for fruit salads that can be prepared in advance.
A coffee tree. When I was growing up, my mother had a coffee tree as an indoor houseplant. It had pretty, shiny, pointed leaves. It never produced any beans, though.
Coffee beans. When they turn bright red, they're ready for picking. (I think I may have posted the photo sideways, but can't figure out which way is up!
Rows of coffee trees in the center of the photo
Starfruit. If you look closely toward the top of the photo, you can see the long pale green fruit hanging vertically from the branches. This was the first time I'd seen starfruit growing.
Breadfruit. Each is the size of a large grapefruit. We don't eat it much in Hawaii, but other South Pacific islanders do. When breadfruit is baked, the inside tastes like freshly baked bread.
Rambutan. Like hairy lychees. The skins turn red when they're ripe.
Red ginger. Hawaii produces most of the fresh ginger sold in the United States. This is not the edible kind -- it's grown for the showy flowers used in floral arrangements. We also grow white ginger, whose fragrant flowers are used in perfumes and leis.
Surprise! There's a beautiful landscaped fountain in the center of the botanical garden.Kalo
, the Hawaiian word for taro. There are several types of taro -- wetland taro, and the dryland taro seen here. Both the root/tuber and the leaves are used for food. The root is pounded to make poi, Hawaii's infamous starchy staple (more about this later in the blog), or it can be cooked like a potato or ground into flour. The leaves are cooked as a vegetable and taste like spinach. You can't eat them raw -- too much oxalic acid.
A gecko descending a bamboo tree. Bamboo grows prolifically in Hawaii, but as far as I know, the shoots are not harvested for food.
Pineapples don't grow on trees! They're bromeliads and each plant produces only one fruit at a time. Here are examples of some of the more unusual varieties grown around the world.
A red pineapple from Brazil.
A peculiar gourd-shaped pineapple.
Wanna grow your own pineapple? Check out the instructions
The gift shop was expanded tremendously in the past year -- it's now more than triple its former size.
Many of the souvenirs are made in the Philippines, but the gift shop also offers a coffee bar serving the Wailua coffee, and a cafeteria-style café with lanai seating.
We bought a tray of fresh-cut pineapple to take home.
And in the interest of eGullet research (what an excuse!
) I felt compelled to try this:
A Pineapple Cream Puff, which proved to be filled with a seductive pineapple custard and tidbits of pineapple.