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Fresh and delicious, Dragon Fruit from the Kaka'ako Farmers' Market is a must.

Jul 18, 2017

Five Hawaii Summer Fruits You Have To Try

Here in Hawai'i, summer can be especially sweet. And while the summer swells, beach barbecues, and longer days are always appreciated, what we really love is local summertime fruit.

And while we may love the standard apple an orange as much as anyone, we have an especially soft spot in our heart for fruits like lychee and Buddha's hand. While the appearance of these unusual fruit may scare off some, we promise that there's nothing to be afraid of. So the next time you head to the Kaka'ako Farmers' Market (which recently relocated to 333 Ward Avenue near Ross) make sure you grab a few of these tasty island fruits.

Lychee

An island favorite, lychee is actually native to China, Malaysia, and Vietnam, and has been cultivated for its hanging clusters of sweet, gummy fruit for nearly 1,000 years. In Hawai'i, nothing brings lychee lovers more joy than when summer rolls around and the trees planted in neighborhoods across the state become peppered with bright-red fruit. If you've never eaten lychee before, don't be scared of this exotic fruit. Here's how you pop one open: gently squeeze a single lychee with your thumb and first two fingers of both hands until the skin pops and splits from the stem; peel the skin off; eat half the flesh taking care not to bite into the big black seed; eat the other half; repeat until you're full. To be sure, lychee are best eaten fresh, ripe and ice cold.

Ice Cream Banana

Ice cream bananas, also called blue Java bananas, are a staple at Hawai'i farmers' markets. Short and stout with blueish-green skins, these bananas offer a softer and even sweeter flesh than the popular apple banana. Some say they even have a vanilla flavor. An excellent snack eaten raw, they also make delicious creamy smoothies. Put two frozen ice cream bananas (peel before freezing) into the blender, add peanut butter, a couple dates, and some almond milk and you've got a delicious smoothie in your hand.

Chico (Sapodilla)

Remember Juicy Fruit chewing gum? It was so sweet you could feel your mouth salivating with delight as you popped a yellow strip in your mouth. The chico fruit, also known as the sapodilla or sapota, is nature's own version. This tropical fruit is native to southern Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean; no wonder it grows so well in Hawai'i. Similar in size and shape to the kiwi, the fruit has a thin-but-tough skin and soft, tan flesh. Unlike the kiwi, chico is incredibly sweet—sugar sweet—when it's ripe. Just peel and eat. Get this: in Mexico, it's illegal to harvest the sapodilla tree because its sticky white sap is used to make natural chewing gum.

Buddha's Hand

This unusually shaped fruit contains no pulp or juice. So why is it a must have for summer? Simply because Buddha's hand is so unique and incredibly fragrant. The citron fruit has many finger-like sections that can be open and splayed, or closed with the fingers hanging together. With origins that trace back centuries to the Far East, today Buddha's hand is used for perfuming rooms, or as a zest for salads, desserts, savory dishes, and clear alcoholic beverages like vodka or rum.

Dragon Fruit

The soft, fleshy dragon fruit—also known as pitaya—grows in backyards across the state. You'll often see it snaking up trees and running along fences in neighborhoods from Hilo to Hanalei. The moist, white/pink fruit is sweet and contains small, edible seeds, providing a slight crunch with every bite. It's become extremely popular in the last year or two, as the fruit is chock full of vitamin C, phosphorus, calcium, fiber and antioxidants.

Look for bright red, even colored skin and feel the fruit to make sure it's soft, but not squishy. To eat, cut the fruit in half lengthwise and, just like an avocado, grab a spoon and scoop out the flesh from the skin. Note that the skin is inedible. Cube it and eat it fresh, or add it to smoothies or salads. Get hip, be bold and create your own dragon martini. Delish!

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