Though not thrilled about getting up and out of the house by 6:30 on a Saturday morning, my husband and I decided it would be worth the effort to beat the crowds at Kapi’olani Farmers’ Market, held at the community college near Diamond Head. Popular with both locals and tourists, Kapi’olani is the only market on Oahu that exclusively features foods grown and produced in Hawaii. It gets crowded, and we wanted the chance to explore before the masses appeared, parking became scarce, and lines went deeper than our patience.
Arriving at about 7:15 we had no trouble stashing the car, and were at the market entrance and nearly awake by the time the opening horn sounded 15 minutes later. Being hungry, we sought immediate gratification. The first thing we ate was the best: fried green tomatoes. Never having tasted these before – and frankly never having been tempted – we were surprised by their firm texture and refreshingly tart flavor, which brought smiles to our sleep-deprived faces. After that pleasant jump start from Two Hot Tomatoes, we continued down the aisle full of optimism.
Unfortunately, our next stop was a bit of a disappointment. Sushi sliders sounded tempting, but a slightly greasy rice cake topped with a smidgen of ahi and two sauces drizzled by a heavy hand just didn’t deliver (and felt like a criminal waste of good tuna). Grandma G’s brought us back on track with seared ahi, righteously rare in the center and seriously ono.
At Andy’s Bueno Salsa we sampled several salsas and pickles, all delicious, and enjoyed meeting the man himself. Andy offers a salsa with ghost peppers but, with no beer in sight, we didn’t feel brave enough to try it. We chose original and extra cilantro to bring home, and will definitely be back for more another day.
Appetites appeased, we relaxed a little and began shopping. We found tropical jams and jellies, baked goods, sea salts, seasoning mixes, honey (for eating and in skin-care products), sausages, orchids and other plants, as well as cut tropical flowers. And of course, produce: Kahuku corn, ‘Nalo greens, pineapples, sea asparagus, macadamia nuts, coffee and so much more. With farmers and producers in attendance, you can hear first-hand about products, how they’re grown or made, and how best to use them.
The market’s best kept secret: the incredible cactus garden at Kapi’olani Community College. Take a walk through on your way back to your car, or bring your breakfast up there. Our best buys: anything we could take home so that next weekend we can enjoy a taste of Kapi’olani Farmers’ Market without getting up before dawn.
What: Kapi’olani Farmers’ Market. When: Saturdays 7:30 to 11 a.m. Where: Kapi’olani Community College, 4303 Diamond Head Rd., Parking Lot C. Bus Routes #3, 22, 58