What some may think of as an exotic fruit, such as passion fruit (lilikoi), guava, papaya, mango, lychee, longan, etc. are available in abundance on the islands of Hawaii. Currently, the state of Hawaii imports 90% of their food, even though we live on a tropical island with a year round growing season! I have consciously chosen to source most of my food from local sources, including my own farm, and friends farms near by. Let’s just say, if you eat local in Hawaii….an apple is an exotic fruit!
Last weekend, while visiting the Big Island, I had the rare opportunity to adventure up the side of Mauna Kea (a dormant volcano) with my friend Nick, a field assistant for the Mauna Kea watershed alliance. The Hawaiian name Mauna Kea translates into “white mountain” as it is occasionally covered with snow in the winter months. Mauna Kea is known to be one of the most sacred spaces on the Hawaiian Islands. Mauna Kea’s peak reaches up to 13,803 ft. From it’s oceanic base, Mauna Kea is said to be the tallest mountain on earth, reaching 33,100 ft! When Europeans came to Hawaii in the 18th century, they brought with them cattle, sheep, and game animals which led to the damage of the mountains ecology. Nick’s position with the watershed project has been to restore pasture land on Mauna Kea by planting native trees & shrubs such as Māmane, Naio, ‘A‘ali‘i, ‘Iliahi, koa, āweoweo, and native mints.
Nick, Paul, and I rambled over the bumpy terrain in a 4-wheel drive truck for what seemed to be 2hrs to finally arrive at a ranger cabin at an 8,000ft elevation. We spent the morning and early afternoon embracing the silence of the mountain and planting native a’ali’i.
Right behind the Kanakaleonui ranger station (a tiny cabin surrounded by 5 small sleeping cabins), Nick showed us the scarce apple tree that lives amongst the hillside at this high elevation! The dessert chef within me did not think twice when Nick suggested making an apple pie from the dense, yet yummy Hawaiian apples.
After the harvest, we took one more journey through an old growth koa forests.
We pulled back invasive weeds, climbed trees, and laid underneath the old growth absorbing the wisdom of the mountain.
Returning home to Oahu, my main priority was MAKE AN APPLE PIE and so I did! This recipe was adapted from a recipe I found on the Minimalist Bakers website HERE.
Mahalo Ke Akua for the abundance that is here on the islands of Hawaii. May we all treat this land with the love and respect that it deserves. Take the leap into restoring this aina, growing your own food, and supporting local organic farmers where ever you are!